4 to 16 characters is about a girl named Jane. She is in school and not a fan of it. Her father drinks, a lot and she has no one else now that her mother has passed away. The cool part about this book is that most of Jane’s life takes place online (sounds familiar) but in order to make it seem legit – this book is written using posts that Jane would make on social media sites, her online journal, etc. You see emails between her and teachers, with her friends, message board posts, etc. Which I think was a pretty nice touch. It also kind of made it easier to read because a page that is Jane’s email in box takes a lot less time to read than a page that is entirely text 😉
Jane seems to be quite popular online (through her various personas) but her real life is a bit of a downward spiral. You’ll see all the emails from her teachers and guidance counselors about all of the assignments that she is missing, and several of her online diary entries focus on her father and how he is drinking and can’t really take care of her in a way that she needs. Then she has to decide if she wants to continue with these alter online egos or if she wants to come clean to the friends that she has made online about her real life – and how far from perfect it really is.
Certainly an interesting read and a very different approach to writing a novel, but one that I really enjoyed.
I received a free e-copy of this book in order to write this review. I was not otherwise compensated.
About the Book
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.
The story is told entirely in content that could be found on Jane’s computer: e-mails, Facebook-style and Tumblr-style social media posts, fanfiction, and online chats. The choice of format is closely tied to the content – her computer is key to understanding her character and her life. Many teens (and adults!) will relate to this way of telling Jane’s story.