Saturday, January 25, 2020

Book Review: Don't Read the Comments, by Eric Smith

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

My heart quickens, and my stomach twists itself up. Not for a second had I considered D1V might feel…unsafe, chatting and gaming with me. That never registered in my brain, not for a minute. When I think about myself, I envision the most unthreatening person imaginable…but that’s me. That’s my perception. And now that I know this is what she’s feeling, I want to help change that as quickly as possible.

I immediately flip to my phone’s camera and take a few selfies. It’s the first time I’ve ever taken photos for someone with no regard to how I look in the picture. It was a rushed morning, hurrying out the door to hustle across town, so my wavy black hair is a mess and there’s some stubble peeking through on my cheeks. The hair in between my eyebrows, which is technically just a single solid eyebrow that I meticulously try to maintain as two, is starting to grow back. Also I’m pretty sure I wore this t-shirt yesterday.

Snap. Snap. Snap.

“I could take those for you, you know,” Ryan offers. “Better yet…” I hold the phone further away from me, getting Ryan in the show and switching to video.

“Hey, Div!” I exclaim, awkwardly waving. “This is Ryan, one of the guys I make video games with. He also doubles as my best friend.”

While I’m not a video gamer (something central to these characters’ lives), I still felt like they were real people I could know, and would want to be my friends.

Official synopsis:
Book Review: Don't Read the Comments, by Eric Smith
Divya 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.

When I picked up this book, I expected contemporary fluff. What I got was a great story about believable characters with real lives. Divya loves her gaming, but she needs the paydays it’s generating for real world survival. Aaron just games for fun, but he longs for a career in writing and development of the games he enjoys. This doesn’t line up with his mom’s dreams for him.

The book incorporated struggles with racism, sexism, and female empowerment. What could have been a more simple story of online relationships and boy-accidentally-meets-famous-girl-online took on a lot more depth. The characters experienced real problems of harassment, assault, and doxing (a new one to me, from to search for and publish private or identifying information about a particular group or individual on the Internet, typically with malicious intent).

Overall, I’d give this book 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it to anyone who enjoys contemporary YA fiction, or readers with YA people in their lives. It was an interesting perspective on online gaming and internet security influencing a player’s offline life.

{click here to pre-order - the book will be available on January 30, 2020}

Becki Bayley hasn't played a video game since original Super Mario Bros and The Legend of Zelda. It was all fun while it lasted. Find her current activities at


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