Not even the most beautiful virtual universe is free of trolls, and online harassment always has real-world consequences. Author and Paste writer Eric Smith tackles this fact in his new Young Adult novel, which follows two teens targeted by doxxing campaigns. Titled Don’t Read the Comments, the novel delivers a timely read that’s as powerful as it is entertaining.
Intrigued? Here’s the book description from the publisher, Inkyard Press:
Divya Sharma is a queen. Or she is when she’s playing Reclaim the Sun, the year’s hottest online game. Divya—better known as popular streaming gamer D1V—regularly leads her #AngstArmada on quests through the game’s vast and gorgeous virtual universe. But for Divya, this is more than just a game. Out in the real world, she’s trading her rising-star status for sponsorships to help her struggling single mom pay the rent.
Gaming is basically Aaron Jericho’s entire life. Much to his mother’s frustration, Aaron has zero interest in becoming a doctor like her and spends his free time writing games for a local developer. At least he can escape into Reclaim the Sun—and with a trillion worlds to explore, disappearing should be easy. But to his surprise, he somehow ends up on the same remote planet as celebrity gamer D1V.
At home, Divya and Aaron grapple with their problems alone, but in the game, they have each other to face infinite new worlds…and the growing legion of trolls populating them. Soon the virtual harassment seeps into reality when a group called the Vox Populi begin launching real-world doxxing campaigns, threatening Aaron’s dreams and Divya’s actual life. The online trolls think they can drive her out of the game, but everything and everyone Divya cares about is on the line…and she isn’t going down without a fight.
While you’ll have to wait until January to read this captivating novel, you can get a first look at Don’t Read the Comments today! We’re thrilled to reveal the cover, which was designed and illustrated by Mary Luna with art direction from Quinn Banting. And to celebrate the reveal, Smith gave us the scoop on the book’s origin story and recent title change.
“Don’t Read the Comments was written during a strange time for me,” Smith says. “My wife and I had uprooted our life, moved away from Philadelphia—my home for nearly a decade—to try living in some new places. We were in Virginia for about a year, and it was there that suddenly all of my closest friendships became online friendships. Talking on Facebook messenger, Twitter DMs, Google Chat, etc. every day.
“So those text bubbles on the cover, all that blue…it’s so perfect. Divya and Aaron look great, and I can’t wait for readers to meet them. They are resilient and strong in the face of people who want to keep them apart, both from each other and their passion, videogames.
“Originally, Don’t Read the Comments was titled Reclaim the Sun, after the video game Divya and Aaron meet in. The covers that were coming in were very sci-fi inspired, but the book is a contemporary story that just happens to partially take place in a videogame. So my editor and the publishing team came up with the idea to give the book a new title.
“And me, I’m the worst critic ever. I loved every single thing they sent over! The Inkyard Press art crew are a wildly talented bunch. And when we retitled it to make things a bit more contemporary, it happened all over again. Beautiful artwork after beautiful artwork. I hope one day I can share it.
“For now though, I hope everyone loves this cover as much as I do. The book had a little bit of a journey getting here, from a rough draft in Virginia, to a revised book in Michigan, to a cover reveal in Philadelphia and surrounded by my friends again.”
You’ll have to wait until January 28, 2020 to read Smith’s novel, but you can go ahead and pre-order Don’t Read the Comments here.