I was looking at books on the new release shelf in the YA Fiction section of my library, and the cover of Are U 4 Real? by Sara Kadefors caught my attention. Translated by Tara Chace, Are U 4 Real was originally published as Sandor Slash Ida, and is Sweden's all-time best selling young adult novel.
Kyla is exactly the kind of girl Alex could never talk to in real life. She's a gorgeous, outspoken city girl who parties to forget about her absent father and depressed mother. He's a shy ballet dancer from the suburbs who's never been kissed. Luckily, when they meet for the first time it's not in real life--it's in a chat room, where they can share how alone and misunderstood they feel far away from the conformity-obsessed scenes at their high schools and at home. Kyla and Alex quickly forge a friendship that's far from virtual . . . maybe they're falling in love.
But what happens when you come face-to-face with the soul mate you've never met?
Will that person be the same?
Though party girl Kyla and ballet dancer Alex meet in the most honest of situations--a confession of loneliness in an online chat room--they're afraid to reveal too much about their real lives and backgrounds and create new identities to hide behind. Needless to say, it all unravels. The two start to wonder what happened to the friend they met online or if that person even existed. It's a roller-coaster ride that inevitably ends with a romantic connection.
It wasn't the most realistic book I've ever read, but it did hit home for me. I've made a lot of friends online. Some are great! Others seem great at first and then betray you. Then there are the ones you meet in person who aren't quite the people they made themselves out to be online. It's a tricky process, figuring out what's real, what's not, and who to trust.
While the characters were easy to relate to (Who hasn't felt lonely or misunderstood?), I think the story lost something in the translation. At times, both Kyla and Alex seemed over-the-top caricatures of teenagers. I found their emails to each other to be void of a true human connection and wondered how they became friends in the first place. It was the narration of Sara Kadefors that really explained the characters' backgrounds and motivations--in short, saving the story.