Young writers deserve encouragement, and those who choose to publish get extra credit for their bravery. The Real Life is a novella about young people finding their way without the support of their families. It lacks polish and needs significant editing, but young author Dana A. Alkandari shows promise.
Samantha, Susan, John and James are the foursome at the heart of The Real Life. They stand by one another as each pursues their individual goals: to found a charity, write a book, become a doctor, and seek a dream to chase. They pass from their teenage years into adulthood always checking in and holding each other accountable. By story’s end, one has reconciled with an abusive parent and all are following their bliss.
The Real Life, ultimately, isn’t ready for publication. All the characters speak in the same stilted dialogue (a daughter to her estranged mother: “Truly, I didn’t know that you love Chinese food, but I’ve been wondering what people like most these days.”) The plot is oversimplified and often unrealistic; Alkandari may have a handle on the main characters when they’re close to her own age, but as they grow, she loses any insight into what their lives might actually look like, no doubt a downfall of her youthful vantage point. These disconnects make it hard to care for or be inspired by the foursome.
If the bad news is that The Real Life doesn’t have a ready audience, the good news is that Alkandari has demonstrated an ability to think through, complete, and publish a novella. As her life experience grows, her talent will surely follow.