YVO’S SHORTIES #161 – The Guest Cat & The One-In-A-Million Boy

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a double dose of contemporary and two titles I’ve been looking forward to: The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide and The One-In-A-Million Boy by Monica Wood. Sadly both ended up disappointing me…


Title: The Guest Cat
Author: Takashi Hiraide

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
First published: 2001
Publisher: Picador
Finished reading: April 26th 2020
Pages: 146
(Originally written in Japanese: ‘猫の客 [Neko no kyaku]’)

“There’s a photographer who says cat lovers always believe their own cat is better looking than anyone else’s. According to her, they’ve all got blinders on.”


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I’ve been curious about this title ever since I finished The Travelling Cat Chronicles last year and saw it recommended under similar Japanese fiction titles… I think it’s no secret that I’m a huge catlover, so I was looking forward to dive into some cat infused fiction again. It’s easy to say that I ended up to be quite quite disappointed by The Guest Cat instead. In fact, I’m really not sure why this book even has this title, as the focus is mostly on the guest house and the couple which POV the story is narrated from… Sure, we have Chibi and later some other cats, but they didn’t really play as big of a role as I thought they would. Instead, The Guest Cat is a story where nothing much happens, and it’s mostly one elaborate description after the other. And while I can appreciate beautifully written descriptions, it was just too much to have to read a story build up out of 90% of those descriptions and only 10% what you can call a very meager plot. The writing didn’t fully convince me either (I think the phrase ‘lost in translation’ might apply here), and overall I had a really hard time keeping focused. In fact, I struggled reaching that final page, and the only reason I finished it is because it’s so short in the first place. The open ending was yet another disappointment, and I was honestly seriously underwhelmed by the whole experience.


Title: The One-In-A-Million Boy
Author: Monica Wood

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
First published: April 5th 2016
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Finished reading: April 29th 2020
Pages: 336

“How tranquilizing it was to arm yourself with information, how consoling to unpack the facts and then plan them like fence pickets, building a sturdy pen in which you stood alone, cosseted against human fallibility.”


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I’ve been curious about The One-In-A-Million Boy ever since I first heard about it a few years back, and both the cover and blurb had me convinced I was going to enjoy my time with this story. Sadly, I somehow ended up having mixed thoughts instead… I’m not sure if it’s just the wrong time for me to read this story, as my reading taste has been all over the place in these strange times, but the fact is that I somehow expected more of this story. There were things I loved in The One-In-A-Million Boy, while other elements of the story ended up letting me down a bit… The main star of the story is 104-year-old Ona of course, who I adored and she is basically one of the sole reasons I kept reading. The glimpses you get of the boy makes it really easy to like him too and it makes you wish you could have met him properly… I loved learning more about Ona’s past and she is such a fascinating character and oh so easy to connect to; the boy is quirky and very loveable too. As for the other characters: Quinn isn’t too bad and I liked the music elements he helped including in the plot. I wasn’t a fan of Belle at all though and her actions and the way she keeps treating Quinn were starting to get very very annoying. I felt like I would have loved a story solely based on Ona and the boy more, as they made up the best part of this story and I felt the other characters and subplot started to let the story down. I do get that one of the big elements, grief and moving on, wouldn’t be possible without things going the way they are, but still… Somehow I just expected more of The One-In-A-Million Boy, and the actual story, while by no means a bad read, just fell a little flat for me.


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