// ❤ Halfway Cute ❤ // Author: Various // Average Rating: 2.57
Synopsis: Whether or not you believe in fate, or luck, or love at first sight, every romance has to start somewhere. MEET CUTE is an anthology of original short stories featuring tales of “how they first met” from some of today’s most popular YA authors.
Readers will experience Nina LaCour’s beautifully written piece about two Bay Area girls meeting via a cranky customer service Tweet, Sara Shepard’s glossy tale about a magazine intern and a young rock star, Nicola Yoon’s imaginative take on break-ups and make-ups, Katie Cotugno’s story of two teens hiding out from the police at a house party, and Huntley Fitzpatrick’s charming love story that begins over iced teas at a diner. There’s futuristic flirting from Kass Morgan and Katharine McGee, a riveting transgender heroine from Meredith Russo, a subway missed connection moment from Jocelyn Davies, and a girl determined to get out of her small town from Ibi Zoboi. Jennifer Armentrout writes a sweet story about finding love from a missing library book, Emery Lord has a heartwarming and funny tale of two girls stuck in an airport, Dhonielle Clayton takes a thoughtful, speculate approach to pre-destined love, and Julie Murphy dreams up a fun twist on reality dating show contestants.
This incredibly talented group of authors brings us a collection of stories that are at turns romantic and witty, epic and everyday, heartbreaking and real.
Funnily enough, I was a bit thrown by the lack of an introduction – so often, I read those before anthologies, and never get to the dang anthologies themselves (till months later, if at all). It was a nice change of pace to just be thrown in. (On the flip side, it was disappointing to have nothing but social media handles for the authors. I do like the little flavor of an author one gets from a rapid-fire bio, or from their explanation for this particular contribution. It’s a nice thing to jump to after reading their story, especially when the bio is self-written and stands out a bit with their personality/quirks.)
Siege Etiquette // Katie Cotugno
Good golly, second person rears its (usually) irksome head in the first story. And I think it could have worked, if the name of the main character wasn’t explicitly stated. That seemed to negate the mystery/self-insertion/relatability aspect that the story started with. The set-up: You’re at a party where the cops have come to shut it down and you end up hiding in a bathroom where your high school queen bee self is confronted by a) a boy who you’re not supposed to like and b) tragic past events that whirl up inside you and ultimately mean nothing.
And I do mean nothing. We have a main character straight out of The Outsiders, a bathroom time-out Cherry Valance, who, despite a deep loss in her recent past (which might have rattled her world view), point-blank acknowledges that getting to know a poor abused farm boy named Wolf, just isn’t feasible. It’s a shame really, because if this is supposed to be a “meet-cute,” the text itself washes away any tiny shred of hope that these two might get a second chance together. Meh. 1/5
Print Shop // Nina LaCour
First off, a disclaimer: I freaking love Nina LaCour. Secondly, this is how you do second person narration! Nicely framing (lol) the main story of Evelyn, a #millenial who takes up a romantic position of shop assistant for an old-fashioned printing store, and who is briefly dismayed to find that the decades older trio want her to bring them into the 21st century with the Twitter and the Instagram and a simple landing page website. She does all of this with methodical initiative and then – egads – a bad review rolls in in ALL CAPS. But PLOT TWIST – when Evie investigates the customer’s profile, she finds reasons to be smitten.
And this is what I love about LaCour’s writing, which is heavily character-driven. They are relatable and believable and, in a very few short pages, I’m rooting for them. And the second person narration? It’s much easier to see in this story that the attempt here is the narrator looking back with some perspective. And that ending is hella hopeful and inviting. Andandand – there will never be enough sweet, warm, ladies loving ladies stories in the world. 4/5
Hourglass // Ibi Zoboi
This one was hard for me to get into – a lot of telling, typos with a minor character’s name, the main character Cherish was rude to everyone, those that deserved it (her “best” friend) and those that didn’t (her little brother and parents). Cherish’s main desire is to get out of her small town, to go to a historically black college so that she can both fit in and become more comfortable with standing out. She has some obstacles in her path, and Stacy, the best friend, is a part of that, messing with her self-esteem and betraying her by staying with a boy who has a nasty sense of humor. And soooo…. Well, this story is more break-cute than meet-cute. The potential love interest at the very end is barely beside the point. 2/5
Click // Katherine Mcgee
This one felt a little too perfect, a little too on the nose, and it definitely cribbed from Black Mirror… but overall, decent. 3/5
The Intern // Sara Shepard
At the start of the story, I was going to rail at the suspension of disbelief it wanted me to pull: that a young person could be in an internship for four days and do sh*t-all. But, of course, she’s the boss’s daughter, so of course no one would make her do anything. Clara is not just suffering through boredom at said internship, though – she recently lost her mom, which unfortunately is dragged around with overwrought metaphors. Her pain and any growth from this loss is negated because, lo and behold, having an indie rock god manboy instalove you (because he was just so lonely traveling the country and she “understands” that) means, well – what dead mom? Also, apparently you can pluck from random high school lessons about Hawaiian goddesses to impress on your potential lady love that she’s a “strong woman” and she’ll be so giddy, she’ll think she’s conjured rain through sheer sudden willpower. And her dead mom will be proud of that.
