Friday, January 17, 2014

Review: 4 to 16 Characters

Title: 4 to 16 Characters
Author: Kelly Hourihan
Format: egalley
Pub. Date: November 6th 2013
Source: Netgalley & Lemon Sherbet Press


Two stars.

4 to 16 Characters is a book that follows teenager Jane as her life sinks into a dark place. Her mother has passed away and her dad's hit the bottle to cope, and Jane isn't all too sure what to do with it. She hates life, hates school, hates people in general. The one thing she doesn't hate? The internet and fanfiction. She escapes into the world of fake profiles on the internet, pretending to be someone she's not to deal with it all. She struggles with this as she makes a "real life" friend, and she has to learn how best to take care of her problems.

I really like the concept of this book. This book isn't written in standard prose, but in the form of emails, blog posts, and other forms of modern social media. I also liked the idea of a main character that toys around with false identities online. I practically live on my computer, and I know this is a thing that occurs more often than most think. However, there was one main disconnect for me that made me not enjoy this book: the main character.

Connecting to a character is something that's extremely important to me and my reading experience. And while I can relate to Jane in some regards, I largely just couldn't stand her. I understand that the point of her "catfish" tendencies on the internet are to help her cope with stressful real life events. I don't blame her. I became addicted to the internet after my parents' divorce for similar reasons (though with no fake profiles). But I found her brooding and hatred for, well, everything, to be over the top. I found myself thinking, "Okay, I get it, you're unhappy". I didn't think her writing was very good for being a fanfiction author. I understand a lot of this is "written" online, but it was irritating to read her private dialogue with herself.

Unlike Jane, I don't dabble in writing fanfiction. However, I do post in online role-playing forums. So, I am familiar with the online hierarchies among users- how some are royalty and others running jokes. I thought that bit was fairly well represented. There are some people that you never want to upset, and others that you want to befriend so you can be in the inner circle. I immediately thought of a few people when Jane mentioned this construct. However, because I am in a different corner of the web so to speak, I was kind of lost at parts. She mentions writing a "drabble"- something I had to look up. I've never heard a short writing referred to as this in my communities, nor had my girlfriend. The book assumes you have a working knowledge of how it all works when I honestly don't.

There were quite a few things I liked about this book individually, but when brought together it just wasn't the book for me. I think that if you are in the fanfiction area of the internet, you may like it more than I did. Thanks to Netgalley and Lemon Sherbet Press for my review copy.


  1. Aw, it sucks when books don't match your expectations. I agree that it's important to establish a connection with the character, if not, the book probably wouldn't work. Great review! :)

    -Kimi of Geeky Chiquitas

  2. It's disappointing that this book doesn't live up to expectation, I was looking forward to stealing it from yo- I mean... Borrowing.... Yeah.... But now not so much.