**I received an advance copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. HUGE thanks to the publisher for trusting me!**
Eric Smith is one of my favorite authors, not only because he is really good at crafting a novel, but he’s an all around amazing human. I want to support him in whatever way I can, hence the reason I was over the moon excited to get a copy of this book. Sadly, it was just an okay read for me. I do know that some people are going to love it with the heart-eye emoji all the live long day – and I’m here to cheer those readers on. I just happened to have some issues with the story that kept me from giving it more than 3 stars.
While this story circles around two characters who meet in an online gaming world, I felt it devoted too much time to explaining, in great detail, the scenes within the online game. Maybe if I was a gamer this would bump my rating up higher but alas I am not a gamer. I found myself skimming those sentences/paragraphs/pages/chapters. They felt like filler and fluff as they did not add anything to the overall story. Did I really need to know the exact shade of color that was used to make the decal on someone’s ship? Did I need to know just how much money was needed to gain purchase of a gnarly hyper-drive within the game? The short answer: no. I think it is great that these two character’s meet-cute could have been pulled from today’s real world but the execution and delivery was just not there for me.
Now take the two characters, Divya and Aaron, out of the game and they are super adorable. I felt Divya was too intense at times because the girl put way too much pressure on herself to support her family. I felt horrid for the trolls that were tormenting and harassing her. I could not imagine going through that in real life. I didn’t always agree with how she chose to handle the events (not calling the cops, really?!) but it just seemed like one of those “I wouldn’t handle it that way if it were me” situations. Aaron also put too much pressure on himself and let too many things slide with his “friends”. I get that he was just an all around good guy but they were straight up taking advantage of him. His parents (his mom in particular) were far too hard on him, in my opinion. Tough love, perhaps? But out-right telling him what he was going to go to college for was extreme in my eyes.
I know it sounds like I didn’t like this book so let me tell you what I did enjoy so this doesn’t come across as a hopeless negative review – BECAUSE IT ISN’T!. I enjoyed how Smith pulled from current real life and put serious topics into it – meaning setting the story in a relatable way for young adults today. Thousands and tens of thousands of people play/meet/start relationships online, I think that’s amazing! Smith was also able to roll into the story the real world issues of racism and bullying. That is not an easy thing to do. He did it in a way that felt natural and believable. I truly felt like these characters were being bullied and threatened in a serious way.
I still recommend this to everyone. This was simply a case of “it’s not you, it’s me”. I know there are a ton of readers that will enjoy this story and so I encourage everyone to give it a try.