I’m sad that this book is out of print now, because it’s a really good read that I just happened on when I need something new. It was hard to find to begin with, and with Tokyopop going under, chances of getting a copy are a bit slimmer. I really clicked on this, mostly because of the premise. Hey, it’s about writing, I tend to jump on those books. And the whole ‘writing a story’ really comes to life here. I like that all of the main girls have ideas of where to take the characters they’re writing, even if they’re lifting from their own lives and experiences. I also like how, in the samples of the in-world ‘Chain Mail’, each of the writers has their own style of writing. It’s a subtle detail, but a good one. It gives the characters a little more of an identity in their own respective sections.The plots of both the in-world story and the actual book tie in very neatly with too little obvious parallels. Like I said, I like the detail that these girls are drawing from their own lives to write this story, and it adds to the ambiguity of what’s really going on. This is a book that kept me guessing until the end, and it’s great to go back and try to pick up on all of the clues. The only downside is the somewhat confusing first person prologue, and while it’s explained early on, it still feels jarring as compared to the rest of the book. It’s the only part I could argue that would have been handled in the text of the main story.While I don’t absolutely love the characters, I still really enjoy them and they’re very sympathetic. If I had to pick a favorite character, it would be Mayumi. Partially because she’s more of the writer in the group (she’s the only one specifically mentioned with an interest in fiction, and Western crime novels to boot), but I related more to her wanting to find something bigger for herself. She’s very supportive of her friend Sayuri, but I really felt her frustration about being regulated to the sidelines and treated like dirt by others. (And I really love her relationship with Sayuri; they’re friends first, interests second.) Mai is a character that could have very easily been written off as just a cool girl, with her love of music and just happening into the game. But she’s the one who figures out the details first and is the first one to pick up on the fact that something’s wrong with everything. She feels more like a typical teen girl, as a lot of her conflict is between her and her mother, but it feels genuine with Mai. I also really like that she feels the loneliest, having a lot of people in her contact list, but very few that she actually talks to regularly. And I like that part of the reason for that is that she wants more from these friendships than just gossiping about other friends and celebrities. (It does tug my heartstrings a little when both Mai and Mayumi admit to wanting to email each other once Chain Mail’s finished.) Sawako is definitely the weakest of the three main girls, as there’s not much to her outside of studying and Chain Mail. She’s extremely nihilistic, which definitely plays into the plot. This is also one of the better translated novels that I’ve read. The dialogue and prose flow naturally, with only one or two parts that don’t work as well. The girls actually sound like teenage girls—Sawako’s a bit smarter, but still feels like a teenager at times—and while the in-universe writing is good, it’s still a bit unpolished and rough. Some of the plot twists, especially the reveal, could come off as silly, but it manages to work well, and as I mentioned, had me flipping back to the beginning to try to figure it all out. It’s not a perfect book, but I’ve enjoyed reading this multiple times, and it still has me looking for clues. This is definitely a book to keep in mind, and if you’re lucky to find it, do pick it up.