Friday, January 18, 2019

The Scariest Part: Margo Kelly Talks about WHO R U REALLY?

The scariest part of this novel is the truth inside, because much of the story happened in real life. The good news is: my daughter is fine and thriving. But the bad news is: there are too many teenagers across the nation who go missing every single day because they were beguiled by an online predator. I know it sounds like yesterday’s news, and in some sense it has become boring to adults. But that only makes it easier for the guy trying to lure your child away. And today, there are new avenues to do just that.

My daughter participated in an innocent online role playing game where she met a guy. He seemed nice. He seemed to need a friend. He seemed safe. But in fact, he was none of these things.

Over a year’s time, while I thought she was playing a simple game, this guy manipulated her and had her convinced they were in love. Not only had they exchanged cell phone numbers, but they had also arranged a time and place to meet … after school and before sports practice. That meant he would have had her for hours before I ever even went to pick her up from practice. Luckily, I discovered texts on her phone before anything came to fruition. But one of the scariest things was that she chose to believe a complete stranger over her own mother. He’d swayed her so well. He was an expert at what he did.

The plot of Who R U Really? offers up several fictional characters for readers to suspect as the online predator, and I won’t give away the details of that story here. But I will tell you that in real life, the predator had convinced my daughter (who was eleven going on twelve at the time) that he was a nineteen-year-old boy who needed a friend. In fact he was about three decades older. And because he lived in another state and because I stopped the process before he harmed her, there was nothing the police could do about it. Of course they investigated, but he had not yet broken any laws when it came to my daughter. Even though the police knew exactly who he was and where he lived, they could only watch him. I hope they still are, because as far as I know, he is still online playing games with young kids and trying to lure them away from their parents. He’s even fished around and tried to reconnect with my daughter over the years.

A local police detective said to my daughter, “It is your job to tell others—your real everyday friends that you go to school with—tell them what happened to you, so nothing like this can happen to them.” My daughter agreed. This novel was born with the hopes of helping others spot and unmask internet predators.

Here are a few tips for young adults to stay safe online:
1) Only accept friend requests on FB (and other social media) from people you know in your everyday life.
2) Be transparent with the people in your real life who love you.
3) Trust your parents. You don’t have to always agree with them, but trust that they have your best interests in mind.
4) Keep your actual birthdate, phone number, email, street address, even city private. No one online needs to have that personal information about you.
5) Most importantly, remember that there is strength in numbers. Use the buddy system, and do not ever meet an online acquaintance by yourself. Not ever. Just don’t even play with the idea.

While my daughter did the opposite of several of these above items, she is now my hero for being willing to share her personal choices, conversations, and feelings, regardless of the negative judgment she might receive as a result.

Who R U Really? is primarily a work of fiction, but the essence of the plot is what happened when my daughter was nearly abducted. And that’s the scariest part.


“Inspired by her own daughter's terrifying story, Kelly has painted a realistic picture of how a smart girl can get caught up in something dangerous online. Guaranteed to give readers goosebumps—particularly as events heat up toward the end. … A good choice for families to read together.” – School Library Journal 

“Thea’s mistakes, while frustrating to encounter, are frighteningly plausible, and the relationships among characters are well–fleshed out, especially between mother and daughter. Kelly’s first novel is a suspenseful page-turner with multiple suspects, a little bit of romance, and a strong but not overbearing message.” – Kirkus Reviews 

To learn more about Who R U Really? simply click here or click on the tab at the top of the page.

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