Loathe at First Sight by Suzanne Park
Trigger Warning: Sexism, Racism, Harassment, Doxxing, Discrimination
Melody Joo has made a drastic career change, leaping the opportunity to get into the world of video game producing. But she’s not prepared for the level of intersectional racism and misogyny leveled at her from all sides—from her famous boss to her coworkers to her team. When a joke idea to a female coworker is overheard and stolen by her boss as a last-ditch effort to the higher ups, Melody is thrown into the game as lead producer. She’s not going to let the whispers get to her, however. She’s going to produce this game…or else.
I feel that this book was horribly mismarketed from the start. That cover, that title, that blurb…it all screams contemporary romance when the relationship between the intern and Melody is slow-burn and recognized as taboo as hell (and not acted upon at all) until the very, very end when the intern is no longer an intern.
However, I loved this for what it was: an insightfully scathing look into the gaming industry, and definitely not a contemporary romance.
“You shouldn’t stay there if you hate it so much.”
A woman of color (note: an Asian woman, the subject of far too much fetishization within the gaming industry…and elsewhere) gets a job in a predominantly white male environment that has never felt the push for diversity because any push was ridiculed by the top.
But I was ten minutes late to a mandatory sexual harassment training in the Orson Scott Card large conference room.
And despite the set-backs, the micro-aggressions, the flat out harassment and discrimination and targeted attacks by coworkers and the gaming industry trolls and everyone else, despite having her flagship game getting consistently sidelined in favor of “woke feminist” games developed by her male peers, she succeeds and earns the respect of her team by being a true leader.
“And you’re probably doing what you always do…you take on everything by yourself, keep piling on responsibilities, and then burn out in the process.”
And Melody does reach lows. She’s inherently clumsy, something that both is a nod to actual contemporary romance that has weirdly klutzy cute heroines, and a critique of that trait. She takes on the world and drives herself to the brink of exhaustion and beyond. She is targeted and harassed and doxxed and receives absolutely no support from her awful boss, who wants her gone so he can continue with the way life has always been: light and breezy with no need to think about implications of his comments or actions upon marginalized communities.
I did like that this book talked about the whiteness and toxic masculinity of the gaming world, from the idolization of white fantasy writers who were um, really problematic towards women and people of color, and yet revered without criticism. This was shown in mildly subtle ways, with the naming of the various conference rooms: Tolkien, Martin, Card, Butcher, Rothfuss, etc. You name a problematic white fantasy author, he had a room named after him—which further elevated those authors and erased the contributions of women, people of color and the LGBTQIAP+ community in the realm of science fiction, fantasy and gaming.
So who should read this?
I’ll be real: it’s not a 100% pleasant read. There were so many micro-aggressions and flat out aggressions that it’s going to be incredibly painful, particularly if you are a woman who has worked in an all-male environment that was inherently lacking in actual introspection.
But if you watched or read about the 2020 Hugo Awards and your blood boiled, then this is the book for you.
I received this ARC from NetGalley for an honest review.