Cover Image: Loathe at First Sight

Loathe at First Sight

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

They say that the opposite of love is not hate but indifference.

And, well...I didn't loathe this book, but oh, was I indifferent to it.

When I first read the plot summary for Loathe at First Sight, I was cautiously optimistic. There were so many thematic points to pull me in: Asian American? A capable underdog? Office romance? Enemies to lovers?? Yeah okay, I'm in.

I'll be frank: I think that the marketing choices for this book were misguided and highly misleading. Judging from the title, cover, and plot summary, I came into the book fully expecting a romantic comedy. That is not really what I got. The focal point of this book was Melody's trials and tribulations while developing her game. More specifically, the spotlight was on the sexism and racism she faces while working.

Now, the problem with spotlights is that they eclipse everything else on stage. So much focus in this book is placed upon the social grievances prevalent in the field of video games that nothing else really gets to have its time to make an impression. Yes, there is romance in the book, but it feels almost incidental due to lack of development. This was in large part due to another neglected component of the book: emotional insight.

There was a lack of attention paid to describing the emotions running through the characters. I rarely, if ever, felt as though I had any understanding of what each character was feeling - even on occasions where the emotion itself was named, not enough detail was provided to indicate the intensity or persistence of the feeling. As a result, character decisions often felt very abrupt. At one point, I literally threw my hands up in the air because I couldn't comprehend why in the world Melody was suddenly into Nolan.

Unfortunately, flow issues in this vein extended to other aspects of the book as well. Characters sometimes seemed to disappear and reappear randomly throughout scenes due to insufficient detailing of their whereabouts. It ends up giving off an impression sometimes that these characters only existed when it suited the plot, to be tossed aside the second they were no longer needed. They weren't being given treatment that conveyed personhood.

Almost all of the characters actually felt like caricatures of the role they were meant to serve in the story. While I wholeheartedly believe that the video game industry runs rampant with misogyny and racism, at some point, it became a little challenging to believe that every single man working at Melody's company was so blatantly sexist - not even that every man in the company was sexist, which is plausible, but that they were all so overtly sexist. That even the publicity director could be so unbelievably ignorant and insensitive. Really, every guy in this company (save for Nolan, of course, who is essentially the only unattached male character in the entire book who isn't sexist - pretty handy for weeding through the dating pool) is a misogynist? In Seattle? Really?

That isn't to say the female characterization fares much better. Even Melody herself, I wasn't a fan of. She's extremely brash and aggressive, getting into hotheaded arguments in public and acting antagonistically towards others without first gathering all of the facts. Oftentimes, her outbursts are also pretty childish (though to be fair, that behavior is not unique only to her). I mean, she plays mocking pranks on the CEO on more than one occasion, the first time being only a month into her job. And the CEO absolutely deserves it, but in what world does an employee think that's a good idea? Especially considering Melody's status as a new hire in an industry she has no prior experience in. There's assertive, and then there's looking for a fight. Like, I don't even understand why Melody loathed Nolan from the start - what exactly was it about him that she was finding so insulting or irritating in every one of their interactions? Apparently not much, because the moment they actually sit down and start to work together, she instead finds him very attractive.

Beyond that, Melody also plays into other Not Like Other Girl stereotypes that I tend to find grating. She's "unattractively" curvy, she's horrified at the prospect of heels, and she seems to treat anything "pretentious" with an air of disdain. Case in point: every single aspect of Jane's wedding. One curious thing I noticed is that this contempt often extended to standard Asian flavors (which, yes, have definitely been co-opted by white chefs in fine dining, but that's a whole other topic). One of the cakes Melody tastes and says apparently tastes like lotion is a yuzu flavor - that's essentially just a citrus cake, which sounds delicious to me. Even if one were to excuse Melody's distaste for the fact that yuzu is specifically Japanese, ingredients such as citron and tangerine are highly prevalent in Korean cuisine. It's not a far stretch for someone of Korean background to extend that familiar flavor profile to include yuzu.

It just doesn't appear to me that Melody's identity as a Korean American was as thoughtfully considered within the book as it should have been. Yes, she receives a lot of racist comments throughout the book (most of which centered on people's inability to differentiate between Japanese/Chinese/Korean - on the milder, more generic end on the spectrum of racist acts minorities face), but beyond Melody being a victim of racism, the story didn't touch too much on the racial aspect of her life other than with her parents.

I'm sad to say that the portrayal of Melody's parents was honestly disappointing to me. When I say that the characters felt like caricatures to me, I am thinking foremost about her parents. Every stereotype about Asian parenthood you can imagine, her parents exhibited - and in full force. I can't recall a single aspect about them that was a point of pride for Melody. Instead, what I saw through the parents was the Asian aspect of Melody's identity being played solely for laughs. Her parents were cutely humorous, they were peskily stubborn, they were constantly incredibly embarrassing, but never were they celebrated in any dignified manner. Melody's parents - her Asian roots - were just an inconvenience she had to deal with.

