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"Wonderfully geeky and deeply compassionate." —Marieke Nijkamp, #1 New York Times bestselling author
In this charming novel by Eric Smith, two teen gamers find their virtual worlds—and blossoming romance—invaded by the real-world issues of trolling and doxing in the gaming community.
We all need a place to escape 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 they 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 they 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.
Looking for more from Eric Smith? Don't miss You Can Go Your Own Way!
Under the name D1V, Divya Sharma, who seems to be of South Asian descent, uses a platform called Glitch to livestream herself playing Reclaim the Sun from the New Jersey apartment she shares with her single mother. She is just starting to gain sponsors and make some much-needed money from her channel helping her mom to pay rent when a group calling themselves Vox Populi begins to harass her. Aaron Jericho, a Honduran-Palestinian teen from Philadelphia, would much rather develop video games than follow his doctor mother into medicine. His big break might be working for ManaPunk, a company formed by a friend who seems to be doing very well. When D1V and Aaron meet online while playing Reclaim, a friendship blossoms, but as Divya's online harassment moves into the real world and she finds herself physically at risk, Aaron feels helpless to defend her. Through Divya and Aaron's alternating voices, Smith (The Girl and the Grove) tackles the difficult topics of sexual and racial harassment online and in gaming communities while diving into the world of live-stream gaming. Aaron is a far more robust character, with motivations and an emotional depth that are missing from Divya's characterization. Still, Smith realistically juxtaposes the benefits of online relationships with the dangers of doxxing and other types of virtual harassment, underlining Divya's strength and determination online and IRL. Ages 13 up.)
Spell-binding and Sincere
Favorite character: Mira
Mira is Aaron's 5-year-old sister, and I chose her as my favorite character because I think she is particularly well written, and her dialogue literally had me laughing out loud. She says things that are a total embarrassment to those around her, just like any 5-year-old does, and she wants others to treat her like she's older than she is. For instance, she insists on a whole piece of pizza, but she's really not ready for it, and the cheese slides off, landing in her lap. These are small little scenes, but if you have ever spent any time with a child this age, you know how much they ring true.
What I Loved
The gaming world is a mystery to people who do not play. The majority of the people who regularly play games, especially multiplayer online games, look at it healthily- as a hobby that they understand is just a game. But others use it to create a world where they can feel powerful and feed their self-esteem when the real world isn't so accommodating. Harassment is rampant, and sexism/sexual harassment happens disturbingly often. One of the things I love most about this story is its accurate portrayal of the gaming world, especially the problems that female players face within that world.
I also love the budding relationship between Aaron and Divya. It is so sweet and innocent. Sometimes, in this world of online dating, we lose the innocence that once was the norm. It is so refreshing to watch the pair as they slowly get to know one another and the smart way Divya puts the breaks on when she feels things are moving too fast for her comfort level.
The story is very entertaining and kept me moving quickly through the pages by masterfully using the element of suspense. The dialogue flowed easily and naturally. Due to the nature of the plot – a large percentage being online chat - I think this was the biggest and most necessary strength of the novel.
Divya appears not to be a fully developed character, but I could understand why she lacked dimension. It is a necessary part of who she is. Just as she shut out the people around her to protect herself, she also has the walls up to the reader. Since it is written in the first person, this makes sense. Other characters were sincere in their likability or justifiably unlikable.
What I Wish
I wish that the reader had a more omniscient view of Divya so we could have felt the sincerity of her feelings in all she was going through. Divya could be a very likable and relatable character if she had more depth and dimension.
To Read or Not to Read
YA fans will love this sincere and spellbinding tale of a girl who defeats the odds through the world of online gaming.
Thank you to NetGalley and Inkyard Press for providing me with an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review and a special thank you to Harlequin Trade Publishing and Justine Sha for my spot on the blog tour.