Top Ten DNFs of 2021: Surprise addendum

I miscounted.

I swore I’d written about my top ten DNFs of last year.

Turns out I forgot one. (I guess I got too riled up about Payback’s a Witch.)

My tenth 2021 DNF gets its very own post.

Meet Cute Diary, you’re up.

Apologies in advance to those who liked it. I sure didn’t.

Meet Cute Diary by Emery Lee

Meet Cute Diary by Emery Lee

(Spoilers ahead)

When Meet Cute Diary came out, Goodreads users and members of Book Twitter considered the book exempt from criticism.

It’s an own-voices YA novel about a triracial trans boy! It discusses both trans identity and neopronouns! That’s important! We haven’t seen this in YA fiction before!

Therefore, this book must be supported and only supported.

Unfortunately, I absolutely despised it.

The first thing that made this book hard for me to read was my hatred for the protagonist, Noah.

I’m baffled by Noah, who I guess is supposed to read like a typical teen.

This typical teen is internet famous and spent $400 in ONE WEEK on coffee and ride shares.

I…what the fuck???



Noah’s mom seems more annoyed than angry about it. At the end of their confrontation, she UNFREEZES THE CREDIT CARD SO NOAH CAN START USING IT AGAIN.

This kid is spending the summer in a WALKABLE CITY and he spent $400 on COFFEE and RIDE SHARES.


Noah claims that he spent the money on “location scouting” for his blog. He can’t write beautiful love stories without first visiting the location, right?

Oh right, the blog.

Noah runs a blog where trans people submit stories about meet cutes they’ve experienced in real life. (It’s called Meet Cute Diary – get it?)

We learn very early that Noah writes all the stories himself and pretends they’re real.

I…fine. This seems like something a teenager might do.

I’ll focus on the details of the blog later. For now I just want to point out that this teen is writing FAKE MEET CUTES that are BASICALLY THE SAME EVERY TIME. I don’t mean they have the same basic structure – they have nearly identical wording with only minor changes made to each story.

Why in the HELL then does Noah need to VISIT THE LOCATIONS of these fake stories??

You’re writing the same story EVERY TIME! Did you have to spend $400 to accomplish this??

In exchange for returning the credit card, Noah’s mom demands that Noah get a job to offset the costs of his “location scouting.”

Noah lands a job interview that he completely bombs by answering every question using space whale logic.

Sure, he’s a TEEN, I guess.

However, most of the teens I know understand how to talk to/act/mask around adults, especially in an employment context. A lot of them had to learn how to do this.

Noah therefore strikes me as fairly privileged.

It’s not the author’s fault that this book came out during a global pandemic where people were losing their jobs left and right.

IT’S A LITTLE HARD, though, to see Noah as an everyday teen when he reads like a rich kid!

(Sidebar: Noah’s brother goes out of his way to validate Noah and is by far Noah’s most supportive family member. Noah returns the favor by mocking his brother for being such a try-hard. THIS IS NOT ENDEARING and only adds to my impression of Noah as a spoiled rich boy.

ALSO, Noah hates his brother’s girlfriend because she’s “tacky,” meaning she wears hoop earrings and his fake nails. What in the class difference, Noah?

Based on reviews I read, said girlfriend turns out to be transphobic, so Noah was right to hate her for no reason. Cool cool cool.)

I am STILL not over the $400 thing. If, as a teen, I’d spent $400 in ONE WEEK using an EMERGENCY CREDIT CARD for my INTERNET HOBBY, my parents would not have been COOL AND CHILL ABOUT IT.

They CERTAINLY wouldn’t have RETURNED a CREDIT CARD to me! Are you KIDDING?? (I’m laughing at the thought of being given an emergency credit card in the first place. My monthly allowance was $20.)

Now for more blog slander, as it’s a big part of the book’s plot.

It didn’t hit me until I was reading the book how ridiculous the plot is.

Noah’s blog is literally all lies. He makes up all the stories himself.

Sure, trans people find love in the real world, sometimes through meet cutes. That’s real.

Trans people also write fictional love stories, partly to give themselves and others hope. That’s real, too.

Noah isn’t documenting either of those things.

Noah is writing stories and passing them off as real when he could easily take contributions from trans people OR present his fictional stories as fiction.