To put this into perspective, the most in-depth description in this book that the reader receives about Korean culture is not anything to do with Melody's parents but a couple of paragraphs detailing the sleaziness of Korean nightclubs. That short description is a perfect embodiment of the book and its aim: Loathe at First Sight is first and foremost a novel about feminism and sexism. Everything else in this book exists in service of that goal.

What upsets me the most is that there was a lot of potential for this book to work with. More than anything, I wanted to see what could have been done with regards to Melody's racial identity. At several points, there was a chance to dig into the co-opting of Asian culture in America for upper class white people. Throughout the wedding planning subplot, the choices of trendy, wealthy Jane constantly displayed Asian influences: the Korean wedding dress designer, the yuzu cake, the Korean influences on the nightclub chosen for the bachelorette. It was all right there for the taking. But none of this got even a single mention because of the book's single-minded agenda to highlight the sexism, to the detriment of everything else the book could have had going for it.

I want to make it clear that there is absolutely nothing wrong with a book that centers on grappling with sexism. If I had come into the book expecting that, I'm sure I would have enjoyed the read more. My problem lies in how the marketing for this book does not reflect that at all. Unlike what I expected from the blurb, there wasn't any insight into the character's Asian identity. I didn't get a sensible underdog I wanted to root for or a sizzling workplace attraction I could swoon over. I didn't even get the loathing I was promised, the display of chemistry between two enemies trading whip-smart barbs that will later translate to sparkling banter.

Without all of that, I'm just underwhelmed. I'm just...indifferent.
Was this review helpful?
I'm not really into feminist books, but this one was pretty funny. I liked the message the book portrayed,  Melody’s story sheds light on many issues faced by women (and especially women of color) in male-dominated jobs. I think I am not a huge fan of the writing style and thats also why this book was just okay for me. 

Thanks for an ARC!
Was this review helpful?
eBook provided for free from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

After jokingly pitching a "male-strippers save the world" video game with a female colleague, Melody Joo finds herself at the helm of producing the most highly anticipated video game of the year. With little experience and zero support from the company's misogynistic CEO, Melody is on her own to figure out how to pull off a major win for the company and her career. Enter Nolan McKenzie -- new intern and nephew to the CEO.  Melody writes him off, despite his good looks, and tries to keep him away from the project sure that he is in his uncle's pocket. But when she is doxxed online by sexist gamers, Melody finds herself growing closer and closer to the man she tried to write off. 

I've read a lot of contemporary romance this year (thanks COVID) and none of them have left me as on the fence as "Loathe at First Sight."  First and foremost, this won't be for all readers. Park has chosen to accurately represent what it's like to work in a sexist environment. Melody deals with A LOT of misogyny, harassment, and bullying. A LOT. Cursing and sexism is on pretty much every page and the way Melody choses to respond won't sit well with some. But that's not really my issue with "Loathe at First Sight."

I think it's a great contemporary book about a woman of color succeeding even with all odds against her. But it's a meh romance. The plotlines between Melody and Nolan are 2nd at best to Melody's work. Sometimes even third once Melody's friends enter the story. I'm also not sold on the title as I never really got "loathing" vibes from Melody or Nolan. 

So all in all, I liked "Loathe at First Sight" and I think many readers will too, but not as a romance.
Was this review helpful?
Thank you to NetGalley and Avon Books for a gifted copy of this ARC.

This book highlights the struggles an Asian female faces in the gaming industry. As a fan of video games myself, I appreciate the insight into the process of developing a game. There are some good laugh out loud moments and Melody comes off as a strong female protagonist who does a decent job of advocating for herself. I think this one is more women's fiction than romance. There aren't many interactions between Nolan and Melody and it's a very slow burn. Instead, the focus of the book is on her toxic work environment.

Overall, it is a good read if you want to add some diversity to your reads!
Was this review helpful?
I absolutely loved this book. It was more than just a rom-com type of book for me. It was a fantastic story about a female trying t make it in a male dominated area of gaming. It was smartly written and gave me hope for the future when women can be held as equals with men. I was surprised that this was considered a rom-com type of book because there wasn't that much romance in it. This was good because it focused more on Melody and how she had to fight for what she believed in with her game.
Was this review helpful?
Written by a former comedian, this amusing book has zingers, needed levity for a book about a woman, Melody, struggling in the male-dominated video game industry. Melody’s workplace experiences are awkward and authentic, as are her battles to balance her over-demanding family and bridezilla friend. Although promoted as a romantic comedy, the chaste workplace romance takes a backseat to Melody’s self-growth into a confident game designer in the face of misogyny and sabotage. This is an Own Voices book.
Was this review helpful?
This was a funny, feminist read with important messaging at its heart. It felt a bit more women’s fiction than romance, but Melody’s story sheds light on many issues faced by women (and especially women of color) in male-dominated fields. It’s a unique premise with a mix of lovable central characters to truly terrible antagonists, and was engaging from start to finish.
Was this review helpful?
There are so many things to love about this book. It's full of feminist empowerment and characters that stand up for themselves and others who are minorities or oppressed. The gaming industry in general leaves a lot to be desired for women and Melody doesn't care. She's got goals to accomplish and a career path to set herself on. 

