Review: Play It Again – Aidan Wayne

Review: Play It Again – Aidan WaynePlay It Again
by Aidan Wayne
Publisher: Carina Press
Publication Date: April 22, 2019
Genres: Romance
Pages: 288
Source: NetGalley

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

My rating: One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

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?

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What an utterly adorable book!  It’s mushy and sweet, both low heat and low angst, and it’s nice and short.

Dovid is a minor Youtube celebrity.  As a blind man, he documents the lives of himself and, to a lesser degree, his twin sister Rachel, as well as restaurant reviews (which includes accessibility as well as the usual decor and food points).  When his gamer sister introduces him to an Irishman’s video game play through channel, he’s absolutely entranced by Sam’s voice and quirkiness.  When he recommends Sam’s channel to his legion of followers, he doesn’t initially realize what a headache he might be creating for introverted Sam – though it does provide an opportunity for him to reach out to the guy who he’s slowly developing a crush on.  Discussions of video monetization and Patreon tiers slowly morph into a friendship, though each is left wanting more.  Will a long distance relationship be enough for either of the men?

“He was terribly unexciting. He worked in IT. He liked quiet, and tea, and video games, and reading.”

Dovid’s (pronounced “duh”-vid) is the kind of guy to make a lot of blind jokes about himself, and while, to some extent, he makes his living off his disability, he’s not defined by it.  As you might expect from a Youtube celebrity, he’s quite extroverted, and while he’s solicitous of other’s feelings – Sam’s especially – he also tends to act impulsively, as when he gushes over Sam’s channel without thinking about the tsunami of viewers he’s sending his way.  After the fact, though, he worries about the consequences, and while he makes that sort of mistake more than once, by the end of the book he did seem to think more about how his actions would effect Sam before he acts. Dovid and Rachel are also Jewish, though if you’re averse to religion, it’s mostly an offhand reference to Hanukkah and a discussion about visiting the Holocaust Memorial and a concentration camp survivor relative.  Sam’s, well, adorable (yes, that’s a joke from the book).  He’s the kind of guy who practices saying Dovid’s name a million times before recording to make sure he’s saying it right.  When Dovid and Sam’s DM conversations turn into Sam recommending books to Dovid, and he realizes Dovid’s actually reading them, he starts making sure that all the books he’s reading have audiobook versions.  He’s very introverted, content to come home from his day job in IT, drink tea, read books, and record his weekly video.  He has a lot of social anxiety and not much in the way of self esteem (thanks to his parents), and he can’t quite believe anyone actually wants to pay to watch him play video games, let alone pay him for them.  So it’s perhaps because the two are complete opposites that the two of them are immediately fascinated by each other.

“All the more reason to contact him,” he said after thinking about it. “If nothing else I can offer some advice in dealing with the increase in subscribers.”
“Yeah, not a bad idea at all. Even if it’s just an excuse for you to finally work up the guts to talk to him.”

The fascination quickly turns into crushes on both sides, but it takes a while for either man to admit to it.  As you’d expect from a relationship that’s initially only over Twitter DMs, it takes a while before their relationship morphs from a friendship to a romantic relationship.  Sam’s introversion hadn’t given him much experience in that area, and Dovid is more than willing to let Sam set the pace of the relationship – with an aroace sister, he’s a bit more versed than most on sexuality.  It’s all quite sweet, honestly, especially that the “big deal” is them both finally saying “I love you” to each other.  There’s no sexual content beyond a lot of kisses and some making out.  It’s, at most, a mild spoiler then to say that, through talking about their relationship with Dovid, Sam realizes he’s asexual.

As mentioned before, Sam has low self esteem and considers himself a complete and utter disappointment.  At the beginning of the book, he has a LOT of negative self-talk, and it’s particular insidious as he doesn’t seem to realize how negative he is towards himself.  He’s constantly willing to make allowances for others that he won’t make for himself – it’s OK that that customer yelled at him, she was probably having a good day and is normally a great person and it probably made her feel a lot better to yell at him, and he’s such a waste of time anyway it’s probably just all fine.  He’s got the whole “stiff upper lip” thing going on to a ridiculous degree.  I personally liked how Dovid handled it – initially gently disagreeing with Sam’s assessment of himself, and then more strongly as their relationship develops and the source of Sam’s issues becomes more apparent.  Their relationship helps Sam accept that his parents’ disappointment doesn’t outweigh his own happiness – after all, if a great guy like Dovid loves him and thinks he’s worthy, doesn’t that have some merit?

As for cons, to be completely honest, I’m not a big Youtube watcher, and while I found some parts of their careers interesting – including just how much time goes into editing those videos – there was just too much of it.  There’s a lot about the mechanics of Youtube and being an internet celebrity – the nuts and bolts of locking Twitter and monetizing your videos, etc.  I don’t mind so much when it’s fleshing out each individual character and how they feel about it, but when a lot of the on-page conversations between the two characters was about Ko-Fi and “per view” vs “per click” monetization – I’m out.  So while I appreciated some of it – like Rachel and Dovid explaining how to do unboxing videos if Sam doesn’t want to show his whole body in them – other things, like Patreon tier options, felt like it was taking time away from exploring their relationship.  It also felt like something that would really date the book in a few years (or less!).

Overall, this is a solid 3.5 for me, rounded up to 4 for the absolute adorableness.  If you’re looking for something quick and mushy, and don’t mind a lot of Youtube shoptalk, this will definitely fit the bill.

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