Book Review: Don’t Hate the Player
Don’t Hate the Player by Alexis Nedd
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The story follows the perspectives of two teens – Emilia and Jake. Emilia is a nerdy all-star, following her parents’ restrictions, aiming for an Ivy League college. However, behind the scenes she is a member of one of the best esports teams in the area (Team Fury).
Jake is an underachiever, caring mostly about trying to follow an esports career, spending his entire time with his team (Team Unity) and practicing, which causes tension between him and his dad.
When an esports tournament comes to their area, both teams sign up and Jake recognizes Emilia, leading to an unlikely friendship and connection as they fight for the crown and Emilia tries to keep her identity hidden,
My thoughts: I loved this book, it really made me care about the characters and I was genuinely invested in the plot. The two main characters – Emilia and Jake have such wonderful chemistry and their personalities are written so well without any Nice Guy or nerdy girl tropes. The romance was so sweet and fun, the two meshed together so well, it never felt forced or over the top, and the happiness that radiated off the page was so wonderful and contagious. Beautiful.
One thing is that this book is somewhat hard to get into at first: I was annoyed with Emilia’s main conflict and the “gaming logs” from Jake’s team were hard to understand. Later, as I was sucked into the story more I began to appreciate all aspects – the “gaming logs” were still confusing (using lots of internet language and acronyms), but they were eventually able to highlight the discrepancy between Team Unity and Fury and Emilia’s struggles became more pronounced and sympathetic.
The ideas that this story explores are really interesting and have good payback – anonymity on the internet, online harassment, gaming culture, etc. This book also had so much wonderful diversity, and I was really able to connect with Emilia’s family and values. In fact, I was really able to connect with both the main characters, their inner voices (wants and struggles) felt real and honest and pretty relevant to modern teenage culture (college, video games, careers, etc.)
The tension and reveals at the end were incredible, and while I wish the voice (first/third person) was more understandable, the romance, characters, and world-building bring this book to a solid 5/5 stars. I highly recommend you read this if you are a fan of teenage romance or contemporary books, extra points given to those who spend a lot of time with video games.
TW/CW: transphobia, sexism
-Review by Teen Advisory Board Member, 4/17/21