My only problem was that from the title of the book this is being pitched as a romance. There's definitely romance in there but it's few and far between the main plot about Melody's job, the gaming industry, and her parents. The book even uses "loathe at first sight" to describe Melody when she meets another character who is not the main love interest. I liked Melody and her story is compelling and ultimately a better story of empowerment than a romance. 

I liked Nolan overall,  but we never got to know them or see them together. I feel like we saw more of Melody with her friends and their significant others than Nolan and I spent the first half of the book thinking it was an undergrad 19 year old intern instead of the 28 year old MBA intern he was. There was a lot of random details about his life and family that seemed sprinkled throughout rather than part of his character. 

* I was given an eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
A very slow burn romance but satisfying.  A  compelling storyline about the rampant misogyny in the gaming industry makes this book a real stand out.
Was this review helpful?
This is an awesome, fun, yet meaningful read with a snarky, feisty, sarcastic, go-getter heroine, doing her best to thrive despite misogyny and racism in the world of video game production.

Melody is a super like-able protagonist, and although she’d dealing with a lot in terms of working in a testosterone central – a gaming company-- she doesn’t take herself too seriously, even if throughout the book she will face some true verbal abuse and trolling, verging on stalking.

The publisher’s positioning of this as a pure enemies to friends romcom underplays some of the more weighty themes. Yes, there is a romance storyline, and although it’s a fun read, this book isn’t in any way lightweight or only about a woman being ‘saved’ or fighting her attraction to a guy. Quite the opposite, Melody is going to save herself from this trolling predicament – she just knows she needs some help to do it.

The concept of the video game with male strippers fighting for survival in a post-apocalyptic world had me laughing out loud at several points, and Melody’s internal monologue (that sometimes slips external – no filter!)  and her relationship with her parents had me giggling more than once. 

You can tell quite how much research Suzanne Park put into getting the gaming elements, environment just right and the writing is flawless. Smooth, and I was not once taken out of the story by  word choice or author voice intervening in my reading experience.

A fun read with enjoyable snappy, snarky characters and dialogue. Totally worth your time!
Was this review helpful?
Melody Joo has wanted to be a video game producer for years and now's her chance. When she's overheard jokingly pitching a game concept to a colleague things take off quickly. Unfortunately for Melody, she spends more time defending herself and dealing with annoying co-workers, the intern included, than she was prepared for.

This was so much more than a rom-com, yes it's funny (Melody's parents had me cackling) and has a love interest, but it goes so much deeper. The level of hate Melody deals with was absolutely heartbreaking, and honestly made some parts of the book difficult to read. BUT, I think it's so important to continue bringing up racism and gender equality until we have it, and even after so we never forget. Melody is such a strong amazing character with integrity, even when she had the chance to expose the trolls she chose not to. The storyline with Nolan was such a slow burn, and he's adorable, it's hard to have a whole lot to say about him since the pov is 1st person told from Melody's perspective. Overall this is a good read, that's much more than the blurb lets on.
Was this review helpful?
Thank you netgalley for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
While the premise for this novel held my attention the execution left much to be desired. Melody gets her dream job working production at a video game company only to encounter sexist and racist remarks. Her boss steals her idea and she gets moved from her cubicle by the new intern and nephew of the hated boss. Nothing seemed to be going right for her. Despite all of this she manages to get her footing and reclaim her master piece.
Unfortunately I was underwhelmed by the story and the characters. The romance took a back seat to all the commotion around producing the new video game. It just didn't hold my interest as I felt the author was trying to relay a deeper message but sacrificed the story to do it.
Was this review helpful?
I had high hopes for this book but was left disappointed.  From the title I expected a story that had a prominent hate to love relationship but that wasn't really the case.  The main character and the love interest didn't get along for maybe the first few chapters but then they became really good friends.  I did like how this story was all about girl gamers.  It was my favorite part of the story and I absolutely loved the main character.  Melody went through a lot of shit in this book and she fought hard to get what she had earned.  Overall I give this book 3 stars.  I definitely  would've enjoyed it more if I didn't go in expecting it to be a hate to love story.
Was this review helpful?
I was disappointed because I expected this to be a romance. The cover and the title and the description led me to believe this. It's not a romance. It has a very small romantic sub-plot, but definitely it's women's fiction. I enjoyed it, but for the first third I was so confused at what I was reading.
Was this review helpful?
This book was exactly the escape I needed right now. I loved the screwball comedy that is our hapless-yet-determined heroine's daily life, and the insider view of the gaming industry with its bro culture and toxic masculinity. The romance is sweet and supportive (you can totally share this one with your mom without having to blush), and the family scenes are hilarious. Things take a more serious turn with a taste of the online vitriol directed against women in the gaming industry, but that plot thread is both true to life and satisfyingly resolved. To avoid spoilers, I'll just say that I will never stop being amused by the concept of the central video game.
Was this review helpful?
I was very excited to receive this book as an e-arc, primarily because it has a blurb from Helen Hoang, who writes delightfully steamy romances. The novel's characterization of Melody Joo was superb. Her inner monologue is entirely believable, her fraught-but-fond relationship with her parents is relatable, and her position in a male-dominated field feels authentic. However, for a romance novel, there was surprisingly little romance. The book as advertised suggested an "enemies-to-lovers" storyline that never materialized. Instead, Melody has a few preconceived notions about her new colleague (a "pretty boy" who got the job out of nepotism in the industry), but they're quickly dismantled. In fact, Melody's other colleague, a bumbling frat boy, seemed more of the "enemy" than the person deemed as such by the novel, and experienced more of the typical "romance novel" tropes with the main character than the romantic lead. The novel, though lacking in true romantic chemistry, excels as a modern workplace drama. Melody, as a woman in a toxic, male-dominated field, becomes the target of a Gamergate-style online attack, which quickly escalates when she is doxxed online. The story of Melody career triumph is the most compelling part of the novel.
Was this review helpful?
*Thank you to NetGalley and HarperCollins for providing this e-ARC for an honest review. Pub date: August 18, 2020

