Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Book-A-Day 2018 #2: The Gods Lie by Kaori Ozaki

Yesterday I had a teen sex story from a Japanese creator. Today I have something that rhymes with that: a pre-teen story of love and loss, about the things we want to do but aren't old or strong or smart or ready to do yet. (It's not about sex, in case that's not clear.)

It's called The Gods Lie, and it was created by Kaori Ozaki in a crisp, modern manga style, all open faces and large expressive eyes. It's about Natsuru Nanao, a boy of eleven who's starting to realize that he might be interested in more out of life than playing soccer and hanging out with his friends. Soccer is getting less pleasant with a new coach, and those friends are starting to say things about girls.

One girl in particular: Rio Suzumura. Natsuru spends time with her, as friends -- again, they're both eleven. But she seems older than that, in the way of kids who've had to handle too much too soon. And Natsuru starts to get a sense of what those things might be: she says her father is off on a fishing ship, as he is for months at a time, leaving her to care for her little brother alone.

Natsuru knows about alone: he lives with his widowed mother, just the two of them. And he wants to help Rio and her kid brother Yuuta. But there are some things an eleven-year-old just can't do. Rio's secrets will eventually come out, and everything will change: she can't keep it all together much longer. She never should have had to do it at all, but the universe doesn't care about "should."

Maybe the gods tell us life is fair. But we know the gods lie.

This all happens one summer. Natsuru is supposed to be off at soccer camp, but he's gotten old enough to realize that he doesn't always have to do the things he's supposed to do. And old enough to know there are things he wants to do, places he can help. It won't be enough. But it's all he can do.

The Gods Lie has a bittersweet ending, after the secrets are revealed. And we hope and believe Natsuru and Rio are strong enough to move forward -- we see them doing so, and believe it's true -- and maybe, eventually, meeting again, when they are old and strong and in control enough to make something of themselves. Maybe the gods are making a promise there, too. Maybe that one won't be a lie.

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