Book Review: Meet Cute

Meet Cute
By: Various Authors
Published By: HMH Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: January 2, 2018
Page Count: 320
Source: ARC Kindly Provided by Publisher via NetGalley
Young Adult - Anthology

Meet Cute - according to the Urban Dictionary this a scenario in which two individuals are brought together in some unlikely, zany, destined-to-fall-in-love-and-be-together-forever sort of way. Apparently, also according to Urban Dictionary, the most unusual circumstances make for the best stories and relationships. This term was fairly new to me when I started reading this anthology, but the concept of finding love in an unexpected place it not anything new. It's something that has been happening in literature and film since the dawn of their existence. Finding love is equal parts terrifying, exhilarating, and passionate. There is nothing more enchanting than that first glimpse at someone who is destined to hold a piece of your heart. Young love, however, doesn't always run a smooth course and can often be bittersweet. We've all had our hearts broken at some point and hopefully we've all had them mended as well. Fourteen YA authors have joined forces to bring a diverse cast of characters to life to allow readers to see the moment when the Meet Cute occurs. Some of the couples have staying power while others seem to linger only in the short expanse of these pages like smoke that is dissipating into the night sky. There is truly something for every reader in this collection no matter your genre preference.  "Whether or not you believe in fate, luck, or love at first sight, every romance has to start somewhere" (Kindle Location 3340).

Story #1: "Siege Etiquette" by Katie Cotugno
Rating = 4

I will read anything Cotugno writes, so I was excited to see her in another anthology so soon after finishing Three Sides of a Heart, another YA anthology focusing on love triangles that had a short piece of Cotugno's. This story doesn't have a love triangle, but it wasn't a lot darker than I was expecting. The story focuses on Wolf and Hailey, two polar opposites in virtually every way, that find themselves stuck together in a bathroom during a party. The police are in the process of breaking the festivities up and teens have tried to hide in order to avoid their parents' wrath and possible consequences. As Wolf and Hailey hope they will avoid trouble, they find themselves in conversation and learn that what they always thought about one another is only partially true.

Every autumn you forget about him and every January he shows up at school again, blinking and dazed, like he's spent the last six months wandering dumbly in a cornfield. You've never seen him at a party before in your life. 
~ Kindle Location 38-42

Story #2: "Print Shop" by Nina LaCour
Rating = 4

Evie is starting a new part time job at a print shop in her California town. Rather than using the new methods to make prints, her job is in a business that prides itself on doing things the old fashioned way. The work is exquisite but time consuming which Evie will soon learn when setting up the new Twitter account for the shop will come with a tenacious disgruntled customer. Evie wishes that she could hand things off to Neve, the full time employee, but a prenatal appointment has the mother to be out of the shop and Evie is left to her own devices to try to set things right. Along the way, Evie may just find that the customer is the girl of her dreams.

When I wasn't sure of myself, those writers were sure of me.
~ Kindle Location 308

Story #3: "Hourglass" by Ibi Zoboi
Rating = 5

Ibi Zoboi's debut, American Street, was one of my favorite reads in 2017, so I was thrilled to see that she was a contributing author in this collection. She delivers another courages heroine - this time in the form of Precious, a girl living in a town where she comes from one of the few black families in residence. As such, Precious doesn't have a lot of friends within her culture, and her best friend, Stacy, is a popular white girl who spends her time buying expensive clothes and posting pictures of herself on social media. Precious doesn't see anything wrong with Stacy's choice of hobbies, but it's hard to have those things in common when you're taller than most of the boys in your grade and your figure is fuller than a matchstick. To make matters worse, Stacy's ex is responsible for a racist meme featuring Precious that sweeps through the halls of their high school life wildfire. Precious must decide how to handle the dwindling days of high school and make a choice about how to move forward into the next phase of her life. Her perspective shifts when she encounters a family with roots in Senegal who seem to understand her better than Stacy ever could. 

This story not only touches on racism, but also bullying that is too common of an occurrence in high schools across our country.

This story was one of my favorites in the collection.