Let me start off by saying I was stoked to read this book...a look into women in the gaming world and a bit of romance too? Great!

Unfortunately that excitement didn’t last. I struggle with unlikeable main characters and my goodness is this woman unlikeable. So much page-space is filled with her endless nit-picky complaints. I understand a character who isn’t always happy and doesn’t like certain things but this is taken to an alienating level. She’s constantly mean to people who try to help her, makes rude comments about her supposed friends, and is annoyed by her parents more than is believable. There are so many unnecessary snide side comments that I almost didn’t make it through this one. 

This book is labeled as a romance but I’m not sure why. Aside from a few kisses throughout, this is really a drama about mistreatment in the workplace. 

I was really hoping for a strong female character who would come in and change things AND get the guy in the end. Instead I got someone who is faced with endless terrible situations but doesn’t really do much to help herself (what 27-28yo responds to unsolicited dick picks in 2020?!!) while some things may change in the end, the journey is so unpleasant that it’s not even satisfying when those changes happen.
Was this review helpful?
Suzanne Park's Loathe at First Sight is an interesting journey into the world of video game production. It's obvious that Park did a ton of research into how that the mechanics of that industry work, and Melody Joo was a really fun, self-aware, and pithy protagonist.

I'd say the biggest problem with this one has nothing to do with the book itself but the marketing. Between the title and the official description, it's pretty clear that the idea was for this to be sold as an enemies-to-lovers romance taking place against the backdrop of the misogynistic and racist world of video game development. The professional feminist politics and culture writer in me SCREAMED because it sounded SO PERFECT.

However, I'd say the romance was definitely relegated to a secondary storyline (and tied in terms of airtime with a whole separate subplot featuring Melody's two friends Jane and Candice), and it wasn't even an enemies-to-lovers story. (I don't consider one brief argument at the beginning enough to be worthy of the term "loathe," especially because it wasn't really followed up with much else.) That's probably where a few readers will be disappointed.

Aside from that, after a while it seemed that a lot of storylines were just blowing through all of major social issues within online gaming without necessarily a ton of reflection. Just wish there was a tad more nuance there. Some folks might also find the blatant misogyny, racism, and brief homophobia triggering.

I wanted to love this one because the premise was so cool, and I'm sad that I didn't!
Was this review helpful?
I absolutely adored this book! Melody is the exact female character I love to read about; she is placed in a very difficult position as a woman in a mostly male-dominated field: video game development. She gets met with setbacks but she stays adamant that she knows her stuff and I admire that so much! I love the romance and the dialogue was nicely written. I would highly recommend and will definitely be reading more from Suzanne Park in the future.
Was this review helpful?
I really enjoyed this book. There were not too many surprises or big plot twists, but I enjoyed it for what it was, which was a very enjoyable romance. I did really like that it had a women of color as the lead character, and that it took place in an environment I knew nothing about. I know very little about video games and game development and I thought it was a cool place to set the story.
Was this review helpful?