*I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*
Title: Don’t Hate the Player
Author: Alexis Nedd
Publisher: Bloomsbury YA
Publication Date: June 15, 2021
Synopsis from Goodreads:
By day, Emilia is a field hockey star with a popular boyfriend and a mother obsessed with her academic future. But by night, she’s kicking virtual ass as the only female member of a highly competitive eSports team. Emilia has mastered the art of keeping her two worlds thriving, which hinges on them staying completely separate. When a major eSports tournament comes to her city, Emilia is determined to prove herself to the male-dominated gaming community. But her perfectly balanced life is thrown for a loop when a member of a rival team—Jake—recognizes her . . .
Emilia isn’t exactly the girl that you’d imagine to be a gamer, let alone a world class eSports competitor. She’s the beautiful, popular, intelligent, jock girl at school who has everything going for her. She’s got the hot boyfriend, the most outgoing friends, and she’s basically a shoe-in at her dad’s alma mater, uPenn. But she lives a double life. What no one knows about her is that she stays up every night gaming online with one of the top GLO team in the area. When she’s recognized by a childhood acquaintance who plays on a competing team (who just, by the way, transferred to Emilia’s high school), everything threatens to come crumbling down.
Any readers who game will love this book. Emilia is living the gamer’s dream. She’s got the skills and the confidence, but she’s got to come clean about who she really is. I’m not a huge gamer, so I did have to do a lot of Googling to look up different terminology, so those who don’t game, be forewarned. There’s a lot of lingo. But there are a lot of other hip and popular references too: Hamilton, Frozen, etc. All hidden away in the text. But makes the book all the more relatable to younger readers.
What I loved about this book was that it has great representation. So many readers will see themselves in these characters. The protagonist is a latinx gamer. She faces a lot of adversity, but she is able to triumph and overcome, ultimately finding her people in the world she loves so much. This book is ultimately about community, friendship, and self-love. There’s a lot of beauty hidden in the two worlds that Emilia inhabits.
Overall, a pretty good read! The characters are likeable and the story is a little different.