Growing-Up Candy

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Growing-Up Candy
Author: Naoya Higuchi
Specifications: ISBN  978-4094084597
205 pages
10.7 x 15.0 cm / 4.2 x 6.0 in (WxH)
Category: Fiction
Publisher: Shogakukan Inc.
Tokyo, 2007
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A new business client’s smile reminds the unnamed narrator of a girl he was smitten with in high school, which ultimately leads to him telling her the story of a memorable summer from his youth.

One day not long before summer vacation, the narrator’s best friend Hajime asks him a favor: since the narrator knows Haru Nonaka as well as her friend Irie-san (her given name is never provided, though the narrator has known her since grade school), Hajime wants him to arrange for the four of them to go out together so he can have a chance to talk with Irie. They work out a plan to go to a movie together on the weekend: the narrator and Haru will deliberately arrive ten minutes late at the meet-up point?to give Hajime some time alone with Irie first. But since Hajime is easily flustered when talking to girls, he asks the narrator to tell him what to say through an earphone linked to his mobile. On the day of the date, Hajime gets his one-on-one time with Irie as planned, but she quickly becomes suspicious of what’s going on and the scheme falls apart. She leaves, and all seems lost, but then Hajime finds it in himself to go after her and apologize, and they are able to patch things up. Meanwhile, the narrator has no chance to apologize, and is left with an awkward feeling between him and Irie, on whom he, too, has a crush.

When summer vacation rolls around, Hajime tells the narrator that Irie has spoken of having to drop out of school due to family circumstances, and most likely won’t be back after the break. Subsequent events center on the two boys’ efforts to track her down, and Haru’s interest in the narrator even while dating a college boy, detailing the ebb and flow of feelings among the four main characters through a series of memorable episodes.

The title comes from an experience the narrator had in kindergarten. Each afternoon the children were given a single piece of candy to eat. It was unlike anything he had ever tasted before, and never seemed to last as long as he wanted, so the narrator decided to save up his candies in a ziplock bag until he had enough to cram his mouth full of them all at once. He was well on his way when one of the biggest boys in the class saw his stash and persuaded him to trade it for a rare trading card. But his teacher found out about it and took him to task: those were special candies to help him grow up, and he was supposed to eat one every day, so now he might not be able to grow up like the others. The fear that he might indeed have ruined his chances of growing up has lurked somewhere at the back of the narrator’s mind ever since.

Framed as a love story, the work is an exploration of that time of youth when the self remains unformed and vulnerable, and everyone feels caught betwixt and between. Readers are sure to be reminded of their own former selves somewhere in the course of the narrative.