Tweet Cute: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Tweet Cute by Emma LordPepper has spent her high school career maintaining a perfect GPA while captaining the swim team and adjusting to life in New York after her family’s burger stand Big League Burger became a major national chain. Not to mention secretly running Big League Burger’s Twitter account for the company’s meme-illiterate social media manager.

The only place where Pepper can admit how little she knows about what she wants next is when she’s talking to Wolf on Weazle–the anonymous chat app that is completely against school rules and impossible to ignore.

Unlike Pepper, Jack doesn’t worry about overachieving at all–his identical twin Ethan has that covered. Especially when Jack is always ready behind the scenes to take over the things Ethan can’t quite manage. Being the lower profile brother has its perks as it gives Jack time to teach himself to create and manage Weazle.

Talking to Sparrow anonymously on his app is the one place where no one is disappointed that Jack isn’t Ethan. It’s also a distraction from working at his family’s shop Girl Cheesing and worrying about the pressure he feels to one day take over the family business.

When Big League Burger steals the recipe for Girl Cheesing’s iconic grilled cheese sandwich, Jack is ready to throw down one Tweet at a time. And Pepper, it turns out, can give as good as she gets when it comes to snark.

All’s fair in love and fast food, but when Pepper and Jack’s Twitter battle escalates to viral proportions they will have to figure out if either of them can transcend their family’s expectations–not to mention their epic rivalry–to give their fledgling friendship a chance to become something more in Tweet Cute (2020) by Emma Lord.

Find it on Bookshop.

Tweet Cute is Lord’s debut novel. The story alternates between Pepper and Jack’s first person narrations. If the premise sounds a little like You’ve Got Mail or The Shop Around the Corner, that’s not just you. The book stays close to the plot of those classics with a few modern twists (and a lot more grilled cheese).

Viral Twitter feud aside, Tweet Cute is a gentle contemporary romance about two characters trying to do the best they can even when they are actively getting in their own way partly due to their own preconceived notions and a lack of communication with friends and family.

Surprising plot twists, satisfying character arcs, and the inventive incorporation of rom-com tropes keep this story from ever feeling stale or predictable.

Tweet Cute is an unexpectedly delightful story of mistaken identity, social media feuds, baking, and fast food. All wrapped up in character arcs centered on forgiveness and learning to understand yourself while you’re still figuring out who that is. In other words: ALL OF MY FAVORITE THINGS. Highly recommended.

Possible Pairings: Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett; Suffer Love by Ashley Herring Blake; Happily Ever Afters by Elise Bryant; Harley in the Sky by Akemi Dawn Bowman; Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum; Verona Comics by Jennifer Dugan; Now That I’ve Found You by Kristina Forest; Comics Will Break Your Heart by Faith Erin Hicks; Of Curses and Kisses by Sandhya Menon; Analee in Real Life by Janelle Milanes; Lucky Caller by Emma Mills; Tonight the Streets Are Ours by Leila Sales; Recommended for You by Laura Silverman; Today Tonight Tomorrow by Rachel Lynn Solomon; Six Impossible Things by Fiona Wood; The Shop Around the Corner; You’ve Got Mail

Anyone could be a Manic Pixie Dream Girl: An Article Response in Which I Say We Need More Stories

An article has been making the rounds of my twitter stream this past week. Fellow librarian Jody Wurl brought it to my attention. Maggie Stiefvater had a few thoughts about it on Saturday. You might have heard about it from someone else.

The article is: “I was a Manic Pixie Dream Girl” by Laurie Penny (posted on the New Statesman site)

To start, “Manic Pixie Dream Girls” are a character type often found in bildungsroman movies featuring male leads. They fall in love, the MPDG shows the man how to live. She disappears, dies or otherwise fades away leaving the male lead better for the acquaintance. Manic Pixie Dream Girl isn’t really a character in a film or book. She is a plot device. She is a trope. She is Zooey Deschanel in (500) Days of Summer, Kiersten Dunst in Elizabethrown, the female lead in either version of Sweet November. (Did you know the version with Richard Gere was a remake? Because I did not until last week.)

She was also, at one point, writer Laurie Penny.

Her article is really interesting and I suggest you all go read it because Penny has a lot of valuable thoughts about feminism and what being a feminist really means. I was especially pleased when the second paragraph nailed all of my issues with Dr. Who. I’ve wanted to like Dr. Who for years. Since Rose was the Doctor’s companion. But I never could get there. For a while I thought Donna Noble would be able to transcend her role as companion. And she did. Only to be written out and told she isn’t allowed to have those things, or even want those things, after.* And then we went back to having a dashing, manic in his own right, Doctor and a pretty, young companion to keep him company and show him how to understand humanity.

Maybe I’ll start watching again when the Doctor regenerates as a woman.

Anyway, after that insight, Penny explains that she was a Manic Pixie Dream Girl from the short stature to the pixie cut to the ukelele playing.

