Don’t Read the Comments

Harlequin/Inkyard. Jan. 2020. 320p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781335016027.
Gr 9 Up–Divya’s whole life is online. Known as D1V, she has built a reputation and following on the massive multiplayer online game Reclaim the Sun. As she helps cover the bills with promotional items she receives, her mantra is this: don’t read the comments. But when troll group Vox Populi goes beyond leaving nasty comments and starts harassing her in real life, Divya finds herself at a crossroads—does she shut it all down for her and her loved ones’ safety? Or does she power through and show the Vox Populi they can’t silence her? Then there’s Aaron. When the two meet through the game, Divya stands by her usual policies of sharing minimal personal information for her protection—but as the Vox Populi gets closer, she’ll need someone in her corner. This novel brings important points to the conversation around women and people of color in gaming. Readers will nod with recognition, particularly those entrenched in the gaming community and who have witnessed the events surrounding Gamergate. With much of the action taking place in-game, the plot drags with abstract stakes until the end, but is saved by the sarcastic Divya and thoughtful, if naïve, Aaron. The prose is sometimes set back by its self-conscious style, especially around discussion of the book’s feminist and social justice center. Despite this, many readers will enjoy the finish.
VERDICT A solid pick for fans of Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One looking for something a little more immediate to our times. A worthy purchase for communities where nerd and gaming culture thrive.

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