Emery Lee’s astonishing debut, Meet Cute Diary, shares the story of Noah Ramirez, a multiracial trans boy who moderates a Tumblr blog about trans meet cute stories. Trans readers worldwide see the platform as a beacon of hope, proof that trans people can find their happily ever after. But the thing is…the stories are false, and he needs to find a way to save his blog when an Internet troll calls him out on it.
While his parents search for a new house in California, Noah is staying with his older brother Brian in Colorado for the summer. Noah expects to visit cafes in the area for his blog, but his mother has frozen the credit card provided for him. He needs a job, and it doesn’t help that he’s losing followers thanks to the troll exposing his lies. And then he meets Drew. In an effort to save Meet Cute Diary, Noah and Drew agree to fake-date and post about it on the blog. At first, Noah feels like he’s living the romance that he writes about, but reality starts to seep in. Being in a relationship isn’t as sweep-you-off-your-feet and riding-into-the-sunset as he thinks. Then there’s Devin, who Noah works with at the summer camp. Noah begins to question his notion of dating and love. What does he want out of his friendships and dates, especially when they don’t go the way he imagines them to?
This novel has left me speechless. Since last year, I’ve read nearly all of the recent YA books about trans and nonbinary teens like Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas, Out of Salem by Hal Schrieve, and When the Moon was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore. I come from the 90s/early 2000s generation, a time when LGBTQ+ representation was nearly scarce or inaccessible in mainstream media (I was a child). So to witness the gradual changes over the last two decades is exciting and uplifting. Yes, we still have work to do (i.e., more intersectionality needed), but the progress so far is hopeful.
Like the books mentioned above, I wish I had Meet Cute Diary during my teen years. More than just another contemporary YA or rom-com, the novel navigates what it means to be in relationships as a teen — familial, platonic, and romantic. Noah reminds me of my younger self, naive and bound to mess up. Emery Lee does a fantastic job with Noah’s voice and narrative arc. He’s a well developed character who makes mistakes and has to find his own way out of his messes. As his relationship with Drew grows complicated, Noah learns about setting boundaries and challenges his expectations of romance. Although Noah receives help and advice from his best friend Becca (cis lesbian) and his brother, Noah has to hold himself accountable in the end.
Plus, this novel is definitely written for a trans and gender diverse teen audience. The character backstories and dynamics flow naturally. Nothing in the story feels exploitative or catered to the dominant (cishet, white, abled) gaze. Noah is Black, Japanese, and Puerto Rican. The author doesn’t skirt around microaggressions and white suburban dynamics. Details about Noah’s racial and cultural identities, including food, are seamlessly interwoven into the narrative. Noah fake-dating Drew (white, cis, and gay) shows an interracial and bicultural relationship that’s not whitewashed. Devin, genderqueer and asexual, explores eir gender identity and copes with general anxiety. E is also white presenting (Cuban mother). Really, the intersectionality in this novel is incredible and worthy of praise.
Make time for this stunning novel. It’s more than worth the read.
I’ve received an ARC of this title from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Author: Brahidaliz Martinez
Brahidaliz (pronounced Bra-da-leez) is a 2019 graduate of American University’s MFA in creative writing program. Their cross-genre chapbook, Coquí’s Song, is forthcoming (2023) from Mason Jar Press.
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