Slay meets Eliza and Her Monsters in Eric Smith’s Don’t Read the Comments, an #ownvoices story in which two teen gamers find their virtual worlds—and blossoming romance—invaded by the real-world issues of trolling and doxing in the gaming community.
Divya Sharma is a queen. Or she is when she’s playing Reclaim the Sun, the year’s hottest online game. Divya—better known as popular streaming gamer D1V—regularly leads her #AngstArmada on quests through the game’s vast and gorgeous virtual universe. But for Divya, this is more than just a game. Out in the real world, she’s trading her rising-star status for sponsorships to help her struggling single mom pay the rent.
Gaming is basically Aaron Jericho’s entire life. Much to his mother’s frustration, Aaron has zero interest in becoming a doctor like her, and spends his free time writing games for a local developer. At least he can escape into Reclaim the Sun—and with a trillion worlds to explore, disappearing should be easy. But to his surprise, he somehow ends up on the same remote planet as celebrity gamer D1V.
At home, Divya and Aaron grapple with their problems alone, but in the game, they have each other to face infinite new worlds…and the growing legion of trolls populating them. Soon the virtual harassment seeps into reality when a group called the Vox Populi begin launching real-world doxxing campaigns, threatening Aaron’s dreams and Divya’s actual life. The online trolls think they can drive her out of the game, but everything and everyone Divya cares about is on the line…
And she isn’t going down without a fight.
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My Review | ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Favorite character: Mira
Mira is Aaron’s 5-year-old sister, and I chose her as my favorite character because I think she is particularly well written, and her dialogue literally had me laughing out loud. She says things that are a total embarrassment to those around her, just like any 5-year-old does, and she wants others to treat her like she’s older than she is. For instance, she insists on a whole piece of pizza, but she’s really not ready for it, and the cheese slides off, landing in her lap. These are small little scenes, but if you have ever spent any time with a child this age, you know how much they ring true.
What I Loved
The gaming world is a mystery to people who do not play. The majority of the people who regularly play games, especially multiplayer online games, look at it healthily- as a hobby that they understand is just a game. But others use it to create a world where they can feel powerful and feed their self-esteem when the real world isn’t so accommodating. Harassment is rampant, and sexism/sexual harassment happens disturbingly often. One of the things I love most about this story is its accurate portrayal of the gaming world, especially the problems that female players face within that world.
I also love the budding relationship between Aaron and Divya. It is so sweet and innocent. Sometimes, in this world of online dating, we lose the innocence that once was the norm. It is so refreshing to watch the pair as they slowly get to know one another and the smart way Divya puts the breaks on when she feels things are moving too fast for her comfort level.
The story is very entertaining and kept me moving quickly through the pages by masterfully using the element of suspense. The dialogue flowed easily and naturally. Due to the nature of the plot – a large percentage being online chat – I think this was the biggest and most necessary strength of the novel.
Divya appears not to be a fully developed character, but I could understand why she lacked dimension. It is a necessary part of who she is. Just as she shut out the people around her to protect herself, she also has the walls up to the reader. Since it is written in the first person, this makes sense. Other characters were sincere in their likability or justifiably unlikable.
What I Wish
I wish that the reader had a more omniscient view of Divya so we could have felt the sincerity of her feelings in all she was going through. Divya could be a very likable and relatable character if she had more depth and dimension.
To Read or Not to Read
YA fans will love this sincere and spellbinding tale of a girl who defeats the odds through the world of online gaming.
Thank you to NetGalley and Inkyard Press for providing me with an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review and a special thank you to Harlequin Trade Publishing and Justine Sha for my spot on the blog tour.
Meet Eric Smith
Eric Smith is an author, prolific book blogger, and literary agent from New Jersey, currently living in Philadelphia. Smith cohosts Book Riot’s newest podcast, HEY YA, with non-fiction YA author Kelly Jensen. He can regularly be found writing for Book Riot’s blog, as well as Barnes & Noble’s Teen Reads blog, Paste Magazine, and Publishing Crawl. Smith also has a growing Twitter platform of over 40,000 followers (@ericsmithrocks).