I quickly check my email for any news from Superman, or Hampton, or even Florida A&M. They all waitlisted me. And they are miles and miles away from here - Virginia, Georgia, and Florida. They're historically black colleges that are nothing like my small, white town where my family is one of fourteen black families, and we stand out like four giant oak trees in a forest of shrubs.
~ Kindle Location 583

Story #4: "Click" by Katharine McGee
Rating = 5
Science Fiction

This was my first experience reading Katharine McGee, but I found that I loved the characters in this one and the writing style instantly pulled me in. As such, I'll certainly be checking out other works by this author.

This story was difficult to pin a genre on as it has elements of a contemporary, but is set slightly in the future and deals with some technology elements that gave it a futuristic air. It's not truly science fiction, but I couldn't think of a better option.

There are two main characters who drive the narration in this tale. Alexa is a college student who is still reeling from the unexpected death of her little sister, Claire, who was also her best friend. She has thrown herself into her work in computer science to create a program she feels would honor Claire's memory. As her grades drop as she shirks off academic responsibilities to work on her program, Alexa realizes that she needs to live life a little and it wouldn't hurt to do some research on a new program, Click, that uses a similar algorithm to match people romantically. By pulling data from a variety of sources, Click promises that it can link you with someone who is 99% compatible with you. Alexa has to see if it truly works for herself, so she agrees to meet a Click date.

The other main character, Raden, has also signed up for the Click service and meets Alexa. He's not expecting someone like her, but soon learns that sometimes the heart wants what it wants, logic and "type" be damned. Besides, technology never lies, right? The pair are off on one of the most unorthodox (and memorable) dates in the history of YA literature.

This was one of my favorite stories in the collection.

The first snow. That had always been Claire's favorite day of the year. It's when the world feels full of magic, when anything seems possible, Claire used to say, with an infectious smile. Then she would drag Alexa outside to twirl in the snow, before coming back in to make cocoa with dollops of whipped cream.
~ Kindle Location 751

Story #5: "The Intern" by Sara Shepard
Rating = 4

Clara is an intern at her father's music label against her better judgment. After her mother's death, nothing seems to work right anymore, and her father forces the position on her in an attempt to help her begin the healing process. Everyone at work keeps her at an arm's length because they don't want anything getting back to her father. Clara isn't a spy and she's not even a fan of the music produced by the label, but she can't very well make this announcement to her co-workers. Instead, she jumps at the chance to get out of the office when an opportunity arises to show Phineas Cleary, a popular singer around New York City and escort him to a psychic reading.

No matter how much any one of us wanted to play God, no matter how much we wished it were possible, the world wasn't supposed to be in the hands of just one person.
~ Kindle Location 1000

Story #6: "Somewhere That's Green" by Meredith Russo
Rating = 3.5

Nia, a transgender student, is engaged in a battle with her high school over allowing her to use the restroom of her identified gender. Her town located on the outskirts of Nashville, Tennessee isn't exactly the most open minded of places, but Nia still hopes that somehow she will get treated fairly. A conservative family in town is fighting back against the school board's decision concerning the restrooms by having their daughter, Lexie, a classmate of Nia's, go on record as saying she's uncomfortable with the thought of sharing a restroom or locker room with Nia as she feels its a Pandora's Box. As the media circus swirls around both sides, the girls try to avoid one another, but when they are both cast in the school's upcoming production of Little Shop of Horrors, they will have to learn to get along. A cast party on a rural farm forces the girls to confront their feelings and learn to see one another in a different light.

For me, this story is a timely piece, but I had trouble connecting with Nia and Lexie. I felt for each girl as they struggled to come to terms with things, but I didn't particularly like them as people. I did love Nia's Dad. Every child needs a parent like that in their corner.

