Hinako Ashihara
(Viz Media)

When I first read manga, I thought that it would be fun, but would never stir inside me the feelings that books can. But a blogger friend of mine recommended the Sand Chronicles and this series alone has shattered all the misconceptions I might have had about this format. This is one of the most sensitive, emotional and real account of teenage love I have ever come across. It rings so true in its portrayal of emotions, I am nearly constantly crying when I am reading it.
The series follows the story of Ann, who at the beginning of the story is leaving home to get married (we do not know who to). Her story is told in flashbacks. Each chapter corresponds to a season, which are quite important in the story.
The first flashback introduces Ann as a 12 year-old girl who arrives at her grandparents’ house in the countryside where she has come to live with her mother. They have left Tokyo after a particularly difficult idvorce between An’s parents and there are hints that Ann’s mother suffers from depression. Ann soon meets Daigo and Fuji and Shika, two siblings from a very rich and powerful family. But Ann’s world is turned upside down when her mother wonders off in the cold winter and is found dead, presumably having committed suicide. This signals a change of relationship between Daigo and Ann and eventually, a few years later, they become an item (the scene of their first kiss in volume 1 is drawn to perfection: you can sense the emotion, the expectation, the awkwardness … it is wonderful!). But Fuji is also in love with Ann, and as they grow up relationships between the four of them seem to become more peculiar and intricate.

So here were are in volume 4.
This series starts with winter, a very difficult season for Ann as it brings the anniversary of her mother’s death (4 years). Fuji, who disappeared at the end of volume 3, is still missing. Ann decides to go back to her grandparents’ house and spend Christmas there, which allows her to also spend time with Daigo. Their long-distance relationship is proving difficult for both of them and they are finding that they are now spending more time with Fuji and Shika rather than with each other. Shika is taking this opportunity to try to get Daigo to notice her, but it is to no avail. Mariko, Fuji and Shika’s cousin, appears suddenly, worried that nobody has still not heard from Fuji (he used to stay with her family in Tokyo). She forces Fuji’s parents to admit to the secret which is tearing their family apart. When Ann returns to Tokyo, more complications are on the horizon…
I don’t want to say anymore as I don’t want to give too much away!

I was getting so frustrated with how slowly the volumes were coming out here (the fourth volume is not even out in the UK yet) that I bought volumes 4, 5 and 6 in French. Volume 7 will be out in March there too. I think the series has 10 volumes.

For a preview, go here to the Shojo Beat website, in which Sand chronicles is serialised.