While being marketed as a romcom, Loathe at First Sight is a character focused story about the sexism and racism of the gaming industry. If you go into it expecting a story about Melody and the toxic environment she has to face, then I think you will really enjoy this book. Keep reading this book review of Loathe at First Sight to figure out what to expect!
Melody Joo is thrilled to land her dream job as a video game producer, but her new position comes with challenges: an insufferable CEO; sexist male coworkers; and an infuriating—yet distractingly handsome—intern, Nolan MacKenzie, aka “the guy who got hired because his uncle is the boss.”
Just when Melody thinks she’s made the worst career move of her life, her luck changes. While joking with a friend, she creates a mobile game that has male strippers fighting for survival in a post-apocalyptic world. Suddenly Melody’s “joke” is her studio’s most high-profile project—and Melody’s running the show.
When Nolan is assigned to Melody’s team, she’s sure he’ll be useless. But as they grow closer, she realizes he’s smart and sexy, which makes Melody want to forget he’s her intern. As their attraction deepens, she knows it’s time to pump the brakes, even with her Korean parents breathing down her neck to hurry up and find a man.
With her project about to launch, Melody suddenly faces a slew of complications, including a devastating trolling scandal. Could the man she’s falling hard for help her play the game to win—in work and in love?
(Disclaimer: I received this book from Edelweiss. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
Before I start talking about the content of the book in depth, I want to talk about the way this book was marketed and is being promoted. Considering the trigger warnings of sexism, racism, stalking, harassment, cyber bullying, and doxxing, it’s a book that handles the toxic work environment women in gaming face. While it’s been marketed more as a romcom, I don’t think that comparison does this book justice. Not only is the romance pretty light – compared to what one might think of as a rivals/enemies to lovers story – but it’s much more focused on Melody as a character.
For readers who might be going into this expecting a rom-com (heavy on both of these elements) have the potential to be disappointed. I don’t blame them because that’s how it was marketed and described to me. This misunderstanding doesn’t do this book any favors as the toxic environment plus sexism and racism of the side characters in this book make it much more emotionally upsetting (especially as a fellow woman of color). But if you go into this book expecting a book about finding our own self-worth and value and being a woman of color in the male dominated game world, then I think you’ll be much better prepared and have a better overall experience.
Now to get into the actual content of the book,
I am a huge fan of women in STEM and I love seeing more and more girls and women in gaming. Because, WOAH can those environments be toxic. To that end, since Gamergate, being a woman who used to play a lot of online games (and be immersed in that world), and just generally a woman on the internet, I can’t say I was surprised by the sexist and racist comments in Loathe at First Sight. It’s like if all the things trolls and guys I played with said things IRL instead of online behind avatars. However, I do have to admit I was surprised at how freely they said these things to one’s face.
Some subtler things that really resonated with me in Loathe at First Sight is how often work is pushed towards women. I encountered this in college and I’m not sure if it’s just that we had trouble exerting our own limits (in terms of time abilities), but the amount of times that our colleagues may have said, “I don’t have time” and looked to us to pick up the slack. I even went to a workshop of women in activism and this is EXACTLY what we were talking about.
But then again, normally, these spaces only let these comments go unpunished. Creating a climate of toxicity for those who want to enter into these spaces. Still, brace yourselves because you will feel ALL the rage. Loathe at First Sight is squarely centered on Melody. Her relationship with her parents, the friendships that ground her, and the ways she has to manage this environment and her ambition, her needs, and her future. Dealing with these comments and racist/sexist people in her life have shaped Melody, but also the general workplace climate. Melody is aware of the way she has to be careful, how she walks a dangerous line between goofing off, and how her actions are perceived.
I wish I had her courage. There were so many times where if these things happened to me, I’d just try to laugh them off. To let them go unnoticed and unpunished. Whereas Melody calls them out and even tries to engage with them on a similar level – giving it back whenever she can. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. But what Park also illustrates is that while Melody can do this, she also has trouble standing up for her worth and value still. To this extent, there were a few conversations brought up – which were amazing – but which I wish were resolved more.
Like a conversation she has where a colleague tells her she should just not care what people get, but without realizing that even if she, as a WOC, was perfect those around her can still find a million reasons to undermine her and fire her. That there’s a certain pressure on her knowing that she can influence all the women behind her.
I also just wanted to say that I am not Korean-American. Because of that I don’t want to make any claims about the representation of her parents. The instances out of work with her family and friends are where a lot of comedy is found – understandably so. As I said earlier, if you go into this book expecting a journey of self-worth, resilience, and the toxicity/racism/sexism of Melody’s workplace, then you will be much better quipped.
All in all, I felt the romance was pretty light – which was okay with me since I was interested in Melody and her gaming experiences – and I’m not sure if I would classify this as “feel good” since there’s a lot of discussion about racism and sexism. That being said, I think it’s a great story about self-worth and a woman taking on the toxic work culture of gaming.