Don’t Hate the Player

Bloomsbury. Jun. 2021. 384p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781547605026.
Gr 10 Up–Puerto Rican teen Emilia Romero’s true passion is playing the esports game Guardians League Online. When she’s not playing field hockey, studying, or grudgingly accepting matcha lattes from her popular boyfriend, Connor, Emilia is secretly playing GLO. She’s the only girl on her team, Fury, and is a good player. Her parents keep close tabs on her academic performance and expect her to attend their alma mater, UPenn, but Emilia has her eye on colleges in NYC and Chicago. She is determined to keep her gaming life separate from everything and everyone else, and has mostly succeeded thus far. Emilia’s competition title is even KNOX, as in Fort Knox, emphasizing how little she wants her identity to be known. As someone who experienced severe and persistent sexual harassment and threats by other gamers before, maintaining anonymity is crucial for her. However, at a major GLO competition, Emilia runs into Jake Hooper, an old friend from childhood who plays on a rival team. Jake is awkward and sweet, apologizes too often, and has been crushing on Emilia for years. While he promises to keep her secret safe, Emilia is doxxed by another gamer, putting her and her family’s safety at risk. Emilia and Jake are realistic teenage characters—they are complex, make mistakes, and care a lot about what other people think of them. Told in dual POV, readers get an in-depth view of Emilia and Jake’s lives. Readers should be advised that certain themes in the novel may be triggering, such as threats of rape, bullying, and sexual harassment. Nedd’s knowledge of esports is highly evident throughout and would be most appreciated by avid gamers.
VERDICT A great pick for video game nerds and fans of Brittney Morris’s Slay.

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