Book Review: Idahoan bases gripping novel on daughter’s encounter with online dangers

They say when you’re a writer, write what you know. It gives you credibility, knowledge and a better platform to write from. That’s exactly what Idaho author Margo Kelly did in her book, “Who R U Really?” Pulling from actual events that happened to her youngest daughter, Kelly shows us just how terrifying, dangerous and unknown the world of online gaming can be – especially for a young teen.

Cynthia (Thea) Reid is your typical 14-year-old girl – best friend, crushes, school, sports, overbearing parents. She wants more privacy, an unmonitored email account and her parents not to check her texts and cellphone so much. She wants the boy at school, Tim, to ask her to the school dance. She would like her older brother Seth’s friend, Marcus, to have an interest in her. Thea wants control of her life. And she finds that in an online role-playing game called Skadi.

In this game, Thea makes friends, sharing personal information via private chats. The longer she plays, the more she becomes attached and interested in another player, a 19-year-old boy named Kit from Georgia. He understands her and needs her help. His father is an alcoholic and his mother died, and all he needs is someone he can talk to, that can be his friend, who understands him. And Thea seems to be that person.

Knowing it’s against the rules and that her parents would freak, she gives Kit her phone number and they start to exchange texts and phone calls, even planning a time and place to meet in person. But then things start to happen. Kit starts to say things that make Thea feel uneasy, and he’s becoming a lot more possessive and angry. But there’s no way to undo what is quickly unraveling.

The book is well-written and the story believable and engaging, but I felt the voice wasn’t that of a 14-year-old girl, but of an adult trying to be a teen. However, that doesn’t compromise the integrity of the book or the story. It was engaging and suspenseful, especially at the end. While the climax and ending aren’t what happened in Kelly’s own daughter’s life, it is, nonetheless, all too real.

I strongly recommend this book. It was a great read and delivered a strong, important message.