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January 25, 2020

Don't Read the Comments by Eric Smith ~ a Review

by MK French

Divya Sharma is D1V, leader of the #AngstArmada on a streaming channel for the game Reclaim The Sun. It's how she makes money to help her single mother make the rent and complete her library science degree, putting her own college on hold. At the same time, Aaron Jericho loves games and he yearns to write one of his own. He enjoys games like Reclaim The Sun in his spare time and gets drawn into Divya's world when they explore a planet in the game. Their real lives and virtual lives collide, especially when the group Vox Populi not only harass Divya and her friend online but threaten to doxx her as well.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

January 2020; Inkyard Press; 978-1335016027
audio, ebook, print (368 pages); young adult
There are so many nods to online gaming, streaming, social media, and the push back that women can get when they're online. Divya tries hard to keep her head up in spite of the online harassment, as most women online would have to do, relying on her mantra Don't read the comments when she's getting trolled. Div's best friend and fellow streamer had been sexually assaulted on campus, which makes the threat of being doxxed even more terrifying for her. The Vox Populi not only harass them online, but inspire others to also harass Divya when they recognize her, and carry a following of racist and sexist men who feel they're the only ones "deserving" of being online and gaining sponsorships.

People would definitely recognize the conflict on Aaron's side as well. His mother wants him to be a doctor like her so that his emphasis on gaming and trying to work with a local developer leads to arguments. It's an otherwise very loving and supportive family, and there is eventually an entire discussion about everyone's goals and needs. That is a fantastic thing to show in families, especially after the other misunderstandings and resentments in the novel. There is a lot of love within the Jericho family, and Aaron is determined to be a good friend for Divya and be there when she needs support. Theirs is a friendship that deepens over time into a romance, but it isn't the crux of the novel.

Without spoiling the progression of the plot, I was entirely engrossed in reading it and enjoyed the fun nods to gamer culture. The serious issues brought up were in a fairly realistic kind of way, and I could handwave some of the drama that was injected into the story. It was dramatic enough to raise awareness for the plight of women not only in games, but those alone on the street, with a friend in arcades, or even attending classes. Their stories are all too familiar for many women, and it's important to see not only that they're taken seriously in the novel, but find a way to rise above it. I really enjoyed this, and think that others interested in similar topics will enjoy it as well.

Buy Don't Read the Comments at Amazon

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband and three young children.

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