Saya is a classically beautiful nineteen-year-old Japanese girl. She has no difficulty attracting men of all ages and she is happy to give them what they want. Sometimes they pay, sometimes they don’t, although she doesn’t like any of them, and as for love, does it really exist?

Then he meets Bogey.

He’s a middle-aged forty-something with a paunch and gray hair who fancies himself some kind of yakuza, a gangster. He makes his living through gambling, betting on anything late into the night, mahjong, horses, riding a bike, and the super hot stock market where everyone always wins. He loves gangster movies and hanging around tough people. Saya is dazzled by Bogey, known for his love of Bogart movies. She is fascinated by his odd selection of friends and is flattered by the attention of an older man, especially one like him. Inevitably, she becomes his lover without a moment’s hesitation.

“Whatever you do, don’t go with a player,” was the only advice her mother gave her when it came to men. But when did a teenager take her mother’s advice about men? Saya is no different. She seizes the opportunity, she loves to snuggle into her warm body and put her head on her fat tummy, she will do whatever he wants. She even buys a cookbook and tries to cook him the food she loves, not that he’s impressed, preferring to eat in the seedy underworld he inhabits.

Thus opens Rika Yokomori’s novel set in Japan and New York.

In places, the book feels almost like a reality show. It’s like the camera is permanently attached to Saya’s shoulder. It’s rarely out of place when we learn about the exciting parts of her life and the mundane ones about her, in almost equal measure.

But this is a turning of the page as we watch Saya slowly grow into a wise woman of the world. She gradually begins to see things for what they really are. Everything, unsurprisingly, is not so rosy in the life of an aspiring yakuza moll. There will surely be difficult times ahead.

Rika Yokomori has published more than thirty-five books in the last fifteen years and this one is certainly worth taking a look at. Sure, I guessed the ending a while before I got there, but it wasn’t a huge disappointment. There’s a peach of a final sentence to look forward to. If you like modern Japan novels, you’ll find plenty here to keep you interested. If you haven’t tried Eastern fiction before, this might be a good place to start.