Samurai Girl is a series of books by one Carrie Asai. The volume I have is the fourth in the series, and is entitled the Book of the Wind. It was published in late 2003, and was intended (according to the publisher's website) for ages 16 and up.

That being said, I have a hard time explaining just what this book is like. The best way to explain it is as a cross between Sweet Valley High and the Wu-Tang Clan. You think I am kidding, but I am not. The question, however, remains: what happens when you cross Sweet Valley High and the Wu-Tang? Since I just read this book, I should know, but the answer is, I still don't know.

The plot, (which I arrived in in media res tells the story of one Heaven, a young woman (although apparently old enough to be of drinking age), who fell from a jetliner into the home of a wealthy couple who turn out to be yakuza. They later try to marry her off to another yakuza family in politics. Not wanting to take this, Heaven, the Samurai Girl of the title, takes off to LA, to undergo some martial arts training.

This is where the book begins, with her home burning down, and with her sensei (a man about her age that she is secretly in love with) shuffling her off to Las Vegas, where she heard a rumor that her English teacher from Japan might have moved. She goes to Los Vegas, goes to a party with a call girl, and eventually by luck ends up running into her friend. They decide to go out clubbing some more where she runs into her yakuza fiance, a wannabe American style gangasta, who seems to be running into some problems with some Columbians. A ninja battle follows, and they all take off to Joshua Tree National Park. In Joshua Tree, a bunch of ninjas ambush them from a helicopter, but luckily her first sensei shows up on his motorcycle at the last minute and gives the ninjas a sudden beatdown. They all decide to take off for Switzerland via Mexico, but on the way, her fiance's Columbian "friends" decide to take them hostage. In between the constant ninja battles, Heaven ponders over which of the guys around her really love her, and tries to figure out romantic jealousy. She also drinks alot and wears lots of hot clothing. Oh, and apparently there is a hot new techno song she keeps on hearing in clubs that was written about her.

I am not making any of this up! Simple read the following quote from the books:

"It just seems that every time I run into you, I get attacked by ninjas!"
What's a girl to do?
And, if you think all of this sounds a little bit unreal, Heaven certainly agrees with you:
This was so unbelievably surreal. Like those pictures of melting clocks.

It would seem like all of this might possibly fit into the "so bad it is good" category. And I have to admit that once I got through the first few chapters where I didn't know what was going on, the ninja battles, as well as the bizarre unreality of the plot, did keep things interesting. I can't quite figure out exactly how earnestly the author meant any of the book.

To be serious for a moment, I am a little bit worried, because although I don't object to teenagers reading realistic books, I do object to them reading faux-realistic books. While I was reading Norman Mailer at that age, Norman Mailer wasn't offering the world a watered down, friendly version of decadence. This book has the heroine getting drunk at dance clubs around coke dealers, and watching people get knifed to death, but still manages to avoid cursing, as well as letting her get swoony at a kiss. This mixing of real and fantasy can be quite dangerous.

Another question could be raised about the semi-feminist stance of the book. While I certainly applaud a book featuring a strong female heroine who isn't afraid to kick a ninja in the stomach, fighting is about the only thing Heaven is dominant during. The rest of the time she gets drunk and bounces from one plan and one man to another, looking for an easy out for her problems.

Then again, I shouldn't discount the sophistication of most of her fans. Although I am sure some share this view, published on the publishers website:

omg i love samurai girl books , they are the best.kepp on writing carrie, i wish the seriers never ends
. I imagine that many readers are smart enough to know that the book is either escpaist fantasy, or are reading it consciously as satire. Teenagers aren't (always) dumb.

Whatever the literary and social merits of the book, I admit that I am keen to check the next volume out to find out whether Heaven and company escape the Columbian drug lords.

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