She was almost certain she had some kind of anxiety disorder, which would probably explain the constant jitters, the jumpiness, and the nauseous panic attacks, but her parents didn't believe in psychiatry or secular therapy, so she couldn't do much about it except try to breathe.
~ Kinde Location 1217

Story #7: "The Way We Love Here" by Dhonielle Clayton
Rating = 5

Viola (aka Vio) has grown up on the Isle of Meridien, where the Gods have predetermined the identity of each youth's beloved. Children of the island are born with tattooed rings around their finger that fade over time as they get closer to the moment when they will meet their soulmate. Vio isn't sure she believes in all of the old tales and she longs to see what's beyond the horizon of her island, but her mother warns her that nothing exists outside of the boundaries of the island except a death delivered by the sea. Vio refuses to believe that nothing else exists in the world. One evening while she is on the beach hoping to find some divine intervention, a boy washes up half drowned on the shore. Vio pumps the sea water from his lungs hoping to meet someone from another land, but it turns out to be a young man, Sebastien, from the other side of the Isle of Meridien. Sebastien says he was trying to see his beloved under the waves as an old legend instructed, but things had gone badly wrong for him. The pair decide to try another legend, ensnaring, to see if they might get a glimpse into their futures. What they find are several possible paths, but which one will ultimately guide Vio's heart?

This one was yet another favorite from this collection. I was fascinated by the lore of the Isle of Meridien. I would love to see this expanded into a larger work.

Momma said people are like streams, and when you meet your beloved, you become a single river flowing in one direction; currents, waves, ripples, indistinguishable from one another.
~ Kindle Location 1474

Story #8: "Oomph" by Emery Lord
Rating = 5

Cass comes from an overprotective home, but she has spent her Spring Break in the wilds of New York City all on her own learning to navigate the fast paced world that will become hers in the fall when she joins the freshman class at NYU. As a talented actress, Cass knows that there is no better place to attend college than the big apple, but she also worries that she isn't good enough to compete with the vast amount of talent that is sure to be present at NYU. As she lingers at JFK airport waiting to get home to Indianapolis after a weather delay, she fields frantic texts and calls from her Dad about the weather and status of her flights. Everything in her world shifts though the moment she lays eyes on Johanna. The pair spend their time waiting for flights in deep conversation which has Cass rethinking all of her doubts about college life and the big city.

This was another personal favorite.

"I think... I think all we can really do is chase the oomph."
I lean forward, thinking I've misheard. "The oomph?"
Man, she's pretty. Pale lashes fluttering as she thinks. "Yeah, that thing you feel when you're right where you're supposed to be. That... steeled feeling."
~ Kindle Location 1825

Story #9: "The Dictionary of You and Me" by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Rating = 5

Any story set in a library is a win for me, but this story in particular has a special place in my mind. It is impossible to read this one without getting warm fuzzies. The main character, Moss, works at a library in her small town of Waverly Hollow. I kept envisioning a Rory Gilmore sort of girl in a Stars Hollow sort of town while reading. Moss is charged with the responsibility of trying to get overdue materials returned to the library. For months, she has been trying to track down a dictionary which has not been returned. Every evening she finds herself on duty at the library, she calls the elusive owner of the library card in question to request the return of the dictionary and every night she finds herself lost in conversation with a guy who makes her heart zing. Could the voice on the other end of the phone be her soulmate?

I loved this one hard. The addition of the Christmas time frame makes it one I want to reread next December.

Things like this only happened in Hallmark movies, the kind that made Libby cry like she was an angry, unfed baby. They didn't happen in real life, but this was happening. I wasn't dreaming.
~ Kindle Location 2036

Story #10: "The Unlikely Likelihood of Falling in Love" by Jocelyn Davies
Rating = 4

Sam is one of those girls who adores statistics. While I couldn't relate to her on that level as I hated math as a student, she thrives on data and numbers. The logic and rules behind math help keep her grounded in a chaotic world. Her family of creative types doesn't understand her love of stats, but they are more intrigued when she discusses a project for her AP Statistics class that she has designed to track the probability that she will run into a cute guy on the subway. Her train is heading into Manhattan while his is going to Brooklyn. In a city as large as NYC, it's impossible that their paths will cross again, but maybe if Sam does her math right, the impossible will have a probable chance of reoccurring. Is it truly statistics or fate that will determine if Sam finally gets to make the acquaintance of the cute guy on the opposite train?

