Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Don't Read the Comments by Eric Smith


I meant to write a review for this earlier but I actually just bought Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town for the Nintendo Switch and I've been playing that all day instead of reading and posting reviews. Which is actually totally appropriate because DON'T READ THE COMMENTS is about a girl gamer.

It's funny, because the cover, title, and premise are pretty similar to another book I read recently called DON'T HATE THE PLAYER. Both are about girl gamers of color who end up being targeted by internet trolls while also trying to navigate their personal lives and also find love. They're not rip-offs of each other or anything like that, though. In DHtP, the heroine is Latinx, the love interest is white (and her childhood friend!), and she's competing in a Leagues of Legends-like clone while also trying to balance school and sports. The harassment is pretty local and starts because of something personal.

In DRtC, the heroine is Indian, the love interest is Palestinian, and she's a popular streamer who plays a futuristic all-range MMORPG, which seems to be a clone of No Man's Sky while trying to use her gamer clout to help out her single mother as they teeter on the edge of poverty. The harassment is large-scale and impersonal; they're harassing her because she's a girl on the internet who plays video games.

I really loved DON'T READ THE COMMENTS. The author did a great job writing from the POV of a teen girl and while I can't speak to the diversity rep and how accurate that was, nothing jumped out at me as being disrespectful or, like, blatantly stereotypical or wrong. I loved Divya and thought she was an incredibly strong heroine and I liked how cautious she was on the internet. I also loved the hero, Aaron. I liked that he respected Divya's boundaries and his relationship with his younger sister was super cute. He has a story arc of his own with an employer who is taking advantage of him and I think that's something a lot of teens will unfortunately be able to relate to, especially if they are working under the table or neglected to ask for cash up front for a contracting job.

Anyone who loves games is going to love this book a lot. It's fast-paced with really great action sequences and both characters are likable and interesting with real problems that I think teens (and some adults) will really be able to relate to. If you don't like video games, you might not enjoy this because it is such a focus, but for me, it felt a lot like coming home.

Also, that ending! SWOON.

4.5 to 5 out of 5 stars

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