Emily by Novala Takemoto

Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, LGBT, Japanese
Publisher: Shueisha
Publication Date: August 5th 2016


Disclaimer: A free copy of this book was received through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Her nickname is Emily and she wears only Emily Temple cute clothes. It’s because of this that she’s teased at school and can’t find a place to belong. When she meets a boy outside the Emily Temple cute shop they start an unlikely friendship – bonding through their separate tribulations

The book opens with the story “Readymade” which was incredibly dull and slightly pretentious. It then flows into “Corset” which can be described the same way. Nearly halfway through the book is when Emily starts and while it’s a slight improvement the stories suffer from some of the same issues.

The most glaring issue is the narration. Takemoto’s characters are hard to pin down. The middle-aged woman, middle-aged man, and teen girl all sound the same. In fact, until the point the characters specifically state their gender and age there are almost no context clues to who the might be. The first two protagonists appear to not even have names. The narration also refers to the protagonist’s love interest as “you” with no reason. This might be a quirk of Japanese literature but extremely awkwardly translated.

There is – in fact – quite a bit of awkward translation issues. The translator decides which words should remain Japanese with a footnote to explain and which to bring over. He leaves words like OL (Office Lady) abbreviated when translating wouldn’t change the meaning and uses Senior instead of Senpai when in English calling someone “Senior” doesn’t feel at all the same.

“Corset” and Emily are both disturbingly sexual. Sexual in a way that sometimes is meant to be sexy but isn’t. Examining only Emily there is a scene with sexual assault on a child that really doesn’t add much to the story. There’s a separate male on male rape. There’s a consensual sex scene that’s uncomfortable at best. It’s not clear what Emily is going for but it doesn’t feel like a book about geek culture at all.

There’s no real conclusion to Emily. There are a few pretentious paragraphs about the real message of the story – how things change and happiness is fleeting – and then it ends. The book is at its climax, no pun intended, where all the problems have been built up and we don’t get to know how it ends. It’s just over. It’s tremendously unsatisfying to read, the author is clearly pushing and agenda and it doesn’t feel like it’s examining the culture of Lolita fashion at all.

It’s a weak novel and it’s a shame that the translation kicked Emily while it was down.


Read this if you’re a fan of: Summer, Fireworks and My Corpse


2 thoughts on “Emily by Novala Takemoto

    • It’s not very interesting – but it might be something that has a following. Many people enjoy specific Japanese authors and wait for translations of their work but I definitely wouldn’t recommend this to anyone and they certainly made some mistakes in the translation process.


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