Review: Don’t Read the Comments by Eric Smith

.Don’t Read the Comments is a poignant look at some of the biggest issues in the gaming industry, amplified by the fact that the main characters are brown teenagers. It’s a beautiful book that you won’t want to miss.

Don't Read the Comments CoverDivya 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. (Goodreads) Goodreads

I received an eARC of Don’t Read the Comments via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review and as part of a promotional blog tour.

This book deals with a lot of heavy topics, so be aware of that if you are going to read it. It does it in a really beautiful way, but it’s hard. Take care of yourself first, always.

Don’t Read the Comments needs trigger warnings for online harassment, in-person sexual harassment, threat of doxxing, threats of photoshopped revenge porn, egging, discussion of unfriendly divorce, gaslighting from an employer, discussion of racism, on-page racism, extreme sexism, physical altercations, discussion of sexual assault and more along those lines.

Divya, aka D1V, is a streaming star who is only doing it to make sure that she and her mom have a roof over their heads while her mom finishes graduate school. Like most women and people of color on the internet experience, she is the target of a lot of racism and sexism that led her to have a policy of “Don’t Read the Comments.” Unfortunately, as usual, those people bring their hatred out of the digital world and into the real one. They find out where Divya lives, where her mom works, even where her streaming partner lives, and they work to make sure that none of them feel safe.

Aaron works in the game industry, but he and his best friend are being exploited by yet another shitty white guy who doesn’t want to pay people for the work they’ve created. I’m sure everyone reading this knows the type. He struggles with getting his mom to understand why he wants to be a game writer and with her expectations for his future. The two meet when they accidentally discover the same planet at the same time in the game Divya is famous for playing, and thus a friendship was born that will last the ages.

I loved all of the little nods to nerd culture in this book. Most of the references were familiar to me but they were also new enough that it didn’t feel like the author was reliving his own teenage years through them. I also loved how real all of the struggles felt while these characters went through them, and how the author didn’t allow the characters to be too perfect. Divya was allowed to be grumpy and prickly and that was totally okay. Aaron was allowed to be soft and romantic and stand up for what he believes in. Smith didn’t allow the bullies to be understood by the readers for even a moment. They were always, always shown to be the assholes that they are, and that was honestly refreshing.

I really loved this book and I think you will, too. You can pick up a copy through Amazon and Indiebound through our affiliate links.

ABOUT DON'T READ THE COMMENTS

Title: Don’t Read the Comments

Author: Eric Smith

Publisher: Inkyard Press

Length: 368 Pages

Release Date: January 28, 2020

Rating: Highly Recommended

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Fiction

Representation: Indian American main character, Pakistani American main character, gay side character

 

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