[Review] Snakes & Earrings, by Hitomi Kanehara

[Review] Snakes & Earrings, by Hitomi Kanehara
This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.
Snakes & Earrings by Hitomi Kanehara
Published by Vintage on 2005 (first published 2003)
Genres: Contemporary, Japanese literature, Young Adult
Pages: 118
The verdict: two-half-stars
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19 year old Lui - short for 'Louis Vuitton' as she claims - is bored and beautiful, and becomes mesmerized by Ama's forked tongue after meeting him in a club. She moves in with him, and through him she becomes interested in tattoos and piercings, and wants a forked tongue too. Ama's friend Shiba, a piercing and tattoo artists, designs her tattoo. Shiba makes Lui pay in nature, and from there on a love triangle ensues.

Let me begin by being frank: for me, this book was a whole load of ‘meh’.

First of all, I wasn’t impressed by the plot. The plot twist wasn’t a real plot twist – could have seen it coming from a mile away – and there’s no mystery about the plot either. We don’t get a real resolution by the end but you still know what happened around the time it first starts happening. (Sorry, while I don’t think there’s much to spoil about this book, I’ll still try to avoid spoilers).

I don’t think you are supposed to like anything about this book. An approach that works for some books but left me unimpressed with this one. To me, the characters are wholly unlikeable and so were their relationships. Nothing that happens in the plot is in any way likeable. And I imagine the book’s intention is to shock (but correct me if I’m wrong) and for me it didn’t even achieve that. All this talk about piercings and tattoos just doesn’t work on me (as in: it simply doesn’t shock me).

Maybe I’m not the intended audience? Although I’m not sure who this book is supposed to be for. Young adults, supposedly? I can imagine this book is interesting to a certain audience, I just can’t quite pinpoint what audience that would be. It’s a short book, so it doesn’t hurt to give it a try (but you’re also not missing out if you don’t read it). I know I sound unreasonably negative, but believe me, I didn’t hate it and I don’t regret reading it.

Japanese Literature Challenge 8 The book won both the Subaru Literary Prize and the prestigious Akutagawa Prize, the latter being judged by acclaimed novelist Ryū Murakami. I haven’t read enough by Ryū Murakami (only In the Miso Soup, which I thought was alright), but from what I know, I imagine if you like his novels, you might also enjoy Snakes & Earrings. Somewhat tamer, for a (supposedly) YA audience.


  1. I can tell from the description alone that it would probably be a whole lot of “meh” for me, too. The subject matter is simply not something I’m interested in, and it just seems too juvenile in general. Thanks for the review because I’ve seen the title every year of the challenge, and been intrigued, but never read it. Probably never will.

    • You won’t be missing out… My expectations weren’t high to begin with (it’s not receiving very good reviews..), so the fact I’m still left feeling ‘meh’ about the book says a lot. Still, I wanted to give it a try and I don’t really regret it either, but… ‘meh’ 😉

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