I enjoyed Don’t Read The Comments (Goodreads) from the very beginning. The opening line is the title! “Mom, we’ve been over this. Don’t read the comments.” —It’s kind of Divya’s slogan. She’s got an Etsy sign and everything.
Divya and Aaron are SUCH. GOOD. KIDS. I really loved hanging out with them. While their struggles are different, they both find joy in playing Reclaim the Sun. Aaron is serious about a career in game development, but when he’s playing Reclaim the Sun it’s for pure, often-ridiculous fun. Divya loves playing Reclaim the Sun, but her income also relies on the sponsorship deals from her gaming success. Their chance meeting is the beginning of something magical for each of them.
Throughout their blossoming romance, Divya and Aaron’s friendship comes through strongest. It’s all very sweet, the texting is super real, and their whole relationship is happening over the game’s Chat app! I adored that Divya is smart about it the whole time. She begins to trust Aaron and appreciate his “over-the-top, unnecessary kindness” but she never forgets the risks of being a woman on the internet.
“Online harassment is actual harassment.” says Detective Watts, who gets involved when the internet chaos gets dangerous. Divya and her “producer-slash-best-friend” Bekah experience harassment both online and off. They face doxxing, threats against people they love, and situations of possible physical harm. This turmoil is when Divya and Aaron’s friendship (with a definite undertone of ‘We both like each other, right?’) really shines.
Their friends are wonderful, too. I particularly loved Ryan, Aaron’s best friend and teammate on a big (and very shady) game-design project. Ryan is wise, supportive, and the only person who’s like Get us some damn contracts before we do any more work for you!! When Aaron’s about to do things like ‘save the girl’ Ryan is there to pull him back like “Did she ask you to save her? Why do you assume she isn’t handling this herself? Just chill.” It’s awesome to see his friend do the thing I’d want to say to him, ya know? Ryan’s also dating a boy named Alberto and they’re the best couple. Aaron looks at them as the kind of relationship he’d want to have.
In the end, this book is a love letter to badass girls fighting back to take up their space in the world; It’s like bright sunshine that lights up their fierceness for all the world to see. Aaron says Divya is “fierce, enraged, inspiring.” She totally is. Aaron is there for Divya as much as she allows him to be, and when they finally meet irl, we get super adorable moments that put a big smile on my face.
The ending very nearly made me cry with how hopeful and warm it felt, and how proud I am of these (brilliant! badass! brown!) kids who have come so far.
Content warnings: Divya’s parents are divorced, and her father left them. Racist comments to Aaron’s father (just once, briefly). Threats. Doxxing. Online and offline harassment. Rebekah was assaulted on campus before the book starts, and deals with the trauma of that going forward. Aaron suspects his father of having an affair (From the vibe of the book, you can tell that it’s not, but you don’t know what it is.)