Note: This review contains spoilers for Meet Cute Diary. I received an Advanced Reviewer Copy in exchange for an honest review.
From author Emery Lee comes the exciting and inclusive Meet Cute Diary. The fun YA novel is all about main character Noah Ramirez, who runs a blog called the Meet Cute Diary, where he posts supposedly true stories about trans individual’s meet cutes. Meet cutes are the first time that two characters or individuals encounter each other, and first loves typically blossom after those meet cute encounters. Noah’s blog provides stories that give other trans individuals, like him, hope that they will one day also find their true love. The only problem? Noah’s made all the stories up. As an internet troll gets onto his trail, Noah worries about taking hope away from the thousands of trans individuals who rely on his stories and blogs for hope and inspiration, and the plan he develops sends him on a journey of discovering true love.
First off, the biggest win for me in this book is its confidence and its focus on inclusivity. Lee’s book is a breath of fresh air compared to most YA books, which focus on a typical male/female relationship. I’ve never read a book where the pronouns such as they/them, or neopronouns such as xe/xem and e/em were used so freely. For me, I also initially had a bit of a learning curve trying to adjust to processing these pronouns well. But, I’m so glad that even though these pronouns aren’t typically used in literature, Lee didn’t try to shy away from the reality that these pronouns are becoming much more common. I was actually able to learn a lot about the grammar usage of these pronouns and how to use them in different settings, which was super helpful.
For people looking for a great, inclusive, LGBTQ+ piece of literature, this book features relationships between a straight man and trans man, as well as relationships between a trans man and a nonbinary individual, two versions of love that I’ve never come across while reading any sort of YA, and it gives representation to a large group of trans and nonbinary individuals who barely see themselves represented in any sort of literature. Another amazing inclusivity bonus in this book was the inclusion of multiple races and mixed race individuals. For example, main character Noah is a mix of three different races. This book’s biggest win is its ability to casually but purposefully reflect the changing modern landscape, and give voices to those who are commonly under-represented, or completely left out, of literature.
Next, I really want to touch on how this book approaches love (both friendship and relationship wise). It’s an amazing book to give to people who are just starting to enter into relationships or the dating stages in their lives, as this book truly teaches people what to prioritize in their own relationships. At first, Noah enters into a relationship with, supposedly, the man of his dreams, a guy named Drew. From his physical appearance to his spirit for adventure, Drew seems perfect and Noah falls head over heels for him. At first, the couple seems like they are the “happily ever after” duo, but the perfection of their relationship doesn’t last. Even though Drew plans elaborate dates and adventures for him and Noah to go on together, Noah really doesn’t enjoy them all that much. This book teaches a crucial lesson here: that sometimes, even if nothing is going particularly wrong, the wrong match is still the wrong match. Drew’s spirit for discovery and willingness to take massive risks goes against Noah’s longing for calm coffee dates and backyard dinners. But, this relationship does ultimately get manipulative because of the disparity in what the two individuals are looking for. This book is great for teaching us all how to establish the proper boundaries for ourselves. Even if a relationship seems perfect, if someone feels used or manipulated, they have the right to distance themselves from it and leave. This is a theme that I believe is really important for young adults, especially those in the book’s target audience, to understand. The boundaries rule also applies to friendships, particularly the one between Becca and Noah, as they both learn key communication skills to keeping their friendship afloat. The presence of these important life skills and themes make this book light hearted but keep it very applicable to daily life.
Of course, I can’t skip out on the best relationship of them all, the one between Noah and Devin, who is a non binary individual who goes by e/em pronouns. While I don’t want to reveal all the good parts of their relationship, I must say that in contrast to the earlier relationship between Noah and Drew, this relationship is bound to have your heart melting. This combination works so much better as it shows not only the realistic struggles in a relationship but also teaches readers how to reach meaningful solutions with their own (or future) partners. But, you’ll have to read the book to find out just how fulfilling this relationship is.
The only critique that I would have for this book is the lack of character growth that Noah undergoes, up until the very end. The main character, at many different points, came off as self absorbed, sometimes in very manipulative ways. He seemed wholly unaware of those around him, including his best friend and relationship partners. While I understand the reason why Lee created this character to be plenty self absorbed, I just found it unrealistic at points because of how large his ego was. While the ending of the novel did give his character a large boost of awareness for other people, it feels like a change that can’t really happen overnight. I would’ve appreciated a more gradual change as he went through all his different conflicts. But, if other readers are having the same issues dealing with the main character’s attitude, I wholeheartedly promise that the ending growth and development is extremely satisfying, even if there are occasional points where his character is a big turn off.
My review is really just a brief snippet of some of the many key themes in this book and though it’s jam packed with different plot points, I still found it heartwarming. I definitely recommend that you check this book out, starting May 4th!
Overall Review: 8/10