Thursday, March 11, 2021

Don't Hate the Player by Alexis Nedd


It's been ages since I was this excited about a book and all I want to do is scream my life for it from the rooftops in all caps. This was everything I love in YA, condensed into a beautiful book that, despite being just shy of 400 pages, somehow didn't feel long enough. Emilia, the heroine, is strong, smart, and geeky; she makes mistakes, but is exactly the kind of girl you could see yourself wanting to be friends with, which is why it's absolutely no surprise when she gets the boy. And Jake is SUCH a sweetie. When people try to write beta heroes, it doesn't always work out. They either end up with flat personalities or with a severe case of Nice Guy Syndrome. But Jake-- Jake is the guy.

And bless my heart, this is the geeky romance I have been waiting for that hits the pitch-perfect references OUT OF THE PARK. It never felt forced, the jokes sounded like things I might say to my own friends, and I just. I JUST. You know how sometimes you read a book and like it but you know you're probably never going to pick it up again? I am keeping this book forEVER to reread because it was so good, I know I'll definitely want to revisit those warm fuzzy feelings.

The plot is beautifully simple in its complexity. Emilia and Jake played arcade games when they were young together. Now they're both in high school and in addition to being an athlete and an all-around overachiever, Emilia moonlights as a semi-professional gamer. When she and her team are tapped to play in a MAJOR competition that might have some serious rewards, she's shocked to see Jake and even more shocked to find out that he's playing on one of the competing teams. The game they play is like a cross between League of Legends and WoW, and it portrays the gaming community at its best-- and at its worst. On the one hand, it is a thriving community of diverse individuals who can be so compassionate, kind, and funny, with the sort of camaraderie and witty repartee you would find in a swashbuckling romance. On the other hand, it's a boys' club with a "no girls allowed" sign taped to the fort and when people violate the rules, they get mean. This book gets that. Both sides.

I really can't say more because you NEED to read it to see for yourself why it's so great, but I loved the banter between Jake and his team, the kick-butt Latinx heroine who was an athlete, a gamer, and all-around champion of nice (not that it kept her from sticking up for herself if need be). Oh, and an utterly swoon-worthy hero and an ending that had me flipping pages five minutes to midnight. If this doesn't become a movie, I am going to lodge a Formal Complaint because it was truly epic.

Please, please, please, please tell me this author has like twenty more books in the making.

I want to read them all.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review!

5 out of 5 stars

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