ARC Reviews

ARC REVIEW: Play It Again by Aidan Wayne

SUMMARY

43263026Publisher: Carina Press
Release Date: April 22, 2019
Received From: NetGalley

The videos are fun.

But it’s the host who has him coming back for more…

When Seattle-based blind YouTuber Dovid Rosenstein finds Sam Doyle’s Let’s Play channel, playitagainsam, he’s instantly captivated by the Irish gamer. Everything about Sam is adorable, from his accent to his personality, and Dovid can’t get enough of his content.

Dovid’s glowing shout-out on Don’t Look Now, his own successful channel, sends Sam’s subscriber numbers skyrocketing overnight. He has more comments than he can read. And while the sudden surge in popularity is anxiety inducing, Sam decides it’s only right to dedicate his next episode to Dovid…which soon leads to a heart-pounding exchange of DMs.

They may have never met in person, but Dovid’s never felt this close to anyone before. What they have feels worth exploring—no matter the distance. But is it possible to already be in love with someone who’s half a world away?

GENDER SEXUALITY PAIRINGS

GENDER: cisgender
SEXUALITY: bisexual, asexual
ROMANTIC ORIENTATION: biromantic, homoromantic
PAIRING: M/M

TAGS TROPES WARNINGS

TROPES: long distance relationship, cyberlove, introvert x extrovert, height difference
TAGS: adult, contemporary, romance, queer romance, queer characters, Jewish characters, disabled character, blind character
WARNINGS: ableism, cancer mention, anti-fatness, mental illness (social anxiety), disability fetishization mention, car accident, hospitalization, physical injury, emotional abuse, parental abuse, Holocaust mention

REVIEW

This book was just as sweet and fun I was promised it would be, with a little bit of angst sprinkled in!

One of the things that really made me excited to pick this up, initially, was the fact that the relationship between Sam and Dovid is a long distance one! As a person whose past romantic relationships, and many of their current friendships, were long distance, I am pretty much always excited to read about others, though it’s often difficult to find. And I think Wayne did a wonderful job with PLAY IT AGAIN! I very much enjoyed the ways in which the characters connected–first through Twitter messages, then WhatsApp, and phone calls Skype sessions–and the way they were able to build a relationship and get to know each other in all those ways, as well as through the videos each posted on their individual YouTube channels, and then later when they see each other in person. The ending, where it’s revealed that Sam is going to relocate to the United States, was the only aspect of the relationship that felt a little rushed and easy, but I think it actually still worked well for the story. Wayne build a really cute, enjoyable friendship and romance, one that made me feel warm and happy.

One thing I enjoy about Wayne’s writing is the fact that he generally includes at least one disabled character as a main character, and in this book there’s Dovid who is blind and uses a cane and Sam who experiences social anxiety. I can’t speak as to how well the blind representation was written, but I did enjoy the general disability rep in Dovid! I loved that he’s so active and does so many things, from the YouTube channel to reviewing restaurants and other products to traveling the world and more, and I loved that he’s a better cook than his sister and incredibly self-sufficient. At no point throughout the novel is Dovid viewed as less than because of his disability and those around him respect him and his autonomy. And there’s none of the self-hatred or internalized ableism that is so often found in books with disabled characters. Additionally, I liked the social anxiety rep in Sam! It’s so real and relatable. I honestly loved how neither Dovid nor Rachael tried to change Sam, but they tried to help him in ways that were comfortable for him and didn’t push hi, further out of his comfort zone than he was willing to go.

Also, as far as representation goes, I very much enjoyed the asexual rep! Rachel, Dovid’s twin sister, is aroace and sex repulsed, and later we find out that Sam is asexual and ambivalent about sex. What I liked was that Wayne showed the there are differences on the spectrum and under the asexual label. While Rachel is completely repulsed by sex, Sam could pretty much take it or leave it, but loves hugging, kissing, cuddling, and other similar activities. Also, Wayne does a great job of making the rep feel comfortable for ace spectrum readers because of the way the reveal is handled with Dovid. While Dovid himself is sexual and enjoys sex, he’s perfectly content with what Sam is okay with giving, and frequently reassures Sam that he is happy with what they have. Sam has been torn down so much by his family and it was good for him, and the reader, to see Dovid being so openly supportive of everything about Sam. The one thing about the narrative, regarding the ace rep, that would normally make me squint in another book would be the fact that Dovid, the allosexual character, is the one to introduce Sam to the concept of asexuality, despite his identifying as gay previously. However, considering Sam’s social anxiety and the isolation he’s faced at the hands of his parents, it actually works with the narrative.

The one aspect that did make me squint, though, was in the last few chapters. When asking Rachel to stop making sex jokes around Sam because he doesn’t want Sam’s insecurities to latch onto the idea that he might be joking or lying about his contentment, Dovid outs Sam as asexual. There’s nothing in the narrative where Sam gives consent to Dovid sharing that information, and while I don’t think Sam would mind him telling Rachel, based on his previous characterization, it was still a bit upsetting.

And speaking of the emotional abuse Sam has suffered due to his parents–this is the reason I wouldn’t call this a strictly fluffy romance. While it is, for the most part, a cute and lovely read, there is the subplot of Sam’s relationship with his parents and how they continually undermine and abuse him. It’s woven into the narrative in such a way as to show why Sam is so lacking in confidence and always feels like a burden, despite Dovid and others repeatedly reassuring him that he’s not. And while this aspect was painful to read, it was really great to see that the narration and characters recognizes that it’s very difficult to see abuse as abuse and that it can be difficult to break out of the cycle and protect yourself.

Finally, the one thing that was really jarring to me was the abruptness of Sam being hit by a car and ending up in the hospital. It was used not only to build up the friendship and relationship between Sam and Dovid, as well as to illustrate some of the emotional and mental abuse from his parents. So the event was employed in ways that were conducive to the story, but it still jerked me out of said story for a little bit because it was unexpected.

But overall, I really loved and enjoyed this book, and I would certainly recommend!

And please check out Corey @ Corey’s Book Corner’s review for commentary on some things I had thoughts on but didn’t have more words for, and Corey talked about in theirs.

RATING4 STARSABOUT THE AUTHOR

Aidan Wayne lives with altogether too many houseplants on the seventh floor of an apartment building, and though the building has an elevator, Aidan refuses to acknowledge its existence. They’ve been in constant motion since before they were born (pity Aidan’s mom)—and being born didn’t change anything. When not moving Aidan is usually writing, so things tend to balance out. They mostly stick with contemporary romance (both adult and YA), but some soft sci-fi/fantasy has been known to sneak in as well, and they primarily write character-driven stories with happy endings. Because, dammit, queer people deserve happy endings too.

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BUY LINKS

Amazon
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Book Depository

review by nicky tyler

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