Don’t Read the Comments, by author and literary agent Eric Smith, is a heartwarming story about a teenaged female gamer fighting back against online trolls who move their attacks to the real world.
From the publisher:
We all need a place to escape from the real world.
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 written from dual points of view. Both Divya and Aaron have problems.
Divya’s growing fame in the gaming community conceals the truth: she and her mother can barely afford rent. She has to sell the latest high-tech gadgets provided by her sponsors just to help out. And a huge gang of misogynist meatheads attack her online, and then in real life, because they can’t handle the idea of a female gamer.
Aaron wants to be a writer, but his mother expects him to follow in her footsteps and become a doctor. When he’s not working the reception desk in the family medical clinic, he’s writing fantasy storylines for an immersive video game in development, with no promise of payment.
Divya keeps her real identity a secret from everyone, but after she and Aaron strike up an online friendship and their feelings for each other grow, she forced to consider the risk-reward tradeoff of letting him know who she really is.
I really enjoyed Don’t Read the Comments. With the internet becoming an increasing hostile place, the core subject material will resonate with most readers. The themes of carving your own identity and fighting back are well conveyed. And the blossoming relationship between Divya and Aaron is heartwarming.