Content/Trigger Warnings: Bullying/cyber bullying, sexism, racism, harassment, assault, stalking, doxing, trauma/PTSD, toxic relationships, anxiety, guilt, implications of cheating.
ARC was given by Inkyard Press in exchange for an honest review.
This review is being published after the release date (January 28th, 2020)
“This is why you don’t read the comments!”
Oh wow, this book came at me hard and fast. Readers, I went into this book with no expectations and only the knowledge that the main character is a gamer girl who has to deal with cyber bullying and harassment, but I wasn’t expecting this book to take it to a whole other level. It made my soul quake and it touched topics that hit very close to home. How could I not love this? How could I not shout about this book at the top of my lungs when this touches on so many topics that I have personally experienced and witnessed that aren’t vocalized enough? This book means so much and our main female heroine means so much to me.
Don’t Read the Comments follows our main character Divya who is best known in the gamin world as popular streaming gamer D1V. Her main platform is Glitch where she constantly streams gaming of Reclaim the Sun which is the year’s hottest game! But while her virtual reality is very glamorous, in the real world she’s using every sponsorship and selling every piece of equipment to help out her single mother. And then one fateful night she meets Aaron. A fellow gamer who has zero interest in following the path of his mother to become a doctor and instead wants to follow his dream of writing video games. Together, these two will discover planets in the infinite world of Reclaim the Sun. However, things aren’t that peaceful as Divya battles for everything thing she loves and has worked hard for as an online group known as The Vox Populi threatens to destroy it all.
I loved Divya as one of our main characters. She is unrelenting force, a candles that refuses to go out, and I love her fighting spirit. She faces so many hardships and struggles (you can tell she carries the weight of the world on her shoulders), but despite it all she never gives up and keeps pushing forward. I also really loved the reason behind her streaming and how much she was willing to do for her mother. As a person who cares very deeply for my family, this hit all the right spots and I couldn’t help getting soft with how fiercely she loves her family and best friend. I felt like she did make some questionable choices especially when it came to withholding information that was vital to her and her loved ones’ safety, but despite that I still enjoyed her character.
I definitely had issues warming up to Aaron. Despite him being more soft spoken, more quirky, I didn’t warm up to him until I starting noticing his character development. However, the little sibling element definitely helped with liking Aaron’s character. I’m always here for sibling relationships and seeing Aaron interact with his younger sister especially while he was gaming just hit in all the right spots. And I have to mention Aaron definitely has some questionable actions and thoughts. I think without the author including his best friend in the mix to keep Aaron’s character in check, it would be very easy to dislike Aaron or even cringe at some of the moments in this book. He also never speaks up for himself until the last third of the book. And any time he does speak up, he never has a plan and he clearly hasn’t thought things through. So also contributed to why it more of a challenge to connect with him and full warm up to him.
Can I take a moment to appreciate all the head nods to all the thing geeky in this book?! I can’t even express how much screeching I did when I saw the slight nod towards Mass Effect, Dragon Age, Elder Scrolls, The Dead Poets Society, bookstagram, Adventure Time, and so much more! It warmed my heart so much and I felt so seen as geeky, nerdy, girl gamer who gets full enjoyment out of this. And speaking of gaming, when Divya is streaming and exploring the world of Reclaim the Sun, the way the world is described will make any gamer who plays a lot of space games fall in love all over with those games. The detail was so beautiful and it truly felt like you were right there experiencing it. It was all so vivid and I feel like I keep saying this, but it truly touched so many of the right spots of my soul and personal passions.
“I don’t need to see you, to see you. I see you. I see all of you. With or without a headset.”
But my most favorite part about this whole book is that it addresses such an important and consistent theme of the sexism in the gaming community, constantly bring up privilege whether in the virtual world or the real one, showing the real threats and possibilities of becoming a content creator, and also showing what you allow into your space, your safe spaces. These are all things that exist, but aren’t often talked about or even properly addressed and when they are they’re brushed off like nothing will really come of it. I can honestly say that I’m glad to see more books like Don’t Read the Comments or Slay by Brittney Morris being released to speak about these important topics because these are very real and they impact so many.
My only real criticism with this book is two main things. The first thing being there was never any indication of taking proper time to self care or take extra precautions to protecting oneself. I mentioned before that I had some issues with a lot of choices Divya made and even though I still love Divya’s character, self care and protection are thrown to the wind and that just didn’t sit right with me. There are many reoccurring moments throughout this book where Rebekah tries to tell Divya take time away, the beginning of the book and near the end of the book Divya’s mother states multiple times how she’s worried and she wants Divya to be safe, and there are even moments the detective should have been made aware of information or the detective has told Divya to do something and it gets brushed off to the side. All of this didn’t sit right with me and I understand a lot of this was to help further the story-line in some way, but it doesn’t make up the fact that it can be triggering or even stressful just reading it especially if you have anxiety because you can tell there will be consequences. And it also sends the wrong kind of message as well because in these circumstances, yes you want to fight back, but you also need to take care of yourself as well as making sure you and your loved ones are protected. If you don’t have any representation of that and you have this constant theme of brushing the important stuff to the side, anyone who reads this and is going through something similar or has the potential to go through it, there’s that message of self-care needs to take the back burner or safety and protection aren’t that important, and that’s not the kind of message that you want to be stated especially under the circumstances in this book.
My other criticism is there were a lot of things happening in this book. There are a lot of subplots that never get resolved or explored. For example, there were multiple incidents where Rebekah and Aaron clash especially when Rebekah calls Aaron out on his privilege which is then followed up with Aaron retorting some really bad answers that cause offense. This never gets properly addressed or even resolved. We’re just given a statement of “well be more mindful” or “that means she likes you,” but these aren’t anything that address or challenge what Aaron said. We also get a lot of moments with Divya’s mother saying how she doesn’t approve of Divya’s streaming. Divya constantly plays it off, tells her mother she’s worrying to much, or she straight out lies to her mother instead of actually having a discussion with her mother. Once again, there’s two other moments in this story with her mother and still, this never get resolved of properly addressed.
Honestly, if these were never going to be addressed or challenged then I would have liked to see more game play, a deeper dive into the important topics being discussed, or more background detail with our main characters. I just wasn’t a fan of the subplots and I think they could have really made a difference if they were handled a bit better or even sacrificed for something else instead.
Overall, this was a really great book and I so glad I got an advance copy! I think this is going to be a book every content creator out there needs to read and I’m hoping this book will start so many discussions. I truly believe this book took a piece of my heart and if there’s anything you take away from this, it’s that this book is something ever content creator needs to read because the important topics are just that, important and we all need to take care of our spaces! I just can’t recommend this book enough!
The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.