18273649

4 to 16 Characters

By Kelly Hourihan

To be published in November, 2013 by Lemon Sherbet Press

Acquired by netgalley

Genre: YA Realistic fiction

Rating: Two and a half stars

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 Shilling is not happy with her real world life. During the day, she is plain Jane Shilling, attending Spectrum, a high school for the disabled and mentally challenged; she has no friends, easily mocked, and challenged by teachers and therapists as she remains withdrawn and angry. At night, ignoring her grieving, alcoholic father she is Rachel, a popular college student who writes some of the best fanfiction for a show. She is also a grad student writing about Edna St. Vincent Millay, an emo goth guy whose posts are often dark, depressing, and slightly suicidal. In total, on and off she has lost count of her fake identities.  With online diary entries, IM conversations (including ones between her therapist), e-mails, fanfiction, and fictional postings comprise this novel.

I can’t quite get my head around this book. I am torn with whether or not I liked this book. There were some good parts in the novel. I rather enjoyed the end. One of the few things I did like. I had trouble with reading the narrative. Jane’s voice was very authentic. So authentic that I felt it was , at times, too juvenile. In retrospect, that is a good thing. It’s not an easy thing to write in a child’s voice when you are grown, and separated from that voice. I commend Hourihan for that; and will always be impressed. However, I felt lost within Jane’s voice. Maybe more distant. I just wanted to get to the next page or chapter because she was irritating me at the page I was at. I skipped through a lot of her fan fiction diary entries. Some parts of her diary entries I glanced through, noncommittally.

I didn’t truly know why she was at Spectrum; really why any of the characters mentioned were there. I could feel Jane’s emotions, and her lack of empathy towards school. I just felt her behavior towards school was exaggerated. She hates her high school, a lot of adolescents do. It is curious how smart she is, under driven, and then uses the type of school she goes to to allow her behavior. Her math teacher is the only teacher you read about in the novel that truly tries to help her. Granted, in not a very productive way. But, Jane hates that this teacher does. Claims that the teacher is too tough for Spectrum standards since school is supposed to be like a joke for the kids that go there. Easy, helpful, not any way tough. She uses the one institution she is not fond of to protect her, and almost reward her for not trying. It made me dislike Jane more.And, when she does get a friend, Gary, she is just as awful, at first at least. I dislike her, then she becomes this reformed character I can’t help but root for; in a subdued manner of course.

Gary’s character felt underdeveloped to me. He felt flat, slightly one dimensional. I know his immensely poor spelling should be excused, but I couldn’t help but focus on it because you never find out what his disability is to allow the bad spelling. Should that not be something I was so bothered by, yes absolutely. But, I was. He wasn’t the only character who I didn’t see develop.

I also didn’t truly connect with the fan fiction, taking me away from the novel. It fit, but didn’t at the same time. Nor did the spread out diary posts and emails from two of her fictitious personalities. If there were not those thrown in, maybe I would have liked it more.

I don’t regret reading it, though. Again, I did enjoy, even love a little, the end even if it took some time to get there. I would recommend this book if you like The Curious Incident of the Dog at Night Time. Also, if you enjoy child narratives. It isn’t for everyone.

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