So. Much. Skeeball.

4 to 16 Characters - Kelly Hourihan
Grief like that-- grief stemming from the loss of a loved one, someone who is needed desperately, someone without whom one cannot imagine one's life -- it is limitless. It has no boundaries. It consumes. The idea that one can "cope with" such grief is a myth.


I am a bit of a dinosaur when it comes to fanfiction. I got into a couple of fandoms way back when, pre-P2P, pre-Twilight, now that I think about it (holy fuck I'm old!). I was mostly into anime fanfictionry where most of the fanfics were circulated in emails as digests in the Yahoo Mailing Lists.

Then I graduated to Harry Potter when Harry/Hermione was still a majestic ship that I NEVER sailed (OBHWF represent!) and then I eventually graduated to being a tax-paying adult. 

While I never really had her level of obsessions passion and dedication for any of the fandoms I got into, I have met a couple of Janes in my short foray into them. So yeah I have that thread to connect with the heroine of this story, I get the sense of belonging to a community of like-minded creative individuals who love a certain show/character so much that its personal how they fight for their OTP and make up alternate universe stories and not think that's weird at all.

Except Jane, who also assumes several personas on line apart from her fanfiction writing, tries to reinvent a life outside her real one where her mother just died from a car accident and her dad is a miserable alcoholic. Characters that she created and brought to life in the internet with such meticulous detail, with files and transcripts to keep their stories straight, that I begin to wonder how many Jane Shillings am I actually friends with?

Jane was an interesting heroine in that she truly was an insufferable dick. She was awful pretty much to everyone except when she's assuming one of her online personas. She's cut deep and she's only tolerating everyone else, because she's better, smarter and can carry the burden of her grief all on her own. Yet despite her successful efforts to make me not like her, I cannot deny how this made her pain and sadness more palpable as the story progressed. Something about her determination not to be pathetic and pitiful keeps me from dismissing her antics entirely. It does feel a bit of a struggle to know her, see what she's really telling you behind the attitude and disturbing fandom naivete until some point in the end. She was sometimes fascinating, sometimes annoying but she always resonates with painful honesty.

The buffet of storylines include her online friendship with Audra; her amusing real life, and complicated relationship with skeeballer Gary Huang (who I absolutely adored); her therapy sessions with the predictably unconventional Nora and her evolving conflict with her father. This was told solely from Jane's POV thru her blog posts, chat sessions and yes, even her fanfiction for the fictional TV show. While I love that because of this format there was a lot of showing than merely telling, there were one too many distractions for me to just focus solely on that. 

The social media platform names have been changed because… I wasn't confused enough I guess? The fanfictions and drabbles (and I LOVE drabbles) that were supposed to give insight to where Jane's mind is at just came across fuzzy because the TV show  it's about didn't get any ample introduction at all (not everyone watched Battlestar Galactica. Or was it Firefly?) so it was a chore to simultaneously understand what was happening and what its trying to reflect about Jane. The chat sessions also look cluttered in the pages making the conversations difficult to follow and the emotions they're supposed to convey registering belatedly. 


thejanethe (2:14:43 AM): Just, I don't know. Don't you get tired of blending in with the world?
RawKdAsKEEbaLL (2:14:45 AM): i don't try nemore
RawKdAsKEEbaLL (2:14:48 AM): i just play skeeball n try 2 have fun :)

Entire chapters of that and I had a tough time following who said what. Dear publishers: formatting is your friend. Also did I mention how adorbs Gary Huang aka RawKdAsKEEbaLL was?

I was resigned to round this up to 3 but couldn't. Not when the honesty in Jane's loneliness echoed ever so clearly over her OMGOMGOMGs blogging and general bitchery. And certainly not when I now know that Skeeball was invented in 1909, the first tournament was in 1932 and its not a game for kids because it can lead to a dislocated shoulder.

Boom. 4 stars.

ARC provided by Lemon Sherbet Press thru Netgalley in exchange for an unbiased review. Quotes may not appear in the final edition.