Fifteen-year-old Mone Ichihara lives with her parents and ten-year-old brother in Tokyo. Recently she’s been thinking about death a lot. Having failed to get into her first-choice high school, she has lost interest in her studies, can’t find anything to do that really excites her, and although she does have a group of four girls she hangs out with, their friendship is superficial and she frets constantly about when the others might decide to cut her out. At home, there is discord between her parents. Her father always comes home very late, and her mother is so focused on getting her brother ready for middle-school entrance exams that she has no time for Mone. Then Mone learns that her mother is thinking of leaving Tokyo with just her brother because she’s worried about the dangers of radiation from the nuclear meltdowns in Fukushima. Mone’s brother is the one who reveals this?not her mother. Feeling neglected and cast out, Mone wanders the city, her ears filling with snippets of strangers’ conversations, announcements over the loudspeakers on the train, and other sounds of every kind. With her mobile phone, she logs on to an online bulletin board for group suicides, where anonymous users post messages looking for others to die with. She chooses three companions and they agree on a plan to knock themselves out with sleeping pills and burn charcoal in a tightly closed car. They meet up and proceed as planned, but Mone wakes up and flees the scene, leaving behind her three sleeping companions. The following day she goes to school as if nothing has happened, and realizes that she feels truly alive for the first time in her life.
Suicide has been a frequent theme in author Miri Yu’s writing over the years, and here she brings it front and center. The third-person narrative follows Mone’s point of view, relating her internal thoughts and her interactions with her family. The utter lack of connection between her inner and external worlds, underscored by the random fragments of disconnected sounds she takes in, heightens our sense of her alienation.