>>The book is constructed in a way that makes a concise description other than "a bunch of stuff happens to some people living the same town" extremely difficult. The main cast is a class of children in elementary school depicted in two time periods: when they are in 5th grade, and several years later as young adults. The chapters alternate between timeframes so that the odd-numbered chapters all take place in the "past" while the even-numbered are in the "present." The protagonist and narrator Suzuki has been transferred into the class from out of town. Komatsuzaki is the troubled and violent bully of the class. Arakawa is the girl who has a crush on the bad boy. Some of Asano's favorite themes in earlier works were apathy and desperation in youth trying to stave off the homogenizing effect of "growing up," and the existence of darkness lurking beneath an apparently tranquil, functioning society. Here, he takes that theme of darkness one step further by utilizing the dual-timeframe method to depict the ways abuse begets abuse further down the line, as characters who were mistreated as children as seen inflicting pain on others as adults. Every member of the sizable cast alternately receives and dishes out abuse on other people. Make no mistake, this is a dark, depressing piece of work, as the front cover will attest.