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Take a walk through Tokyo’s Shibuya or Shinjuku shopping districts and you’ll soon notice the streets are filled with a certain kind of girl — stylishly dressed, sassy, with heavy makeup and dyed brown or blond hair. These are gyaru, and to get a peek inside their world, “Snakes and Earrings” is a good place to start — though it may not be as pretty as you’d expect.

This debut novel by Hitomi Kanehara was the joint winner of the 2003 Akutagawa Prize. Kanehara was just 20 at the time and Ryu Murakami (one of the judges, and whose work “Coin Locker Babies” was reviewed in this column last week) said her work was a “radical depiction of our time” and clearly described “what goes on in the minds of young women today.”

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