Koushun Takami's notorious high-octane thriller is based on an irresistible premise: a class of junior high school students is taken to a deserted island where, as part of a ruthless authoritarian program, they are provided arms and forced to kill one another until only one survivor is left standing. Criticized as violent exploitation when first published in Japan - where it then proceeded to become a runaway bestseller - Battle Royale is a Lord of the Flies for the 21st century, a potent allegory of what it means to be young and (barely) alive in a dog-eat-dog world.
Battle Royale had this dark atmosphere right from the start. You are pulled into book and thrown on the deserted island where the 'program' is carried out. The characters in the book don't know where they are and as a reader you don't know either, which makes it spine chilling. Only one student can survive in the program and if no one participates in the 'game' then they will all die. Violent battles ensue. The students don't know who to trust even though they've been classmates for years, because someone might just betray them in the end to guarantee their own survival.
At the beginning I was overwhelmed at the 40+ names I had to remember but as you read on, you get to know and remember most of them. We dive into back stories of some of the characters which make them seem more human, rather than simple empty beings fighting for their survival and it makes it hard to read the outcomes of some of the characters you've grown to like. This book was unputdownable as I desperately wanted to find out how everything could possibly end.
★★★★★ for the unputdownability