Book Review: Don’t Read the Comments by Eric Smith

I’m not a gamer. That didn’t stop me from loving a feisty, engaging tale titled DON’T READ THE COMMENTS. I rooted for Divya and Aaron through their trials online and off.

Many thanks to NetGalley for providing me with an advance copy. Some links in this post are affiliate links that earn me a commission if you purchase through them. All opinions are my own.

Book Review: Don’t Read the Comments by Eric SmithDon't Read The Comments by Eric Smith
Published by Inkyard Press on Published on January 28, 2020
Genres: Young Adult, Friendship, Bullying
Pages: 368
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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.

four-half-stars


My Thoughts on DON’T READ THE COMMENTS

Divya – or D1V, as she’s known online, is a successful online gamer and live-streamer. Her life is a testament that not everything you see online is real. Her fans see her top of the line equipment – thanks to corporate sponsors. But in real life, she sells off most of these electronics to help pay the rent so her mom can finish her medical degree.

Aaron is a gamer too. However, his equipment is cobbled together from discarded or inexpensive parts. He dreams of being a writer for video games. Actually, he has been working with a developer to bring a new game to market (but that has its own issues.) His mom, on the other hand, has higher aspirations for him.

I loved Don’t Read the Comments for many reasons. First of all, Smith reeled me in with believable, relatable (and racially diverse) characters with strong, unique voices. The characters and their relationships are strong and well developed. It was a refreshing change to see that the relationship between Aaron and Divya starts out as a friendship and anything more takes a back seat to the rest of the story. Divya’s fight is empowering and had me rooting for her (and Aaron) to the end.

In addition, the book hits a nice balance of fun and geeky while taking on more serious topics. The online bullying storyline was both frustration-inducing (my frustration was for the situation, not the actual writing) and enlightening/engaging, putting a view to the sexism and basic toxic environment that girl gamers (players and designers) can face in the (historically masculine) gaming world. Furthermore, the story’s online bullying extends to doxxing and real-life violence that affects Divya and her family. And it also extends to Divya’s friend and gaming partner, Rebekah.

Ultimately, Don’t Read the Comments is a thoughtful, feisty, engaging tale about friendship, family, and what we would do to protect them. You don’t have to be a geek or a gamer to appreciate and enjoy this story. The message is strong and the clever resolution to the conflict Divya faces will have you cheering.

Looking for other young adult books?

While the ONLY thing The Grace Year has in common with Don’t Read the Comments is a fierce female main character, I absolutely loved it. It’s very different in every other way, so don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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