Review: Don’t Read The Comments

Rating: 📘📘📘📘  / 5

368 pages; Inkyard Press; 2020

For Divya and Aaron, it’s the world of online gaming. While Divya trades her rising-star status for sponsorships to help her struggling single mom pay rent, Aaron plays as a way to fuel his own dreams of becoming a game developer – and as a way to disappear when his mom starts talking about medical school. After a chance online meeting, the pair decides to team up – but soon find themselves the targets of a group of internet trolls who begin launching a real-world doxxing campaign, threatening Aaron’s dream and Divya’s actual life. They think can drive her out of the game, but Divya’s whole world is on the line…

And she isn’t going down without a fight.

Don’t Read The Comments is a book that was released at the right time with discussions and incidents still occurring around women everywhere – both online and offline. It offers an angst-filled snapshot that adds another dimension to the growing female voices calling for change as they continue to expose the things they have to deal with, from the mildly irritating to the life-threatening.

Eric Smith offers us a sensitively-treated YA story that doesn’t sugarcoat or soften the horrors that occur to females – in this case an RPG game that turns into a doxxing situation (an internet-based practice of researching and publicly broadcasting private or identifying information about an individual or organization. The methods employed to acquire this information include searching publicly available databases and social media websites, hacking, and social engineering). This frustrating and unfortunate behaviour is usually the result of an extreme group of childish men and boys who are sensitive about any perceived “slights” or “encroachments” to what they believe are “their” spaces.

Divya’s strength and courage is a sight to behold, or in this case read, as she fights back against the online trolls who come after her in real life, They are then dealt a case of whoop ass courtesy of the kickass Detective Watts whose task force bring down parts of the group when they attend a gaming panel to harass Divya.

The story also offers a glimpse into the other side of gaming, namely the creation process, through the lens of Aaron, who is struggling with keeping his dream of writing epic in-game stories alive while fighting both his mother’s expectations and being taken advantage by the leader of his indie-gaming group.

Smith knows when to weave in more lighthearted moments to give readers opportunities to breathe and regroup before being plunged into another gut-twisting and heartbreaking scenario.

You will feel sympathy and rage and joy and laughter and every other emotion possible with each page. It is equal parts joyfully geeky and painfully heartbreaking. It is a must-read.

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