Title: Meet Cute
Author(s): Jennifer L. Armentrout, Sona Charaipotra, Dhonielle Clayton, Katie Cotugno, Jocelyn Davies, Nina LaCour, Emery Lord, Katharine McGee, Kass Morgan, Meredith Russo, Sara Shepard, Nicola Yoon, Ibi Zoboi, Julie Murphy
Published: January 2nd 2018 by HMH Books for Young Readers
Whether or not you believe in fate, or luck, or love at first sight, every romance has to start somewhere. MEET CUTE is an anthology of original short stories featuring tales of “how they first met” from some of today’s most popular YA authors.
Readers will experience Nina LaCour’s beautifully written piece about two Bay Area girls meeting via a cranky customer service Tweet, Sara Shepard’s glossy tale about a magazine intern and a young rock star, Nicola Yoon’s imaginative take on break-ups and make-ups, Katie Cotugno’s story of two teens hiding out from the police at a house party, and Huntley Fitzpatrick’s charming love story that begins over iced teas at a diner. There’s futuristic flirting from Kass Morgan and Katharine McGee, a riveting transgender heroine from Meredith Russo, a subway missed connection moment from Jocelyn Davies, and a girl determined to get out of her small town from Ibi Zoboi. Jennifer Armentrout writes a sweet story about finding love from a missing library book, Emery Lord has a heartwarming and funny tale of two girls stuck in an airport, Dhonielle Clayton takes a thoughtful, speculate approach to pre-destined love, and Julie Murphy dreams up a fun twist on reality dating show contestants.
This incredibly talented group of authors brings us a collection of stories that are at turns romantic and witty, epic and everyday, heartbreaking and real.
My Rating: 3/5 stars
Hello, all! It’s been a while since I reviewed a book on this blog, so I figured the best way to get back into it is to review a short story anthology, because those are really, really fun to review. Unfortunately though, reviewing this specific anthology is probably going to be more fun than reading it was. There were definitely some stand-out stories in this book – which I’ll gush about later – but most of these stories were just…boring. Predictably and painfully average. I gave a lot of them a lukewarm 3 out 5 stars, so I decided to make that my average rating. Some were hidden gems, some were travesties, but mostly these stories were just average. I’m using the word average a lot to get the point across. It’s not because I have a limited vocabulary and can’t think of any other descriptors. I swear.
Anyway, in case y’all skimmed over the Goodreads summary, (and I don’t blame you because does anyone actually read that instead of going straight to the review?) this book is a collection of short stories written by various YA authors about (surprisingly diverse) characters meeting for the first time and falling for each other. Hence the name Meet Cute. There’s 14 aforementioned meet cutes in all, and I’m going to review each and every one of them (in the order they appear). I’m excited. Let’s do this:
Siege Etiquette by Katie Cotugno
You’re dimly aware that you’re making him up in your mind even as he’s sitting there, like you’re writing yourself into a story. You’re dimly aware that [he] is making you up, too.
AKA the one where a boy and a girl hide themselves in a bathroom together.
First off, let me just say, I’m not a fan of 2nd person POV unless I’m reading a Choose Your Own Adventure Book. So right off the bat I didn’t really click with this story. Secondly, the romance is kind of cute, but the whole story is literally just two people having a conversation in the bathroom. Which can be entertaining and interesting with the right kind of characters and dialogue, but, uh, this story didn’t have either of those. Specificially the main character, Hailey, (AKA…me? Since its 2nd person?) was really flat. We only know two things about her: that she’s popular and that she’s an orphan. Like…you can’t just mash two cliches together and think that’s what a personality is. The writing wasn’t bad though; there were a few quotes I liked. Except for that one time when Hailey grabs the love interest’s ankle and it’s described as “surprisingly solid”. (Like what’d you think it feel like, Hailey? A liquid? A gas???) But Iet’s not dwell on that.
Print Shop by Nina LaCour
He handed me a stack of books that he had apparently been saving for me all that time. I devoured them. When I wasn’t sure of myself, those writers were sure of me.
AKA the one where a girl working at a print shop falls for a customer over Twitter.
This one was a little harder to rate than most. The preamble to the meet cute felt jumbled and forced, but the last couple of pages when the meet cute actually happened was really, dare I say, cute. The only aspects of this story that felt authentic to me was the main character’s interest in Lauren and her love for poetry. The rest of the story felt like it was trying to get a message across but constantly switching sides; it preached against people who are constantly on their phones yet the main character fell for this girl over messaging her on Twitter? Also, I really would have liked for the meet cute to happen earlier on in the story rather than just the last two pages. It felt like all that lead up didn’t really pay off in the end.
