February Love Story Spotlight: “Meet Cute” and How I Fell In Love With Love Stories

February 15, 2018

(Originally posted on my old book review blog, HilliterateBlog!)

Happy belated Valentine's Day, everyone! I hope that your day was filled with love of all sorts and hopefully some candy, too — the best things in life, ya know?

For today's love story spotlight, I'm reviewing Meet Cute, a collection of short stories from 14 different YA authors centering on love interests meeting for the first time. I've been so excited to read this one since I first heard it was coming out and it did not disappoint!

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Shoutout to one of my favorite meet-cutes from childhood - nothing like finding your true love while singing with woodland creatures in the forest, ya feel me?

Let me start by saying that I have a thing for YA short story collections; I've read a couple before Meet Cute that have been curated by Stephanie Perkins, My True Love Gave to Me and Summer Days and Summer Nights, and they just make me happy. There's something so special about being able to grab the reader's attention, make them connect with the characters and the action, and create a compelling and satisfying story in a limited amount of space. There are a couple of factors that, in my opinion, make Meet Cute extra special. The first is that most of the stories contain main characters that are people of color of part of the LGBTQ community. As I've said before, this kind of representation is SO important and I love that young readers from these populations are starting to see themselves more and more in popular literature. And these characters' race/sexual orientation/gender identity do not become the focus of their stories; rather, we see them doing and experiencing things that any other teenager would do or experience — and oh, they just happen to be (insert marginalized status here). This shows young readers of all backgrounds that being gay, or being trans, or being black, and so on, does not make you any less "normal" or valuable or deserving of your own adorable love story. While that should be a given, it isn't yet for everyone in our society. Books like Meet Cute are slowly but surely helping to make the embracing of differences the norm, and I think that's so important.

Another thing that makes Meet Cute so distinctive is that it catches its characters at the *verrry beginning* of their relationship — in some, the story ends as the two MCs are meeting for the very first time. Rather than diving deep into the struggles of a relationship, readers see characters at the jittery, exciting point in which they first connect with each other. And it's so...for lack of a better word, CUTE. Rather than diving into all 14 stories and spoiling the whole thing for you, I'll talk about a few of my favorites here:

  • Print Shop by Nina LaCour — This one follows a girl starting her internship at an old-fashioned, locally owned print shop. She quickly learns that the owner's attention to craftsmanship and detail leaves some customers frustrated. While trying to get one customer's order delivered on time, she finds that she doesn't want their conversations to be finished when the poster is. Also, LaCour just won the 2018 Printz Medal for her novel We Are Okay, which has been on my TBR for forever and after this story, I'm extra excited to read more of her writing!
  • Click by Katharine McGee — In this story set in what seems like the not-too-distant future, there is an app called "Click" that scans the entire internet, all your social media likes and follows and online shopping purchases, and uses that information to form a thousand-question survey. From the info gathered online and through your survey, it predicts your romantic potential with other users with "terrifying accuracy" and provides you with "matches," each assigned a compatibility rating to you. Our two main characters meet up as a result of the app and some unexpected adventures ensue, showing them that data can't predict everything about a romantic connection.
  • Something Real by Julie Murphy — Okay, this story has only solidified my recently-acquired Julie-Murphy-fangirl status. Incidentally, her main character is a fangirl herself, heading up the international fan club for the pop star, Dylan. She ends up on a reality show where she is supposed to compete with another girl for a chance to go on a date with Dylan. In a day of filming that entails one mishap after another, she finds that Dylan is not quite as great as she had hoped or expected...but her fellow competitor is a different story.

These three and the other eleven short stories in Meet Cute are sweet, clever, funny, and so worth a read! I highly recommend this collection if you love love like I do. :)

On that note, I also want to highlight a Buzzfeed piece I recently read that resonated with me SO MUCH. Author Cecilia Vinesse wrote "How I Fell In Love With Love Stories," wherein she describes how much love stories, and YA romances in particular, mean to her. I seriously adore the words she put to her perspective. I think the world spends so much time telling us (especially girls and women) that stories about romance — whether rom-coms, romance novels, or that TV couple you ship so hard — is a frivolous and silly media genre to care about. In reality, love and romance make up a key part of our lives and enjoying reading about and watching those subjects does not make us foolish or shallow. Vinesse describes how she was so embarrassed by her Twilight books for the longest time and tried to hide them away, tried to make herself enjoy literature that is more highly valued in society. She eventually came to realize that "stories like these weren’t babyish at all. They were witty and wise and insightful, and they showed me that I could be those things, too, without sacrificing my romantic, wistful self in the process. I didn’t have to choose between being smart or sentimental, clever or whimsical — I could be all those things at once. I’d always been all those things at once." !!! Yes. THIS. We have the capacity to be brilliant and thoughtful while also emotional. I would even argue that devoting some energy to our emotional depth only adds to our intelligence and capacity for understanding the world around us. Whew, okay, getting off my soapbox, but the point is that there is no need to be ashamed of loving love stories. So pull those Twilight books out from under your bed. ;)

I'd love to hear your thoughts on Vinesse's piece in the comments and as always, any book recommendations that you have!

Thanks as always for reading and until next time,

K. Hill

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