Meet Cute Diary by Emery Lee
Release Date: May 4th, 2021
Why I love this book: Phew. I finished this book and have been sitting on my thoughts for a few days. This was one of my most anticipated books and I blew through it in 2 sittings (and I was very salty about having to take a break to be a proper adult). There has been a lot of discourse online about YA books lately, and while I would love for books to be allowed to just exist and find their perfect match readers, that just isn't how the world works. Sometimes books exist and are amazing and are also deeply necessary. For me Meet Cute Diary fits in both catagories.
So why is Meet Cute Diary important? It's important because Lee allows the characters to exist in all their messy, chaotic glory. So many books are doing this lately and it makes me enormously happy. E's also allowed for them to do something that we don't often see, and that's to change their minds. There is no one way to go through life, and for sure no one way to define your own path (be it gender, or sexuality or anything else) and Lee shows all of that. Even the act of allowing charecters to change pronouns at will is huge and highlights a thing I say (yell?) at people too often... that it's that simple. As Noah says "They're your pronouns" and we can change them as often as need be until you find the right fit. The journey these characters are on is centered, but this isn't an issues book. This is a book about Noah, and Drew, and Devin and allowing them all to work through the things in their lives that are hard and revel in the things that are amazing. Meet Cute Diary is a whole picture and as a librarian it's what I want my students to have. It's what I wish I had as a kid who was deep into it and unsure who I was and who I wanted to be. I thought I had to define myself and because nothing quite fit I simply let it fade into the background. As an adult, I am now seeing my lived experiences reflected back at me through books like Meet Cute Diary and I while I'm happy for me, I am even more excited for the representation my students have. It makes me proud to be a librarian because I get to hand them these books.
So beyond important, why is Meet Cute Diary just plain good? This book is a genuine delight. Noah is somehow both a hot mess and totally pulled together. Noah is able to balance daily life with an online life and be super organized, but also a full disaster, and I don't know how Lee did that, but I love it. Noah has a blog where they share Trans Meet Cutes, which both entertain followers and bring others hope. Except they are made up... kind of. These posts are really the "what if's" of Noah's life. As a lifelond day dreamer, these scenarios were gold and if the Meet Cute Diary existed in real life I'd be obsessed. Even if I knew they were fantasy more then reality, I would still be all in. Even if Noah's "12 Steps to the Perfect Relationship" are a wild ride that we all know will not work in real life... who doesn't want to believe that the stories you make up in your mind could actually come true? Drew and Devin are both great characters for Noah to play off. Neither is perfect, but neither is bad either. Even when we start to see the cracks, they are fully believable and you find yourself not just rooting for Noah to find a Happy Ever After, you also hope that everyone involved figures thier lives out and finds their happy too. On top of Devin and Drew, we also have Becca and Brian, Noah's best friend and brother respectively. They both have the ability to call Noah out on their shit, but also be insanely supportive. Both want what's best for Noah, and even when the road is bumpy, they are there. These characters are loveable and fun to hang with, I wasn't really ready for it to end (and was stoked to snag an extra chapter and art through the pre-order campain).
This is a book to buy, recommend, and request. Get it on the shelves and into hands. You'll be happy you did.
Indivisible by Daniel Aleman
Why I love this book: So I'm not sure where to start. This is a phenomenal book. I was so excited to get it when it came out last week and it didn't disappoint. Hopefully I can put into words sufficiently why this book is a must buy.... Sometimes a book is an important one. It covers the serious topics, it can be considered an issues book, you are meant to really learn something about yourself or the world when you read it. Sometimes a book is just meant to be enjoyed. The story and the characters weasel their way into your heart and you find yourself oversly invested in the lives of the characters on the page. And sometimes a book is both. Indivisible is both. Aleman tells us a story about a family, a family that could live in your building, or play on your kids soccer team, or sit next to you on the bus each day- these are people we know, and people we already care about, because our community would be less without them in it. And around this family, Aleman shows us the things that society often likes to avoid, those things that we'd like to believe happen to other people, not us, and not in our community. This is a book about people first, and through the people we learn about the issues.
At its heart is Mateo, a kid who wants what many high schoolers want. A pretty chill life, great friends, maybe some romance and a chance to do great things. He's so close to having all that when the rug gets pulled out from underneath him and his parents face deportation. Suddenly he has to deal with all the normal teenage things AND support his younger sister Sophie, keep the family business going, provide hope for his parents, and figure out what steps should be taken next. This happens to kids all the time. As a teacher I've seen it happen first hand too many times. Suddenly social time and school work takes a back seat to real life issues, and no matter how hard you try to keep up appearances, it eats away at you. This is what Aleman really nails- he captures all the small details of what carrying this load looks like. He doesn't sugar coat it, or gloss over, instead he lets Mateo and Sophie feel all the emotions and turmoil that comes with a deportation hearing. He lets them lash out and make bad decisions. He lets them work through their sadness and anger in ways that we don't often get to witness in the real world. Aleman lets Mateo and Sophie live their lives while facing massive odds, and through them the reader gets a glimpse of what it might be like.
It's all that AND the characters are amazing. No one is one note, including the adults in the story. Everyone has somewhere to go with their storyline and they weave in and out of eachother perfectly. No one is perfect, but everyone is authentic, which only add to the overall appeal of the book. As a librarian, I would 100% recommend that this book be added to any collection. In fact I added it to our eBook collection immediately and am already nudging kids in it's direction. It's a great book that I thing a lot of people will connect with, and those are the books I want everyone to get their hands on.
Kate in Waiting by Becky Albertalli
Release Date: April 20, 2021
Why I love this book: The actual answer is really just that Kate in this book is a very close approximation of me in high school, only with more talent and more game. Kate is living the life I wish I had in High School, super awesome best friends, absolutely adorable love interest, cool older brother. It's basically what I had, but even better. Her life isn't perfect, but she's solid. She's going through totally normal high school stuff- and my god, did I relate. Especially the theater stuff- I was a bonafied theater nerd, who also hung with the althletes for soccer season. I played soccer year round and danced and did school and community theater. My worlds often collided the same way Kate finds her's meshing together in the book. In fact my senior year a bunch of athletes joined the school show (to look good on the old resume)... the show? Once Upon a Mattress. Suddenly my overly dramatic theater ass was confronted with my too cool sports team- I won't lie, there was uneasy feelings on all sides. It shouldn't have worked, but it did- maybe that's the magic of Once Upon a Mattress.
Anyways... I digress. The picture perfect descriptions of show life are only one reason I loved this book. Albertalli also nails the relationships, especially the communal crushes. You know, when you and your friends are all obsessed with one person and you get to do that crazy, giddy thing where you become PhD level researchers into every tiny moment that person has. Every look has to be dissected. I'm old, and we did this by passing notes in class, which added an entire layer of adrenaline- you had to use code words in case you were caught. The way the relationships between the characters were written here somehow manages to hit all of those highs and lows- of the romantic crushes and of the friendships. Teenagers feel everything so acutely, and theater teenagers tend to emote like no other group of humans, and this book had me reminiscing about my high schools days. Everything about these characters was 100% realistic.
Kate in Waiting was a total nostalgia read for me, but holds up as a contemporary book as well. Theater nerd rom-coms are eternal.
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