Hourglass by Ibi Zoboi
So I’ll be hiding in plain sight at HBCU with all those black kids from all over the country in different shapes in sizes. And I was sure there would be other girls like me – too visible and invisible at the same time.
AKA the one where a girl is desperate to escape from her too-small town
This story was so good. I’m still not a fan of the protagonist meeting their love interest until the last possible moment in a book that’s superficially all about those meetings but I’ll allow this one because it was a great character study centered around an interesting main character. The only thing I didn’t like was how open-ended the ending was; it just felt unfinished. But the characters and issues felt so real – more so than the other stories did, and this was the only one where I felt transported to where it was set and could empathize with the main character. It wasn’t exactly the meet cute I was looking for, but I definitely feel like I just found a new favorite author!
Click by Katharine McGee
He couldn’t take a decent picture of something without falling in love with it, at least a little.
AKA the one where a boy and girl go on what is essentially a futuristic Tinder date
You know those books where you start out liking it, but then with every new page it starts frustrating you more and more until you can’t remember why you liked it in the first place? That’s this story. A thing that kept bothering the farther I got is that this author constantly tells us what’s happening instead of showing it through her characters. We’re being told at every turn exactly what the characters are feeling and that leaves nothing to the imagination. It makes the romance feel forced an unnatural, like we wouldn’t think the main characters had chemistry together if she didn’t keep reminding us about it. (Which is probably true). Additionally, the story itself isn’t paced well. There’s no lulls in the story, it’s just all extremes all the time. Which can be good in a thriller book but, uh, not in what’s supposed to be a fun first date. Anyway, I didn’t click with the characters or the poor cobbling together of what is essentially two different Black Mirror episodes so… 1 star it is. Plus: stop shaming people who like to take selfies! It’s not about you! Let them feel good about themselves!
The Intern by Sara Shepard
“It’s okay,” he said. “It’s really okay. It’s like what Dan said. Someday, you’ll be yourself again. But you know what? That doesn’t have to be today.”
AKA the one where a girl and a famous musician have a day out
This was such a cute and inspirational story! Love is real! I wasn’t sure I would like it the first couple of pages, but it really tied everything together really impressively in the end that, uhhh, may or may not have made me cry. Plus the romance felt really natural – both sweet and a little awkward, and it made me really like the characters. The biggest thing that made this story feel off for me, though, is how Shepard described the setting, like it was set in a parallel universe that was 20% creepier than the one we live in now. It was a weird choice that pulled me out of the story a little bit. Other than that though, this story is definitely worth the read!
Somewhere That’s Green by Meredith Russo
AKA the one where a transgender girl and a closeted girl meet at a drama club party
This one was weird. I liked the trans representation (even though she made a joke that most trans people were serial killers which was…yikes) but the romance was SO so so so rushed and underdeveloped. Like I get it’s a short story so your pressed for time but do you really expect your readers to believe that a closeted transphobe to completely turn her beliefs around and announce that she was gay over an internet video just because of ONE (1) conversation? None of the characters felt real; they were rag dolls being pushed around for the sole purpose of moving the plot forward and sparking a romance.
The Way We Love Here by Dhonielle Clayton
I listen to the waves now, and for Papa, wondering if the gods told him who I’d fall in love with; if they told the dead those sorts of things about the living. I want to know how much time I have left. I don’t like surprises.
AKA the one where a tattoo on people’s hands tells them when they’ll find love
First of all, this is a really cool concept. Clayton really did The Most with the meet cute prompt. A lot of fantasy worlds fall into the really formal and Victorian-esque way of speaking and world building (Maas, I’m looking at you) and this unfortunately is no exception, but the story was really unique! I would have liked to see how it would have unfolded if it was a novella and not just a short story. The characters weren’t that memorable but the writing and plot was – it makes me excited to see what else this author comes up with!
Oomph by Emery Lord
A lifetime of crushes on girls who later announce their straightness. Some of the time, I want to side-eye them like, You sure about that? But hey. Whatever.
AKA the one where two girls meet in line at the airport
This was so good!!! There was so much heart and warmth and humor packed into this story that was missing from a lot of the others. This story is everything you could want in a meet cute. Lord gives just enough information about the main character as necessary, which a lot of the other stories just completely overshot or hardly give at all. And the romance was believable – you really felt that both these girls were interested in each other even though the main character kept doubting it. The ability for the reader to pick up on something that the main character, in this case, is too nervous to see for herself, without it being too annoying obvious is a talent and Emery Lord has mastered it.
