Best Fiction for Young Adults (#BFYA2022) Featured Review of Don’t Hate the Player by Alexis Nedd

Don’t Hate the Player by Alexis Nedd
Bloomsbury YA
Publication Date: June 15, 2021
ISBN: 978-1547605026

Sixteen-year-old Emilia Romero has a secret life. By day, she’s a high-achieving Latinx student who takes AP classes, leads the field hockey team, has a popular jock for a boyfriend, and will even be running for student council as vice president to her best friend Penny (who is Black). By night (and on weekends), she’s part of Team Fury, an e-sports team competing in the virtual reality game Guardians League Online, who has just been tapped to participate in a live tournament with a pot of two hundred thousand dollars. No one at school knows her secret, and she’d like to keep it that way. But when Jake Hooper, who is also playing in the tournament on another team, shows up as a new student, Emilia’s two worlds threaten to collide.

Nedd wraps up the very real issues of misogyny and discrimination in gaming in a sweet rom-com that hits all the marks. The slow-burn friends-to-lovers romance between Emilia and Jake is satisfying, and readers will be cheering both characters on as they (re)discover each other as well and explore their place in the competitive world of e-sports. Secondary characters are also well-developed, with diverse, multi-faceted teens who shatter stereotypes. The narrative is told through the alternating third-person viewpoints of Emilia and Jake, and through text conversations within the two rival teams. Readers will love this inside look at the cut-throat and very lucrative world of online gaming.

Give this immediately to fans of Eric Smith’s Don’t Read the Comments. Fans of Marie Lu’s Warcross series will like this contemporary realistic view of virtual reality games and competitions, while readers interested in exploring diverse viewpoints within the gaming world may also enjoy Walking in Two Worlds by Wab Kinew or the graphic novel Renegade Rule by Ben Khan and Rachel Silverstein.

Heather Christensen

Other Nominated Titles

  • Indivisible by Daniel Aleman (May 4, 2021)
  • Kneel by Candace Buford (September 14, 2021)

The Selected Lists teams read throughout the year in search of the best titles published in their respective categories. Once a book is suggested (either internally or through the title suggestion form), it must pass through a review process to be designated an official nomination. 

Each week, the teams feature a review of one of the officially nominated titles. Additional titles to receive this designation are listed as well. At year’s end, the team will curate a final list from all nominated titles and select a Top Ten. The previous years’ lists are available on The Hub.