Let me begin by saying – if you like cute love stories and popular romance tropes, this book is for you. Meet-cutes, fake dating, friends to lovers… if you have an itch for romance, Meet Cute Diary will definitely scratch it. The book by Emery Lee follows Noah Ramirez, a 16-year-old trans teenager who runs a blog named ‘Meet Cute Diary’. It features meet-cute love stories and is something of a haven for trans people on the Internet. It gives the community (and Noah himself) hope that one day, they too will bump into someone special at an ice cream shop and have the perfect love story.
The problem? All the stories are fake.
An Internet troll figures this out and decides to come for the blog, picking apart each post and pointing out inconsistencies that prove the lie. Noah becomes determined to do anything to save his blog.
The majority of the book is set in Denver, Colorado, where Noah is visiting his older brother, Brian, at college. He has to spend his summer dealing with Brian’s annoying girlfriend, the looming threat to the Diary, and missing his best friend Becca whom he has left behind in Florida. Luckily, he meets Drew, who is willing to fake date Noah to lend legitimacy to his stories. (Summer romance? Check! Fake dating? Check! Friends to lovers? You’ll have to read to find out!)
Noah has a very firm idea of romance, down to the steps every perfect relationship must have – from the meet-cute to the happily-ever-after. I loved the fact that the book chapters actually follow his plan – each chapter is named after a relationship milestone. But as the summer goes on, Noah slowly realizes that life doesn’t really work like a romcom, and things don’t always go according to plan.
Meet Cute Diary is a cleverly written book. It combines classic elements of romance with unexpected twists and turns. Every time I thought I could predict how a particular chapter would end, I was wrong. Emery Lee subverts the classic tropes while still maintaining the essence and cute romance of it all.
The characters are incredibly well fleshed out. Noah is romantic, idealistic, and a little bit selfish. He is interesting and deeply relatable to anyone who has dreamt of finding true love. Through the stories on his blog, he is a source of comfort to many people – a beacon of hope that says “you deserve to be loved as you are”. But he himself is yet to internalize this message.
A main thread throughout the book is the need for happy trans love stories. Noah wants his blog to be a haven for trans people, a place where a community can see themselves in the narratives and tropes normally reserved for heteronormative couples. The book Meet Cute Diary itself accomplishes what the eponymous blog sets out to do.
It is also interesting to see the main characters’ lives being distorted in the eyes of the Internet. Each chapter begins with messages or posts from people online reacting to Noah’s blog. The juxtaposition of these comments with his life offline highlights just how precarious online fame can be.
It outlines a cute, coming-of-age story, with a trans boy at its center. The book does not erase the very real struggles of the trans experience, but these only serve as a backstory to the main plot and do not overshadow it. I’ve read classic lighthearted YA romances for years, and although I love them, I can’t really make a case for them in terms of diversity. It was all mostly white, heteronormative stories.
Meet Cute Diary finally gave me common tropes I recognize, but with LGBTQ+ protagonists. The representation is truly heartening. I think it is important for us to have stories where we can see LGBTQ+ protagonists live normal, enriching, funny, and of course, cute lives. As Noah eventually discovers in this story, everybody deserves to be loved.
In the end, Meet Cute Diary ended up being a story that I had both read a million times before, and one I could never have predicted. This itself was enough to make me a fan. Throw in the inclusivity of a POC trans protagonist, meaningful character development, and laugh-out-loud moments (this actually happened, I startled the people in my house), and you’ve got yourself a great YA read!
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