Meet Cute Diary by Emery Lee
Published by Quill Tree Books, 2021
Sixteen-year-old Noah Ramirez is trans and triracial, white, Japanese, and Afro-Caribbean. Noah is living in Denver, Colorado for the summer with college age brother Brian, while their parents navigate the family’s cross-country move from Florida to a new home in California. Meet Cute Diary is Noah’s ultra-secret project, an insanely popular Tumblr blog called MeetCuteDiary (MCD). MCD showcases anonymous submissions of trans people connecting with their true loves, a blog designed to bring love to trans kids in need. There’s one problem, all the MCD love stories are fake. What started as Noah’s fantasies, as a trans boy afraid to step out of the closet, has grown into a beacon of hope for trans readers across the globe, but the MCDs are built on fiction, not fact.
Quote from the book – Noah’s voice:
I also know how this works. I’m a gay, triracial trans guy who only passes when the sun aligns with the moon just right and the Earth tilts upside down. Dudes like me don’t just get to stumble into the perfect little meet cute. No, if we want meet cutes, we have to make them ourselves.
Noah thinks of his stories as “reality-inspired” and the book begins with Noah posting from an ice cream shop, as he fabricates a new Meet Cute posting about a dreamy looking guy that he finds attractive who has just walked into the ice cream shop. When an online troll suggests the Meet Cute blogs are made-up, Noah decides that the only way to save the MCD blog is to convince readers that the stories are true, even though they aren’t. Drew, the cute boy that Noah noticed walking into the ice cream shop, comes to the rescue when he suggests that he and Noah fake date and post photos and updates to the blog, to save the Diary. When Noah’s and Drew’s feeling grow and change beyond their staged romance, Noah realizes that dating in real life is very different from fantasizing about love.
Emery Lee’s writing style is witty and fun. Eirs is the perfect voice for an angsty young adult novel about LGBTQ+ teens finding love and learning more about themselves along the way. Eir characters are realistic and engaging yet also flawed. They all have messy, far from perfect moments, when they make good and bad choices in sorting out their lives and relationships. Noah is obsessed with the idea of finding love and a happily ever after. He has a loving and accepting family and friends, though he is often self-absorbed and arrogant. Noah’s brother Brian is extremely proud and supportive of Noah, though picking Maggie for a girlfriend is not his best choice. Brian pulls strings and gets Noah a summer job at the camp where Brian works, and where Noah meets and becomes friends with Devin. Devin is selfless, lovable, and sweet, but oftentimes forgets to rely on others and has difficulty opening up to others. Devin is also a nonbinary teen who changes eir pronouns several times in trying to figure out what fits em best.
Quotes from the book – Exchanges between Noah and Devin
“How are you more confident driving than you are with human interaction?” I ask.
E smirks. “I guess that just tells you how terrifying humans can be.”
“So what do you want to use now?”
Devin looks up at me like they’re worried I’m going to get mad before sighing and saying, “Does xe/xem sound okay?”
And really, I’ve never heard those sounds before in my life, but I nod anyway. It’s not my job to tell Devin what pronouns xe can or can’t use.
3rd exchange: Noah is talking:
I wonder if there’s one little trans kid in the group who’ll find that much more confidence in coming out for having known Devin. Hell, if some trans girl I never knew personally could inspire me to embrace myself in high school, I imagine Devin opening these kids up to pronouns now will make all the difference. Imagine knowing that being trans isn’t just a thing, but a thing you’re actually allowed to do. I wonder if I would’ve found myself sooner.
Meet Cute Diary is filled with teen characters with questionable motives who make both good and bad choices. Characters are often self-centered, and there are missteps, all the stuff that real teen life is filled with. Emery Lee’s novel is realistically messy yet ultimately happy. Meet Cute Diary is a fun rom-com styled novel that transgender tweens and young teens will surely enjoy.
The author Emery Lee (who uses e, em, eir pronouns) writes:
I wanted this book to be a story of trans joy and the joy of exploring your identity and finding a place you belong, and I think that first and foremost starts by finding people who not only accept you for who you are, but can really understand and meet you where you are, so I wanted to give Noah a support system that wasn’t all all cishet people.
I wanted to craft a story where transness just is, where trans people can be confident and happy and worry about things like love and friendship and what to do with their hair instead of focusing on all these struggles about identity. Ultimately, I think that stories about overcoming these struggles can be really important and cathartic, but they shouldn’t be all we have, so I wanted to contribute to trans stories about anything else.
Emery Lee is a kidlit author, artist, and YouTuber hailing from a mixed-racial background. After graduating with a degree in creative writing, e’s gone on to author novels, short stories, and web comics. Find em online at www.emeryleebooks.com.
This book review was submitted by Stand with Trans board member Barb Shumer, who is a retired public librarian.