Yeah… this one was a mess. 1/5
Somewhere That’s Green // Meredith Russo
I’m calling it now – this is the best story in this collection. Holy sh*t. Short stories can be tough to execute because how do you convey character conflict and growth in such a short time? Words are freaking important. This story nails its execution and is the first entry to really wow me with the writing. Nia, a transgender student embroiled in a bathroom case at her school, and Lexie, a closeted gay girl that spoke out against Nia on television because of her parent’s influence, are drawn together after both being cast in the fab musical Little Shop of Horrors. That is a lot to digest in 20 pages, and to make me believe that they could work out? Hell yes. Thank you, Meredith Russo.
“They [female models Lexie feels are safe to look at] felt like the guardians of a life she wanted but could never have, a dream she would bottle and hang from the rafters of her heart with bits of twine as she grew up and found a husband and started a family. Looking at them made her soul sing and groan all at once, and she couldn’t stop.” That is heartbreaking and beautiful. Heart eyes for these two and I would read a whole book about them. 5/5
The Way We Love Here // Dhonielle Clayton
On one hand, I enjoyed the initial premise, soulmate island. On the other hand, I didn’t like the ending, accepting (possible) fates (that weren’t… promising?). Without delving into spoilery specifics, it’s the same technical/personal preferences reasoning behind why I prefer the movie Arrival to its short story basis. (But also, I highly rec Ted Chiang’s short stories, lovely, lyrical, precise, and moving.) Um, yeah so this one gets 2/5
Oomph // Emery Lord
This. Is. Delightful. Girl meets girl stuck at airport. Girls flirt by using Natasha Romanoff/Peggy Carter codenames. Girl almost doesn’t share number because what if other girl isn’t really flirting?! And then!!! Ugh, just read this, my heart ❤ 4/5
The Dictionary of You and Me // Jennifer L. Armentrout
Well, that was disgusting. Absolutely not my cup of tea. Basic premise: Lady protag works at small town library; keeps having to call patron about very overdue dictionary; patron “flirts” by reading her definitions. And it’s gross (when it isn’t boring). Is anyone into a stranger over the phone asking you “You probably don’t want me to tell you what zatch means?” Just, the dialogue is nonsensical, the plot nonexistent, the love interest is excused his creepiness because the protag is sure he’s not “some kind of perv living in his mother’s basement, harassing women online while eating Double Stuf Oreos and getting crumbs all over his keyboard” by virtue of his voice alone, and what the f///, the use of the word zazzy, why. Why. Why would a small town library loan out their only dictionary? W h y 1/5
The Unlikely Likelihood of Falling in Love // Jocelyn Davies
So I think this one tried too hard with the statistics angle, but it gave me a chance to post this gif of Timothée Chalamet
so ? 3/5
259 Million Miles // Kass Morgan
Apparently if you get the chance to move to Mars, you’ll never have to worry about embarrassing yourself ever again. There will be no concerts, no dances, no texting or audio communication of any kind, no responsibilities… why are these teens potentially being sent to Mars again? Very flawed premise and the scifi aspect of it really ended up not mattering. This is another story where the “meet cute” was really not. 2/5
Something Real // Julie Murphy
Elise @ thebookishactress recently shared an anticipated new release (Going Off-Script by Jen Wilde) that deals with LGBT representation in media and a f/f relationship and this is kind of like that? Some parts weren’t that believable/relatable to me (going on a dating show to meet your dead sister’s favorite artist as some kind of catharsis… I… don’t think that would be on my mind, but ok) but it was pretty cute and built towards something great. 4/5
Say Everything // Huntley Fitzpatrick
Another second person narration and I just don’t care. Seems a bit unbelievable and false, with a lot of telling. 2/5
The Department of Dead Love // Nicola Yoon
I feel like Yoon always has a cool/interesting spark of an idea and she lets it fizzle out with poor twists or flaky execution. It just became hokey to me – some kind of magic science allows people at the DODL (or Doddle as I would pronounce it) to touch lovers using glowy pink gloves and read the “Autopsy” of their relationship. And of course, it doesn’t work on our protag, so he has to spend more time with eventual new love interest. It felt like a bunch of buzz words. I don’t think you can just throw around new concepts that don’t mean anything to the reader, even in a short story, and expect them to stay engaged. So… bit of a disappointing end to this collection. 2/5
Aha, so that’s a 2.57 average for the stories about couples meeting cutely here. I’m glad I read it, though, because I’m even more excited to read Meredith Russo’s If I Was Your Girl now !!!!, and Nina LaCour is f/f teen writing bae, and yeah, pretty much all of the f/f stories in here were koala tea.
If you’re looking for a fun, sometimes fluffy, read this summer, why not give this a shot? You might like some of the stories more than I did 😀