And that’s when things got interesting because Penny also posited that women (girls when they are MPDGs) never have the expectation of being the hero of their own story. Instead she suggests “Men grow up expecting to be the hero of their own story. Women grow up expecting to be the supporting actress in somebody else’s.”

Later in the article she goes on to say that this is the reason MPDGs appear in real life:

“Manic Pixies, like other female archetypes, crop up in real life partly because fiction creates real life, particularly for those of us who grow up immersed in it. Women behave in ways that they find sanctioned in stories written by men who know better, and men and women seek out friends and partners who remind them of a girl they met in a book one day when they were young and longing.”

Penny came to realize that personality had to go when she wanted to be a writer and that meant becoming a “grown fucking woman” and making choices that would ultimately alienate and intimidate potential male partners.

Penny tries to end on an up note urging women to write their own stories, create their own characters and, more importantly, grow up and leave the Manic Pixie Dream Girl behind.

Reading the article I had a lot of “duh” moments because it feels like information anyone (or maybe I should say anyone who identifies as a feminist) would know already. But maybe there are people out there who didn’t know. And maybe that makes this article surprising to some.

For me, it wasn’t surprising and I thought it was one-sided and missed some key points (thus the giant response post so that we can all talk about this together!).

I’ve never been a Manic Pixie Dream Girl. I am neither short or thin enough although I often had the right hair. I think I’ve always been too pragmatic and far too caustic. And to borrow Penny’s own phrasing, I was a “grown fucking woman” long before I decided to pursue writing (if you can call what I’m doing writing–there’s a novel in the works and this blog–I grant it’s no professional career . . . yet). My mother is disabled and I’ve been helping run the household since college. We co-manage an eBay shop. I’ve had a job since I was seventeen-years-old and put myself through college and grad school with that job and a combination of scholarships and state funding.

I don’t know Penny’s life but I found the idea that the biggest facet of becoming a grown woman was becoming a writer deeply frustrating and deeply misleading. Much like the rich inner life a MPDG never reveals, we all have responsibilities and things we carry. I’ve been carrying things since I was in my teens. It has never had anything to do with my writing or professional choices. (And, frankly, I think the idea that being a political writer is the only thing to be intimidating to Penny’s suitors somewhat laughable. Maybe that was part of it but I dare say being outspoken, well-educated, and a feminist contributed just as largely.)

I don’t know what stories Penny had growing up. I don’t know the books she read or the things she did. But I was sad when I read that she fell into the role of a Manic Pixie Dream Girl because it was the character she saw again and again that most resembled herself. I was sad when she talked about men growing up to be heroes and women growing up to be damsels.

I suspect all of the credit here goes to my mother but I didn’t have that moment. I have never for one second doubted that I am the hero of my own story. Sometimes it’s a dumb story. Boring even. But it is always my story. And I am never, ever in a supporting role. I don’t think that always has to do with the models available. I watched the Disney version of Sleeping Beauty every day when I was a toddler. I loved anything and everything princess as a child (I still do).** That has never lessened my conviction that I can accomplish great things all on my own. Because my mother never let me think any less of myself; she never doubted me.

Returning to the Manic Pixie Dream Girl as fictional character (rather than real person), Penny goes on to say MPDG is “one of those female tropes who is permitted precisely no interiority.” Here’s the thing (which Maggie Stiefvater said on Saturday on Twitter) as we see her, the Manic Pixie Dream Girl was never meant to have an interior life. Because the story is never about her. It isn’t fair and it isn’t right but the MPDG is a plot device. She is there to teach something, to showcase something. She is not there to tell her own story.

It is a shame that there is a whole trope about these (young) women who descend to impart wisdom only to disappear but there it is. If the story were from her point of view, we wouldn’t be dealing with a Manic Pixie Dream Girl at all. We just don’t call them that because we’re busy calling them the HEROINE. One recent example is Kiri in Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith. But there are others too. From the outside these characters look like Manic Pixie Dream Girls but because the story is in their head–because we get to see the cracks and flaws in that persona they wear like armor–they transcend the label and become more than a plot device.

But here’s the thing: This problem exists for any character. Any character, any person, who is boiled down to a core set of stereotypes and traits is going to be seen as less than the sum of their parts. They are always going to exist as more legend than person. What is Edward Cullen or Mr. Darcy*** but a reinvented version of Prince Charming–a male character meant to rescue a princess and/or take her on a great adventure?

While some of the logic was (fairly and rightly) skewed, I agree wholeheartedly with Penny about the power of story: “What concerns me now is the creation of new narratives, the opening of space in the collective imagination for women who have not been permitted such space before, for women who don’t exist to please, to delight, to attract men, for women who have more on our minds. Writing is a different kind of magic, and everyone knows what happens to women who do their own magic – but it’s a risk you have to take.”

I’ll finish now by taking that one step further: We don’t just need new stories for women. We need new stories period. We need stories for the nice guy who is never going to fall into a bad boy situation. We need stories for the girl who cares more about studying than prom. We need stories for people of color. We need stories for the kids who are still trying to find a way to articulate who they are and who they want to be.

