This review is part of my Two Weeks of Thanks to book publisher Merit Press. They have generously and continuously provided me with books to review over the past two years.
Thea wants to grow up, but it is hard when you’re under the overly-watchful eye of your mom, dad and older brother. Thea’s had a crush on Tim forever, but that may be all ruined when Tim’s best friend, Josh, makes a less-than-flattering comment about Thea’s best friend, Janie, and how her puffy coat makes her look like a marshmallow.
Thea’s mom talks Thea into taking a self-defense class with her at the local rec center. Thea knows she just wants her to know how to protect herself, but it is embarrassing how Mom won’t stop telling everyone Thea’s personal business. So what if she likes to play Skadi online with people she hasn’t met? She doesn’t tell them anything important about her, like where she lives and her real name. But Mom insists on barging into Thea’s room without knocking, making Thea show her what she’s been chatting about with her online friends. Mom hates Thea’s online habit, and even after being shown how the game works, she’s still skeptical and distressed that she’s conversing with people she doesn’t know, even though Janie is in the same online group.
Thea confides her feelings about her parents’ overprotectiveness to Kit, one of the heads of the online guild she belongs to. He understands about problems with parents, and confides in Thea about his lack of a mom and alcoholic father. They talk a lot, and it seems like they are on their way to be more than friends. Meanwhile, Tim seems to still like her (though she’s totally over him) and her brother’s friend, Marcus, is also paying a bit more attention to her. But once Thea’s parents discover that she has given her cell phone number to Kit, all hell breaks loose. Is her mother overreacting, or is there something sinister at play…with someone she knows?
Whadja Think?: If I were fifteen years old and reading this book, I would most likely have read the first chapter or two and given up. Here’s this girl, who (as far as I can tell) has done nothing to warrant this extraordinary amount of scrutiny from her parents, and, except for an off-hand comment from her mother about a thwarted attack attempt in college, there seems to be no reason for it. The parents are very two-dimensional people, mom a scaredy-cat and Dad a grump who works a lot.
Thea is not allowed to date until she is sixteen, yet her father gets upset with her when she isn’t nicer to someone who asks her out. Though, in her parents’ defense, she does seem a little immature when it comes to boys, since she stops liking her long-time crush so quickly, and appears to be attracted to a few boys at once.
And when Thea’s mom is super worried about her online relationship? She won’t even drive Thea to school, because riding the bus or walking is her punishment for making a secret email account (since the other one Thea has, along with her Facebook account, are monitored by her family). Yeah, that didn’t fly with me.
This book feels like it was written for parents. It reads like a how-to book for a worried and tech-unsavvy mom and dad who are just looking for someone to tell them WHAT TO DO. Are there a lot of scary people out there on the internet? YES. Have children been lured into meeting with those scary people? YES. But as in anything, being overly cautious can sometimes only fuel those flames, especially if you come across as not knowing what you are talking about. Kids need to know the real dangers of the internet, as do parents, but the adults in this novel ratchet up their fear like people used to in the 90s when they’d get chain emails of urban legends.
To Read or Not To Read: This could have been a lot more helpful and interesting if it were more than just a cautionary tale. Repetitive themes and conversations telegraphed the ending far in advance while there were more red herrings than in a 30s detective novel. And while there’s a lot of talk about what could happen, what does happen left me unsatisfied.
Who R U Really? by Margo Kelly was published September 18, 2014 by Merit Press. A free copy of this book was given to Ink and Page in return for an honest review. Big thanks to Merit Press and the Author.
Genre: Young Adult Fiction Contemporary Mystery Thriller
Ages: 13 and up
You Might Want to Know: Mature theme, though there are no sexual discussions, profanity or drinking.