And then, something happened that changed my life. Something that never would have happened if the constellation of minuscule events in my life hadn't aligned perfectly to deliver me to this exact moment.
~ Kindle Location 2089

Story #11: "259 Million Miles" by Kass Morgan
Rating = 3.5
Science Fiction

A program is being launched to send gifted teens to Mars to begin a new colony. Philip is hoping for a spot on the next launch as staying on Earth and living with the embarrassment of his internet infamy is more than a teen boy can bear. He's in the final phases of the selection process and has to be in a mission simulation for twenty four hours with another potential selection who turns out to be none other than Blythe, a well known teen inventor who seeks to help Earth clean up its environmental mistakes. The twenty four hours will teach them both about their strengths and weaknesses.

While I felt sorry for Philip due to the bullying, I wasn't a big fan of his personality. I also just didn't sink into this story as easily as some of the others despite the intriguing premise.

I meet with a different psychologist this time. James. He's a cheerful youngish guy with dreadlocks, wearing a tie and the kind of immaculately pressed shirt I'm pretty sure you only get from having a team of house elves dress you every morning.
~ Kindle Location 2394

Story #12: "Something Real" by Julie Murphy
Rating = 4

Reality TV rears its overproduced head in this fun tale about June and Martha, two girls chosen to compete on a show called A Date Come True to land a date with famous musician, Dylan. June runs Dylan's official fan club and while she's confident in herself in most ways, she realizes that a superstar probably won't appreciate her curves. Martha is competing to find closure after her sister's death. Both girls have a vision for how the experience will unfold, but as they see the fakeness of the show and experience what Dylan is truly like, they decide that maybe winning a date with a celebrity isn't as great as it sounds after all. This story had me cracking up. I'm not sure I'll ever look at chicken nuggets the same way again.

I guess you can call me a glutton for punishment, or you can just refer to me by my official title: June Smith, President and Founder of the Official Dylan Fan Club International. Yeah, I've got it bad.
~ Kindle Location 2644

Story #13: "Say Everything"
Rating = 4

Emma is a waitress at a local diner where she is constantly forced to serve the lacrosse team from a nearby posh private school. Emma can't help starring at the perfect happy faces shining with money, success, and future possibilities. She used to have the same look about her when her family was rich and lived by the sea, but things haven't been that good in a long time. Making ends meet is now the family motto and Emma makes due with public school and her tips, but she can't help thinking about how easy life used to be. One of the guys catches her eye each time he comes in and orders nothing but iced tea while his friends make a nuisance of themselves, order tons of food, leave a huge mess, and rarely tip well. The guy, Sean, ends up asking Emma on a date and she finds that he knows more about who she used to be than she could have ever imagined. Emma's past and present collide in a heartbreakingly sweet turn of events.

"It's the book of lost opportunities," Sean says.
You nod. "I thought it would help me remember to do stuff differently - if I got the chance."
~ Kindle Location 3067

Story #14: "The Department of Dead Love" by Nicola Yoon
Rating = 3.5

In Thomas Marks' world, there is an entity that exists called the Department of Dead Love. There are various divisions within this department, but as a teen, Thomas frequents the building that focuses on young love as it's often the most volatile and brutal to the heart. Thomas was dating his best friend since childhood, Samantha, but after a few months in a relationship that was more than plutonic, Samantha called things off with little explanation. She wanted to remain friends, but Thomas' battered heart couldn't handle that, so he headed to the Department to find answers. His quest landed him in the division that handles relationship autopsies to address the cause of the break and depending on the circumstances can lead to a "do over". Thomas is desperately clutching to the last shred of hope that he will be granted a "do over" with Samantha. He doesn't bargain on the young intern in charge of his relationship autopsy, but there is something compelling about her that just might make him leave Samantha in the past.

While I loved the creativity and world building in this piece, Thomas frustrated me with his whiny behavior. 

Most people agree that Young Love is the prettiest of all the buildings. It's the tentative green of a new leaf and shaped like a single blade of grass.
~ Kindle Location 3100

One Last Gripe: Personally, I wish there had been a few more fantasy stories or a historical fiction piece in the collection.

Favorite Thing About This Book: The diversity of the characters and romances

First Sentence: You're getting another beer in the kitchen and watching two badly dressed sophomores try not to be too obvious about the fact that they're staring at you, when the cops show up outside Madison Campbell's house.

Favorite Character: Moss from "The Dictionary of You and Me" by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Least Favorite Character: Thomas from "The Department of Dead Love" by Nicola Yoon

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.