paper targets: art can be murder

Paper Targets – Book Review

Thank you to author Steve Saroff for providing me with a copy of Paper Targets: Art Can Be Murder in exchange for this honest review.

Paper Targets is modern high literature with a style capable of placing the author on a future bestseller list. With beautiful storytelling and realistic characters it will remind you of the unlikely companions you meet when you’re at the worst points of your life. These are the people we knew when we were young, desperate, lonely, or lost.

Enzi is an underemployed and uneducated dyslexic who makes up for his inability to read with a strong love of math. In the forward the author mentions his own dyslexia and his bio also describes him as a former runaway who became a computer coder. I assume this means there is a lot of personal experience shown through Enzi which adds to the intensity of his realism.

At the beginning of Paper Targets Enzi meets a young art student named Helen and they quickly begin living together. As so many youthful whirlwind romances go, this fizzles out quickly and we then find Enzi at a more successful point in his life. He has taken his love of math and built a lucrative career. However, his skills were noticed by a man with criminal intent and he has been roped into committing fraud for large sums of cash.

He doesn’t like this lifestyle and didn’t really ask for it. By the end of the book the crimes get far beyond his control and he is faced with the realization that the events were never in his control to begin with. He is not the main actor in his own life.

Throughout the events surrounding the criminal activity he meets a Japanese woman named Kaori. She is yet another art student and Enzi is infatuated with her. He has come to call his professional life a lie and is caught up in the truth that Kaori exudes from every pore.

Unfortunately, Kaori’s uninhibited nature has a dark and violent side. She is a dangerously jealous person who is still in love with her previous boyfriend. She is honest about this and Enzi has decided to just allow that to be. He wants her and doesn’t care if she doesn’t 100% want him back.

Enzi is stuck with being dissatisfied with basically every aspect of his life. He goes through phases in attempts to normalize this. He attempts to stay in denial for a while but is forced to eventually acknowledge that he must step in and take his own actions. Relying on others or waiting for things to work themselves out is no longer an option.

The ending of Paper Targets is ultimately satisfying with just enough left open to let it feel real. There are no clear cut endings in life and the best stories understand that. Enzi still has years left ahead of him, this was just a blip on his timeline. Maybe he’ll meet another art student, maybe he’ll finally move on.

I strongly recommend Paper Targets to any serious readers. The book reminds me of Norwegian Wood in both characters and themes so if you are a fan of this early Murakami work I’d say you’d really enjoy this one as well.

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