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Solanin - Inio Asano Summary: A group of early-20-somethings struggle with life in general in present-day Japan. Should dreams be sold out for a better apartment? How do you measure whether a relationship is "worth it"? What does it mean to be an adult? Meiko, her boyfriend Taneda, and the other members of the music club they belonged to in school all struggle with their own difficulties in this illumination of the growing pains we face when we try to grow up.

Characters: This book rides on characterization. The overall character group is diverse in personality, but they are linked by their uncertainty and occasional apathy. The author deliberately chose a very ordinary group of people who would blend into the background if you saw them in public. The main character by a nose is Meiko, who grows from a frightened, questioning young woman into a slightly less frightened, still questioning young woman. Still, over the course of the book, Meiko acquires a hard-won outer confidence and a measure of peace. The supporting cast includes her boyfriend Taneda, who is torn between staying in a paying job and trying to find success with his band, and his bandmates Kato, a good-natured loser, and Rip, who has a job, a bit more certainty than his friends, but still possesses a quiet unease and a crush on Meiko.

Plot: The plot is character-driven and extremely personal. Characters make choices, and those choices impact the lives of the people around them. Halfway through the book, a terrible tragedy changes everyone's outlook on the world. Despite the personal minutiae, or perhaps because of it, the book is a fascinating look at a generation.

Art: The life and energy in the art is understated but powerful. While this book relies heavily on dialogue and inner monologue, the art is definitely not superfluous.

Writing/Dialogue: Somehow Asano manages to keep the dialogue and inner thoughts here both true to the characters and poignant. While rarely uplifting or cheerful, this book is never a burden to read.

Ending: Is there hope in the ending, or only more uncertainty? Where will the characters go from here? It all depends on your point of view.

What more did I want?: I wanted closure in the ending, even though it would have ruined the book. I strongly identify with these unsure, drifting kids at this point in my life, and I wanted to see things work out for them.