Sixteen year old Noah runs the Tumblr blog Meet Cute Diary as a beacon of hope for Trans teens that they have the possibility of getting their own meet cutes. The blog is framed as submission based, but really it’s Noah who’s been making up all of the meet cutes, spending lots and lots of money to gather inspiration for his endeavors. But there’s trouble on the horizon, people are starting to question the veracity of the Diary, sending Noah scrambling. Now in Denver with his brother while his parents prepare for a move from Florida to California, Noah finds that his money source–aka his parents– have cut him off after spending $400 in less than a week on rideshares and lattes. But fate has a funny way of directing Noah where he needs to go, and he soon finds himself in his own meet cute as well as discovering that what he thought he needs isn’t actually what he truly needs.
First a few quick trigger warnings: discussion of past suicide attempts, on the page panic attack, discussion of anxiety, transphobia, homophobia, racial microaggressions, sexism, misogyny, gaslighting, manipulation, and more I’m probably forgetting. Make sure that you’re in a good place before reading this book.
Also this review is going to contain spoilers.
As a queer bisexual marginalized person, I really really really was looking forward to this book. It was presented to me as a YA, Trans, queer, neurodivergent, diverse romance featuring a fake-dating-becomes-real-dating relationship and some cute Tumblr shenanigans… and like the followers of the fictional Meet Cute Diary, I got played. This book isn’t what the blurb or the author on eir social media presented this as. It’s possible I’m not the target audience, but I felt betrayed by this book.
While it does feature trans, queer, and diverse characters, it doesn’t have any explicitly stated Neurodiverse characters and the romance is really REALLY thin on the ground – and what romance there is, isn’t actually fake-dating-becomes-real. It’s more friends-to-lovers, which while I like that trope isn’t what I was expecting from this book. So I was left feeling disappointed, cheated. I’d been lied to, and I didn’t like it. Not one bit.
Worse, I absolutely detested the main character, Noah; he is prejudiced, self-absorbed, selfish, cruel, manipulative, spendthrift, feckless, deceitful, and all around terrible. Initially, I thought that the unlikability was a choice and Noah would grow and become a better person.
Spoiler alert: he doesn’t.
He’s still the same selfish, self-absorbed, prejudiced, spendthrift, manipulative, and cruel person that he was at the start of the book. If Noah existed in real life, he’d be pretty much right out of the domestic abuser’s handbook. He isolates the people he cares about and is abusive toward them any time he perceives that they might have interests outside of Noah and Noah’s needs. Everything magically went Noah’s way or Noah’s prejudices were somehow proven right. It’s as if the story fairy waved a magic wand and solved all of Noah’s problems with the flick of a pen. Even late in the book, Noah is still self-centered and selfish – hurling abuse and invectives at his friends and romantic interest. But then he never tries to improve, he just gives a half-hearted self-serving apology but never changes his behavior.
So let’s dive down, shall we?
First, let’s look at the good in Meet Cute Diary:
The trans rep
The genderqueer rep
The queer sexuality rep
The fact that queer people tend to have queer friends
Did I mention the trans rep?
The writing style is very engaging
Good depiction of anxiety
Devin is the best and I want to wrap em in bubble wrap to shield em from the world
Becca is a good friend
Brian is a good brother
Noah and Devin’s parents are super supportive
Oh, and the Trans rep.
Now let’s look at the bad in Meet Cute Diary:
Unlikable Lead - selfish, self-absorbed, cruel, manipulative, deceitful, and unrepentant.
Rampant sexism & misogyny
Forgotten threads all over the place
Dropped thread regarding the Troll story line
Dropped thread regarding the plagiarism story line
Dropped thread regarding Drew and the whole Fake relationship (there is literally no fall out from this. None, and there would be.)
Poor understanding of how Tumblr works and how Tumblr fame works.
Disregard and bashing of people who use Tumblr
Some of the events in this book skew too close to stories shared by other major blogs on tumblr including @thebibliosphere (her engagement story feels like it’s been co-opted for something in MCD as an example)
Romance Novel Bashing within a book that is billed as a Romance novel
Poor character arc
Too many Deus Ex Machinas - Most egregiously when Becca appears out of nowhere and Devin happens to be the trans girl who went to Noah’s school and is Noah’s inspiration. But pretty much every plot is resolved by a deus ex machina.
Poor characterization. Everyone other than Noah is two dimensional at best.
Neurodiversity Baiting by the author on eir social media - there are no explicitly stated Neurodiverse characters.
As a note, there is a character with a mental illness - anxiety - but the author emself has asserted that Mental illness isn’t the same as Neurodivergence. Em even got into a giant argument about it with Courtney Milan on Twitter over it. So using the author’s stance, this mental illness doesn’t count towards ND rep. (Even though it does, because if your brain physically works differently than someone who is neurotypical, it is by definition neurodivergent. But there’s a lot of people who like to gatekeep neurodivergence. I have opinions on this.)
So yeah. I felt disappointed by this book. The plotting, characterization, and pacing needed work, this was far and away one of the most unsympathetic romantic leads I’ve seen in print, and all of the conflicts were pretty much solved with a wave of the hand. This book isn’t what the blurb and author presented it as. I felt lied to.
The ONLY thing saving this from a one star is the stellar Trans rep and the engaging writing style. But because of the issues stated above…
If this is your jam, you can get it here.
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I received an ARC of this book Via NetGalley
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