Monday, 12 August 2013
4 to 16 Characters by Kelly Hourihan
Author: Kelly Hourihan
Publisher: Lemon Sherbet Press
Release: November 7th 2013
Pages: 314 (eBook)
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Fifteen-year-old Jane Shilling’s best friends don’t know her real name. In fact, they don’t know anything about her at all. Jane’s life has collapsed in the last few years; following the death of her mother, her father turned to drinking, and Jane is reeling from the double blow. To escape, Jane devises a number of online personas, each with a distinct personality, life history, and set of friends. But things become trickier when she finds herself drawing close to some of her online friends, and winds up struggling with the question of how to maintain a real friendship while masquerading as a fake person. With the help of Gary, a socially awkward classmate and competitive Skeeball player who is Jane’s only offline friend, and Nora, her therapist, Jane begins to sift through her issues. The only catch is that that involves taking a long, hard look at what her life’s like when the computer is shut off, and that’s a reality she’s been fighting for years.
As soon as I found out that this book surrounded the idea of fangirling and fanfiction and all that jazz, I knew I needed to read it. As a self-confessed fangirl, I know what it's like to feel as if nothing but the fandom exists, and I was curious to see an author's portrayal of it. I was actually pleasantly surprised, as Hourihan nailed fangirling on the head - it was just something else that was slightly off.
Jane has no friends - well, no friends that aren't online. Spending every possible moment on the Internet, Jane's grip on reality starts to slip; her family relationships are going down the drain, dragging her grades and hopes for the future with it. Something has got to change - and it will, with the help of her therapist Nora and Skeeball enthusiast Gary. Together, they begin to sift through Jane's addiction and start to understand the real reason why she can't face real life.
The idea of telling the story through internet conversations and posts? Unique and pretty intriguing. I thought the story wouldn't have been told as well as there was a barrier between the reader and the characters, but it actually allowed the reader to see a whole new side of things. The author managed to capture the essence of fangirling perfectly, and a lot of Jane's posts mimicked some of my own. Although the writing wasn't incredible and I wasn't as drawn in as I thought I would be, the author managed to capture my attention. But if I think about it, maybe that's because I could relate to Jane anyway?
I think it's safe enough to guess that from spending this amount of time online on my blog, I am an Internet addict. I have been for years, really, every since I got my first computer. The Internet is limitless and full of possibilities; nerds like Jane (and myself) can be whoever we want to be cloaked behind a computer. I mean, I used to have loads of Internet friends - as in, more of them than I did in real life - so I got Jane. I understood how anxious she got, how obsessed, how she over-thought even the slightest message someone sent her. Talking through the web is different from talking face-to-face; anything can be misinterpreted. Hourihan got that spot on.
However, aside from my being able to relate to her, Jane wasn't such a great character. I mean, none of them were, really. The only one I liked was Audra, and we don't get to see much of her. The downside to writing things from such an intimate point of view is that I got sick of Jane - I just felt like grabbing her and shouting SHUT THE HELL UP, YOU SELFISH WITCH! Yeah, Jane... she, uh, rubs you up the wrong way, that's for sure.
Whilst I liked how the story was told, the fanfictions completely took me for two. I didn't have a clue what they were about - all these different names and creations made it seem like it was a real thing, but I would have preferred it if the author had included some fanpage Jane had "made" about Look to Tomorrow just giving the reader some facts. It would have made it a lot easier.
Overall, I feel like 4 to 16 Characters had a lot of good points, but it also had some bad ones. The story had a unique concept and was also told in a pretty unique way, too. However, Jane was the most annoying thing to grace the fiction world (alright, over-exaggeration - the third most annoying, after Bella Swan and Ana Steele) and it was difficult to enjoy the story with her in it. I think this is definitely a book for fangirls to read - but if you have no clue about fandoms and fanfiction, then don't go anywhere near this, as you'll hate it.