Summary: Don’t Hate the Player
Don’t Hate the Player opens with two kids Emilia and Jack meeting at a game arcade while attending another kid’s birthday party. Jack is entranced by Emilia’s gaming ability, and the two become fast friends meeting up every year at that same kid’s birthday until Jack moves and they’re separated.
Emilia is now an overachieving teen, on the hockey team, running for class VP and with a cute guy vying to be her boyfriend. But she’s also secretly a gamer by night, as part of a team of online gamers. Her real life and online world come close to meshing when she gets the chance to play in a gaming competition. She also realizes soon that Jack is on one of the opposing teams.
The story is told mainly from Emilia’s perspective, but we hear Jack’s side occasionally in third person, and by reading his team’s group chat. What happens, though, when both their teams find out that they’re fraternizing with the enemy. And what happens when Emilia’s online life collides with her real life?
This story was really fun to read. I found it eye-opening to see how online gaming works and how lucrative it can be. I also didn’t know how much team work goes into it (for those who play in teams).
Emilia was a fascinating character, and I was inspired by her grit, and simultaneously worried about when she would eventually fall apart (because she was balancing so much). A lot of her worries came from wanting to be safe from trolls online, but also from the pressure her parents exerted on her to perform well and reach the goals they had set for her.
Jack was such a sweet character, and I liked that he had his own narrative arc, even though what we saw of him was limited. I also liked the camaraderie with his team mates and the fact that they could create a safe space despite the toxicity in their industry. There are a lot of gaming details in this book, which will excite those interested in video gaming — but didn’t do much for me. It’s also worth noting that the games are sort of magic based, which some readers may not be inclined to enjoy.
Still, there’s entertaining banter and engaging character development, as well as a sweet, healthy, and realistic romance.
Overall: Don’t Hate the Player
Don’t Hate the Player is a unique, immersive, and entertaining young adult novel about gaming, identity, and pursuing your dreams. This YA novel centers a Latina protagonist and an endearing love interest. It also takes readers into the thrill of online gaming and esports, with witty banter, hilarious side characters, and a spotlight on the dark side of gaming. If you enjoy YA with strong female protagonists, this is one to check out.
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