Book review:『奇譚ルーム』by Kaoru Hayamine

Cover of 奇譚ルーム. Cover illustration: on a black background, there is a white door in the middle of the cover with a teddy bear dressed in a detective suit looking at us in the door way. There are all kinds of objects flying around.
Title: 奇譚ルーム (きたんルーム)
First published: 2018
Page Count: 248
The narrator receives an invitation to enter a chat room. There he meets 9 other people, they all have plush animals as avatar. As they start chatting, the host suddenly announces that they are going to kill them. One by one, the guests will have to tell a story, and if the host does not like it, the guest will be killed…

I’m very happy to review this book, because I can finally recommend an easy book for language learners! 奇譚ルーム is both engrossing and very easy to read. I read it completely in one sitting!

It is a book for children, but it is surprisingly engrossing for adults as well. Sure, the end is not the most inventive or original, but it is still good. More importantly, the book is a delight to read all along.

The story takes place in the chatroom, so there is no need for long descriptions, and the conversations between the guests (they discuss who the host might be, how they can avoid to be killed, and so on) were really easy to read. Each guest has to bring a story when it is their turn to be judged, and these stories are a little bit more difficult to read than the conversation parts, but I liked how the novel alternates between conversations and stories. The structure of the novel is very simple (each chapter is devoted to a character), the discussions in the chatroom were interesting to follow, and the stories were all good little mysteries in themselves.

When people are chatting, what they say appears as it would in a chatroom (with their avatar and a speech bubble). This makes the book agreeable to read, and it is also easier to know who is speaking, as well as remember who is who. Additionally, there is no name, each guest being identified with a pseudonym.

I think that this book is perfect for language learners and makes for a good first novel because it is overall very easy, and the more difficult parts (the stories brought by the guests) are short, and it would not affect your understanding of the book if you don’t understand them well.

It’s not often that I read a book for children that I find both suitable for language learners and engrossing, so I was very happy to read this one. You can read the first pages on the publisher’s site, so you can see both the language level and the layout of the pages.