15
Jun
18

Thank you, Julie Murphy, for continuously not sucking. CBR10 Review 24.

Unknown-2I’m sorry to say that Meet Cute was my biggest reading disappointment of 2018 so far.

It had everything I thought I wanted: how-we-met short stories from some of the best YA authors out there — including Julie freaking Murphy — and a recommendation from Rainbow Rowell. I assumed it would be a delight.

And some of it was.

I had never heard of Ibi Zoboi, but her story “Hourglass” was my favorite of the bunch. She told a story about Cherish, a tall African-American girl in a small town filled with white people. Her best friend is kind of a jerk, she’s about to graduate high school, and she can’t decide if she wants to go to the prom or not. And even if she did go to the prom, she doesn’t have anything to wear, since her podunk town doesn’t have anything fashionable for big girls with style. All Cherish wants is to get out of her tiny town and go to college in Florida, but she isn’t quite sure how her family will manage the cost. This was the only story in the book where I needed to know what happened to the characters after the last page —ESPECIALLY because the “meet cute”didn’t happen until the very, very end.

I also liked Julie Murphy’s story, “Something Real,” and was only slightly disappointed in it, because I wanted to love it and I just liked it. June and Martha are contestants on a reality show, trying to win a date with a Bieber-esque douche of a pop singer. One girl is heavy and quirky but good at all of the skills needed to win the date. The other girl is beautiful and sad and a complete disaster on the show. Throw in some food poisoning and a cute ending, and voila, a perfectly nice short story. I’m not sure I would have liked a full novel about these two girls, but a story was just fine.

There was one story I hated, “Say Everything,” by Huntley Fitzpatrick. It’s about a girl working as a waitress in a diner and a rich boy that asks her on a date. Fine so far. But when we find out why he targeted her and where he brings her for their date, I wanted to reach through the book and strangle him. This was not a meet cute at all. It was a meet gross.

The rest were just fine. Whatever. Nicola Yoon’s futuristic story about getting a second chance at love was really original. And Dhonielle Clayton’s take in an island world where your romantic fate is predetermined by special bands that appear on your hands as you get older was cool.

My main issue was this:
I am all for having as much diversity as possible in fiction, especially in YA fiction. I want to read about people from different backgrounds and sexualities and ethnicities and religions and genders trying to find out who they are and who they love.

And this book had a shit ton of diversity. Yay, right?

I wish. I felt like many of the authors were simply filling in blanks in a story that had already been written, like a “diversity mad libs”. If writing about two girls falling for each other is not something you really get, don’t force it. If telling the story about a trans girl fighting to use the girls bathroom in her rural high school is important to you, great, but don’t tell her story just because she’s trans and that’s cool these days. Tell it because it means something to you and you have something to say about it.

To me, too many of these stories felt like the writer gave us a diverse character just because that’s what books are supposed to have these days. Like shoving a square peg into a round hole, it will eventually fit, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good fit.

I appreciate what these stories were trying to do, but the majority of them just didn’t work for me.

But I’ll keep reading anthologies like this, they are a great way to find new authors and catch up with old favorites.


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