Who R U Really? is a fantastically creepy book that is surprisingly realistic and totally engrossing. I decided to go into this book completely blind — I didn’t even look at the back cover or search its Goodreads page first! — and once I opened it, I couldn’t close it. Yup, I read this entire book in one single sitting. I just didn’t want to put it down!
I’d actually been thinking recently about the fact that there aren’t very many YA books that are about online relationships. Well Who R U Really does a great job of portraying what it’s like to find friends online as a teenager that you really connect with. It’s so amazing to finally feel understood, but at the same time there’s also those lurking questions in the back of your mind — are they really who they say they are? How do you know if somebody is truly who they represent themselves as online? Are online relationships ever safe to have? All these questions and more are discussed throughout this book, and Kelly presents a solid case that maybe your real-life friends are the only people you can ever truly trust.
There were a few times, though, that I felt like the book went a little bit too far, in a preachy sense. At one point, one of the characters yells and insists that it’s impossible to be friends with somebody online. That you can only be friends with people you actually know and interact with. Well, as a book blogger, I have to completely disagree with that statement. Yes, there are some creepy and untrustworthy people online, but there are also real people that you can form real connections with. Safety is always key, of course — you never want to give away personal information and specific details about yourself without verifying a person’s identity first — but I am a big believer that online friendships can not only exist, but flourish, and can be just as real and satisfying as a “real-life” friendship.
I also felt like Thea’s parents were so over-the-top extreme. It’s obvious that they love Thea very much, and I actually thought that her parents were super realistic, because I’ve known people like that, but they were so over-protective of her to a very extreme degree. They had rules like: she can’t use the internet with her door closed, she’s not allowed to minimize screens if they walk in the room (which they can do at any point without knocking — she’s not allowed to have a lock), that she can only use a family email account in which all sent and received emails are monitored by her parents, and they’re allowed to read all of her texts at any time. To me, that is just…beyond. I could never have lived like that as a teen. Even though they were doing that stuff out of love, I strongly feel that Thea would’ve been better off with a little more independence. She didn’t feel like she could tell her parents anything because they were so controlling and overreacted about every little thing. You don’t want to alienate your kid like that…but I guess that’s probably the lesson here! Even overly strict parenting can’t stop kids from pursuing online relationships and putting themselves in potentially dangerous situations. In fact, it might even drive them to! At least I hope that’s what the lesson of this book was, haha. Because Thea’s parents were clearly not helping the situation.
Thea was such an interesting main character. At first, I was a little bit annoyed by her immaturity and how stupidly she was acting at pretty much every moment of the day. But I quickly got used to being inside her head and started to actually enjoy how realistic she was. Even though she was so dumb at times and I wanted to slap her silly, I could easily picture myself acting the same. exact. freaking. way. as her when I was 14–15 years old. She blindly trusts people, she hurts her friends in the name of “true love,” and she defies her parents at every turn…just like teenagers are supposed to act! And as the novel progresses, mostly towards the very end, it’s easy to see how much she’s changed. Finally, she takes her life by the reigns and fixes a problem. Her actions in the last chapter of the book were extremely inspiring and made me want to cheer out loud for her. And it allowed me to realize that, eventually, I had grown to seriously love this narrator, even though I kind of hated her in the beginning.
I also adored the side characters! Thea’s mom, Tim, her best friend Janie — they were all so developed and well-rounded. I came to truly care about them, especially Janie, and loved how each of them contributed to the story. I especially liked Thea’s relationship with her mom. At times, I felt like I was reliving arguments that I once had with my mom as a teenager. The dialogue in this book is that realistic! And it was really nice to see their relationship grow and transform throughout the story. I’m a sucker for mother-daughter relationships in books, and I appreciated this one a lot.
I think that my biggest problem with this book was the ending. I liked the climax scene a lot, but then the book ends about two pages later! I wish that the author had given us more room to breath before ending the book, because there is a lot of stuff that happens in those last few pages. Thea and her mother both have these huge epiphanies, but there isn’t really time spent on fleshing that out before it just, all of a sudden, ends. I also wish that there’d been more of a wrap-up with Janie’s character. I grew quite attached to her during the book, and I’m bummed that there wasn’t more of a conclusion with her in the end, especially after everything that she went through.
This review is going on forever, and I could probably talk about this book even more if you’d let me! But let me just end with this…Who R U Really is a satisfyingly unique YA thriller that left me guessing up until almost the very last page. My heart was pounding right alongside Thea’s the whole time, and I couldn’t manage to put it down for even one second! Definitely worth the read — this book is very realistic and I really enjoyed the writing style. I’m so excited to read more from this author in the future!