The Dictionary of You and Me by Jennifer L. Armentrout
AKA the one where a girl who works at the library tries to convince a stranger over the phone to return his overdue book
This one was cute! I mean, it’s basically just every booknerd’s fantasy come to life. You work at a library and hit it off with a fellow booknerd who just also happens to be stunningly gorgeous. That’s really all it was though – it wasn’t fleshed out to be anything more. The writing was pretty plain and straightforward, and the characters were pretty flat. It kinda read as a fanfic to be honest…like you could tell this was more a wish fulfillment for the author than a story she was dying to tell. Unfortunately because of that, it didn’t feel that unique or memorable.
The Unlikely Likelihood of Falling in Love by Jocelyn Davies
AKA the one where a girl sees a boy on the opposite train for a split second
First off, there’s no little quote before my review not because there weren’t any good quotes in this story, but because I was so enraptured by the story it was like I had blinders on and didn’t want to stop reading for anything, even just to highlight something. I flew through it. This story was just fun. I loved every second of it. I think this and Oomph are tied for 1st place. For different reasons though; I loved Oomph for the characters, and I love this one for the plot. Specifically, for how well the author created this self-contained world that meshed so well with the story. Like, this story made me want to take the subway and that’s really saying a lot coming from someone who is both anxious and claustrophobic. Also made me care about math for a little while, which is something I never thought would happen.
259 Million Miles by Kass Morgan
AKA the one where a boy is locked in a room with the most annoying girl in existence
This one was…bad. Weird and bad. The whole story felt off to me. The main characters were just stereotypes – complete with the “she’s not like most girls” line and the Manic Pixie Dream Girl telling the main guy exactly what he needs to hear and fixing his deepest fears literally the first day they met. (Quick tip! How to tell if your woman character is poorly written: 1) they have no flaws. 2) their personality is replaced by pop culture references.) Plus the whole mission to Mars plot felt like it didn’t belong. It was a cliche in disguise as a cool sci-fi element. Like, that plot could have been replaced by anything. The main characters could have been stuck in an elevator and the story wouldn’t change. If you’re gonna have a sci-fi plot at least DO something with it other than using it as a device to get the main characters together.
Something Real by Julie Murphy
I don’t know what I expected from my competitor. Cattiness? Bitingly rude? But Martha is just good. And I think maybe she deserves this more than I do.
AKA the one where two girls compete for the same guy on a reality TV show
Cute concept with an even cuter ending! The story was fun, but it was hard to enjoy most of the time because of how much the author tried to take on. And because of that, the story had a disjointed and rushed feel to it. The romance was the star of the show (no pun intended) and it was nice to read in the moment, but none of the writing nor the characters were memorable. Honestly, when I wrote down my initial thoughts immediately after finishing it I had already forgotten both the main characters’ names. Now its days later and I only remember one scene. So…there’s that.
Say Everything by Huntley Fitzpatrick
AKA the one where a waitress is asked out my a mysterious boy
This one was cute but really messy. Plot twists don’t exactly work in short stories since there’s only like 10 pages of exposition beforehand. Also, the romance didn’t make sense until the twist happened so there was a constant feeling of disconnect. (how many times am I gonna say the word disconnect in this review?) Plus…I know I call him a mysterious boy but really he’s just a knockoff Gansey III. Complete with an old, brightly colored car.
The Department of Dead Love by Nicola Yoon
AKA the one where a boy tries to get answers after a big breakup
I kind of expected not to like this one once I saw Nicola Yoon wrote it. I can’t really think of a fundamental flaw with this story; all the elements I didn’t like were entirely subjective. I really wished I could click with Nicola Yoon’s writing, but everything of hers that I read all made me feel the same: underwhelmed. Like all of her stories, the concept was really cool but the execution felt hollow. None of the characters were likable for me and the direction the plot went felt inorganic.
Overall, although the anthology unfortunately ended with a fizzle rather than a bang, a lot of these stories were cute and fun to read. I know it came out in the dead of winter earlier this year, but it’s the perfect summer read. It’s not one that will stick with you, necessarily, but it’s one that will definitely keep you entertained and invested the entire time you’re reading it.
What about you guys? Did you read this anthology? Do you agree or disagree with any of my ratings? Let me know! ❤