When a stranger on the internet creates a blog dedicated to debunking Meet Cute Diary, Noah is livid. How DARE this person debunk his blog that is, in fact, fake! His poorly written, identical stories give trans teens hope! He is saving LIVES!

Am I ACTUALLY supposed to side with Noah on this one? Because I don’t! I DO NOT believe his blog is saving people!

Also, if the biggest narrative stake if Noah losing followers, I genuinely do not care.

After the disastrous job interview, Noah connects with a cute boy who recognizes him from the blog. (I can’t…)

Noah tells this boy (whose name I have forgotten) that some TROLL on the internet is trying to debunk his fake blog that is full of lies! How DARE they! (I think he admits that the blog is fake and the boy is still interested. OKAY.)

Together, Noah and Random Boy cook up an idea: if they pretend to date and post their [fake] relationship on the blog, that will prove that the blog is real!

…okay, but the blog isn’t real.

Better question: HOW does this prove ANYTHING?

How does the curator of the blog having a boyfriend prove that ALL of the published stories are real?

What is this, Hot Dog Girl?

Where is the LOGIC?

This is the part where I tapped out. I couldn’t take it anymore.

Meet Cute Diary wasn’t the worst book I read in 2021 (Payback’s a Witch probably made me angrier), but it was one of the most disappointing.

Here’s my biggest problem with this book:

A lot of the reviews I read gave generous ratings because even though people disliked the book, its content was “too important” for them to downgrade it.

This is where craft comes in for me.

Yes, I want more trans love stories, ESPECIALLY for teens.

I think teens deserve to see themselves in literature and have hope about the future.

I also think it’s important to publish diverse narratives so teens aren’t stuck with just one perspective on the trans experience.

That said, I don’t think this book deserves praise simply for existing.

It feels half-baked as a concept and the protagonist has zero redeeming qualities.

Stories can’t run on representation alone. That’s not how fiction works.

Trans teens deserve better books.

Welp. Turns out I had a lot to say about Meet Cute Diary.

I’m happy for people who saw themselves in this book. For a lot of readers, this was their first time encountering trans and nonbinary characters. That’s really exciting.

For my part, this book was one of many that made me decide to stop reading as much YA.

I got almost nothing out of it and I find myself needing specific types of rep less than I did in years past.

I’m leaving YA to the teens and dipping my toe into adult romance, SFF, and nonfiction.

So far, this is working for me.

Here’s to more positive reviews in future posts, God willing.

2 thoughts on “Top Ten DNFs of 2021: Surprise addendum”

  1. I feel this way about Five Little Indians. I DID finish it, because it didn’t have any atrocious class shenanigans or anything offensively ignorant, but it read more like a first draft than a finished book. Which was weird because IT HAS WON MULTIPLE AWARDS.

    Yes, it’s an important topic, we need more stories about the survivors of North American genocide and the very real, VERY current trauma carried by most Indigenous folks across Turtle Island. Also, plot, structure, and POV matter! There is a plot hole SO BIG in the book I had to go back and check it three times because I couldn’t believe it had been missed. I also checked reviews of it to see how many others had noticed and no, weirdly. NO ONE COMMENTED ON IT. Reviews were either glowing praise about how it is such an Important Book or, for the lower stars, about how simplistic the prose was and how ppl simply DNF it. I suspect the DNFers never got to the giant plot hole point. I feel like the glowing praise folks felt like, because of the subject matter, there was no way they could comment on the craft of the writing.

    It’s a shame, because I think, with a round or two of revision, it would have been a really beautifully written book.


    *steps down from soap box*

    Liked by 2 people

    1. This is my very basic theory based on a month of my practicum course: a lot of stories praised for the strength of their representation NEED DEV EDITS. I think it’s complicated because some publishing houses don’t have the budget for a dev edit or the author refuses dev edits, so I don’t know all of how it works. I’ve read more than a few books praised for their rep that fall apart on a basic story level! ALSO I subscribed to an indie author’s newsletter and I found out that she HADN’T COPY- OR LINE-EDITED HER BOOK BEFORE PUBLISHING IT. So she is now rereleasing her first edition “warts and all” as a special edition. And I’m so mad?? YOUR JOB IS TO GET THIS READER READY. PEOPLE ON AO3 DO THIS FOR FREE.


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