Under the name D1V, Divya Sharma, who seems to be of South Asian descent, uses a platform called Glitch to livestream herself playing Reclaim the Sun from the New Jersey apartment she shares with her single mother. She is just starting to gain sponsors and make some much-needed money from her channel—helping her mom to pay rent—when a group calling themselves Vox Populi begins to harass her. Aaron Jericho, a Honduran-Palestinian teen from Philadelphia, would much rather develop video games than follow his doctor mother into medicine. His big break might be working for ManaPunk, a company formed by a friend who seems to be doing very well. When D1V and Aaron meet online while playing Reclaim, a friendship blossoms, but as Divya’s online harassment moves into the real world and she finds herself physically at risk, Aaron feels helpless to defend her. Through Divya and Aaron’s alternating voices, Smith (The Girl and the Grove) tackles the difficult topics of sexual and racial harassment online and in gaming communities while diving into the world of live-stream gaming. Aaron is a far more robust character, with motivations and an emotional depth that are missing from Divya’s characterization. Still, Smith realistically juxtaposes the benefits of online relationships with the dangers of doxxing and other types of virtual harassment, underlining Divya’s strength and determination online and IRL. Ages 13–up. Agent: Dawn Frederick, Red Sofa Literary. (Jan.)
"Wonderfully geeky and deeply compassionate, Don't Read the Comments is a heartwarming tale of finding your community and following your dreams."—Marieke Nijkamp, #1 New York Times bestselling author of This Is Where it Ends
"Don't Read the Comments is a modern-to-the-minute adventure about rising above expectations of family, class, and social media, to find your true destiny and grab it by the controller."—Whitney Gardner, award-winning author of You're Welcome, Universe
"Don't Read the Comments has so much heart: the kind that makes you fall in love, and the kind that makes your breath short. If you're not already a gamer, you might be after this book. And if you need a little hope, Eric Smith delivers the sunshine."—Olivia A. Cole, author of A Conspiracy of Stars
"Smith's (contributor: Color Outside the Lines, 2019, etc.) characters are achingly sincere, and his smooth and witty dialogue's a pleasure to read. He artfully immerses the reader in the world of gaming, building characters and settings that are fun and compelling to read."—Kirkus Reviews
"Smith realistically juxtaposes the benefits of online relationships with the dangers of doxxing and other types of virtual harassment, underlining Divya’s strength and determination online and IRL."—Publishers Weekly
"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."—School Library Journal
"This novel offers a complex examination of racism, sexism, and toxic masculinity in gaming, as well as a celebration of friendship and family."—Booklist
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.—Abby Hargreaves, District of Columbia Public Library
Angst, ambition, and video game politics collide in this contemporary YA audiobook featuring dual narrators Richa Shukla Moorjani and Sunil Malhotra. When celebrity streamer Divya meets aspiring game writer Aaron inside the online space exploration game Reclaim the Sun, they begin a gradually deepening relationship that encourages both to stand up to hateful trolls, parental pressure, and gatekeeping within gaming culture. Moorjani brings a winning combination of grit, passion, and wry humor to the guarded Divya, while Malhotra imbues Aaron with earnest, affable dorkiness. Both narrators handle introspection and blow-by-blow gameplay with equal assurance, and listeners will relish the way the characters’ in-game chats become conversations between the two narrators. A solid choice for fans of YA realism, with special appeal for gamers. R.A.H. © AudioFile 2020, Portland, Maine
When a famous teen gamer and an aspiring teen video game writer meet online, sparks fly.
When aspiring game writer Aaron Jericho meets gamer Divya Sharma online, he can't believe it. Divya's Glitch stream, where viewers watch her gaming, has over 100,000 subscribers, and sponsors constantly send her products like virtual reality devices and watches to review or wear (which she then sells for income). Little does Aaron know that the money Divya makes is critical—since her father left her mother, there's hardly enough to pay the rent—or that she is constantly terrorized by trolls. The two strike up an unlikely friendship with the potential for romance, but threats from a group of trolls calling themselves Vox Populi threaten Divya's privacy and personal safety. Smith's (contributor: Color Outside the Lines, 2019, etc.) characters are achingly sincere, and his smooth and witty dialogue's a pleasure to read. He artfully immerses the reader in the world of gaming, building characters and settings that are fun and compelling to read. However, while Aaron's home and family life are fully developed, Divya—whose conflict is, arguably, the more interesting one—remains two dimensional. Particularly glaring are the minimal interactions between Divya and her mother, although protecting her mother is Divya's main motivation for gaming. Aaron is of Honduran and Palestinian descent, and Divya is cued as South Asian.
A witty, wonderful introduction to the world of gaming that could have used more character development. (Fiction. 13-18)