Author: Kanae Minato
Translated by: Stephen Snyder
Published on: August 19th 2014
Published by: Mulholland Books
Purchase link: Amazon
Her pupils killed her daughter. Now, she will have her revenge.
After an engagement that ended in tragedy, all Yuko Moriguchi had to live for was her four-year-old child, Manami. Now, after a heartbreaking accident on the grounds of the middle school where she teaches, Yuko has given up and tendered her resignation.
But first, she has one last lecture to deliver. She tells a story that will upend everything her students ever thought they knew about two of their peers, and sets in motion a maniacal plot for revenge.
Narrated in alternating voices, with twists you'll never see coming, Confessions probes the limits of punishment, despair, and tragic love, culminating in a harrowing confrontation between teacher and student that will place the occupants of an entire school in harm's way. You'll never look at a classroom the same way again.
Just a heads up that this is going to be spoilery. It’s up to you whether you continue reading or not. I was also spoiled prior to reading this but that never prevented me from being surprised by this book. Spoiler starts after the read more button!
As someone who’s pretty much always updated with anything that has something to do with Japan, I really cannot explain how this book escaped my radar. Confessions by Kanae Minato was originally written in Japanese, published on 2008 in Japan and it even had a movie adaptation (which I’m also not aware of until now.) The book was then adapted into English and was released in 2014.
Confessions is told in an alternating point of views. The first POV was of Ms. Moriguchi, the class adviser, whose 4-year-old girl died from the school grounds because of drowning presumably because of an accident. Her POV focuses on telling the class the real story of how her child died; that it wasn’t an accident but a murder, and that the murderer was a student in her class. The following POVs are then focused on the events that come after the day of Ms. Moriguchi’s confession which was also her last day in teaching at the school.
Ms. Moriguchi’s story also touches on the failed justice system of Japan when it comes to child murderers which I think is about as similar to other countries. I got chills reading this book when Moriguchi told the story of the 14-year-old murderer from Kobe, Japan who decapitated a kid and then placed the head in front of a school gate. Mind you that this is a real live actual story. At first, I found it dumb that Moriguchi just didn’t tell the police the truth about the murderers of her kid but upon hearing her story about what happens to minor murderers in Japan, I understood it instantly. And even though I thought it was a way too cruel thing to do to 14-year-olds, I couldn’t help but admire her intelligence. Child criminals are protected by the government. Their faces and other personal information are withheld from the masses. They can’t be punished as harshly as that of an adult criminal because they are protected by the Child Protection Rights so in the end, even if Moriguchi told the police about them, they wouldn’t suffer as much as Moriguchi wants them to suffer so she staged what she thought would be the best way to punish the kids: Let them know that she knows what they did in front of the class, give them something to worry about, and let conscience and peer pressure do all the damage.
It was really clever how Moriguchi put up the show but I just have to balk at one of the most important detail of her revenge against her child’s murderers. She injected AIDS-infected blood in the milk carton of the students responsible for her child’s death hoping to infect them with AIDS. You see here, the chance to be infected with AIDS through oral consumption is extremely low to impossible. Unless it was pure blood and the person has lacerations all over his mouth then there is a chance but even so it’s not guaranteed. But given that the blood was already diluted and the virus spent several minutes outside the body of a host, it was literally impossible to be infected by it. Had this been a minor issue in the book, I would’ve just let it slide but it was one of the major factors to the change of one of her kid’s murderers. I kept thinking that if they just googled the various ways to be infected by HIV, they would’ve known that it was nothing to worry about.
The other POV’s were from Mizuho, Naoki’s sister and their mother’s diary, Naoki, and finally, Shuya. Mizuho is the class president who at first seemed like a level-headed person but reading her POV, I realized quickly that she’s got her own brand of twisted mind, too, exactly like 99% of the characters in this book.
One of the major themes here is familial relationships; that the methods of raising a child are a major factor as to how a person will turn out. It sucks because all of this could’ve potentially been prevented if the parents took better heed to their kids instead of themselves. I’m saying “potentially” because of Naoki and Shuya’s situations who are basically each other’s foil with regards to how they were brought up by their respective families and yet still grew up to be killers whether they intended to or not.
Naoki grew up in a closely-knitted family. His mother always fussed about him and expected more from him. He’s not the brightest crayon in the box, but he tries. He tries to be the kind of person his parents want him to be but trying can get only him so far. However, even if Naoki doesn't reach his parents expectations, they remain supportive of him, although a little aggressively.
On the other hand, Shuya's parents don't really care about him. He’s a child prodigy yet both his parents are indifferent to his achievements. After his parents broke up, his mother left him to his father and his new wife to pursue her dreams. Even when it was revealed that Shuya was abused by her mother when he was young, he still has this obsession toward impressing his mother. I initially admired him for still loving his mother inspite of everything she did to him. What sort of thinking can a kid get in order for him to wish his own death just so his mother can fulfill her dreams? But this admiration proved to be short-lived upon realizing immediately that it wasn’t love Shuya felt for his mother but an unhealthy obsession. After all, no person should ever seek the approval of a person who hurt and betrayed them, going so far as to commit a crime for the small chance that he catches her attention. No. Just, no.
Upon finishing this book, I was plagued by conflicting emotions. I wanted to pity these characters. At one point, I was even cheering for them, but the fact that they are not good people leaves a bad taste in my mouth, which consequently raises the question, “Is it wrong to pity them?” Some people do bad things and some people do good things. People should be punished for the horrid things they do and people should be lauded for the good things they do. However, if this person did both good things and horrid things, which will prevail in the minds of the audience? It doesn’t change the fact that all criminals SHOULD be condemned though.
All in all, Confessions is a captivating book that begs to be read. I’m not big into the mystery genre but I can say for certain that Kanae Minato’s Confessions is a one of a kind mystery literature. I mentioned before that I’ve already been spoiled by this but it never lessened the hype I felt during and after reading it. Of course it helps that Stephen Snyder translated this so well. There’s literally no dull moments here even though it’s heavily narrated with just a handful of dialogs. Confessions is a twisted piece of work with hardly a conventional character, but characters you’ll enjoy reading all the same.
Rating: 5 Fairy wings