We need more stories.

We need more stories to move beyond characters as plot devices–be it a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, a Prince Charming or something else entirely. We need more stories to be mirrors instead of exemplars. Personally, I’m looking forward to finding those stories.

*Seriously. The “Dr. Donna” storyline is tragic. I still haven’t recovered.

**One of the first fantasies I ever read (when I was eleven), and one of my most favorite, was A Wizard of Earth Sea by Ursula K. LeGuin. It has no female characters (beyond one herb witch who acts as a rudimentary teacher in early chapters). It doesn’t even have room for female characters because girls can’t become wizards. I didn’t read that and go about to make myself an ideal companion for these adventure-having characters. I sat down on my family’s first-ever computer, put in a fresh floppy disk, and I started writing a version of the story where a girl did become a wizard. (I guess this would also be one of my only forays into fan fiction–years and years before I even knew what fan fiction was. But that’s a different post.)

***Or Peter Pan or Po or Adam or my beloved Alan Ryves or any other devastating male lead.

BEA 2013: A Recap (With Photos!)

As many of you know, I was lucky enough to get to Book Expo America again this year in early June. It was the third year Nicole from The Book Bandit’s Blog and I have gone and I’m not even kidding when I tell you that I started planning for this year’s BEA in March. There were calendar entries. There were schedule sheets. Readers, there were two spreadsheets. I almost crossed the line into planning too much because by the time BEA finally came it felt like I’d already gone. But, of course, the three days were still full of surprises and many, many good books.

Here’s the rundown (with photos taken by me and Nicole):

Day One: May 30

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We started bright and early with Nicole meeting me downtown so that we could proceed to the Javits Center together. Then it was a journey to find registration and get ourselfs ready to go.

I should tell you right now that most of my BEA was spent tracking down authors and/or books. There were a lot of cool sessions and speakers but Nicole and I had our priorities. And, dear readers, those priorities were books.

The day started with a quick lap on the show floor to get a sense of where things were laid out. This was, unfortunately, difficult given the lack of enormous signage labeling booths. Last year it had felt easier to navigate the floor but maybe it was me.

The signing schedule this year was insanely awesome and left Nicole and I running around a lot. The day started with Kendare Blake and Antigoddess.

Kendare Blake Bea13

Then it was time for one of my highest priority people to see: Diana Peterfreund who had a crazy line and an EPIC hat. And, of course, Across a Star-Swept Sea which I am dying to read.

Diana Peterfruend BEA13

The morning also included some surprises with the delightful Dot Hutchinson who wins in terms of author follow up. (Regular readers might remember that A Wounded Name is on my top ten summer reads list!)

The afternoon got a little crazy with lots of signings and places to be in LOTS of different places including this slim read from Macmillan:

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This is my first Lauren Myracle since reading Bliss in grad school and I’m really excited about it! Even cooler, Myracle was there all three days of BEA for signings. Talk about cool!

Then there was Little Brown booth where I was #141 in line to see Kami Garcia and her awesome sounding book Unbreakable.

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Then Nicole and I were second and third in line to see Oliver Jeffers signing The Day the Crayons Quit–a very funny book that he illustrated.

And you bet Nicole got a picture!

Ollie and Nicole BEA13

I missed out on a few picture book authors as priorities shifted, but I’m going to go ahead and say I had a moment with Phillip and Erin Stead and we’re friends now. It’s written here so it must be true, right?

All in all, it was impressive how smoothly Day One went and how successful we were in most of our endeavors.

Which brings us to . . .

Day Two: May 31

Another early start (the hours I kept for BEA started to be a hardship for my mom too, but hey, at least it’s only three days!)

Day Two was hard because ALL of the authors were signing and it was really hard to guess who would have the biggest lines not to mention picking who would be highest priority.

In the morning, however, I had one and only objective: Meeting Alethea Kontis author of Enchanted and its sequel Hero.

Alethea Kontis signing BEA13

It was touch and go but I’m happy to report the meeting did happen. AND in September you might want to stop by because the blog will be a stop on Alethea’s blog tour for Hero!

Alethea Kontis BEA13

Before the Hero signing Nicole and I were also really really lucky and made it to see Soman Chainani and his awesome looking book The School for Good and Evil. (I’m an Ever. Nicole is a Never. Neither of us knows exactly how that works with the book yet but we have pins to declare our allegiance.)

Then things got really crazy because Rainbow Rowell was signing arcs of Fangirl at St. Martins Press.

I had not read Eleanor & Park at the time of BEA but I have now and I am REALLY excited to have Fangirl on deck. (You can see, perhaps, why picking my books to read is becoming this huge thing.)

Rainbow Rowell BEA13

After that it was a mad dash back to the crazy autographing area because my only other priority for the entire morning was meeting Elizabeth Wein because we talk sometimes on Twitter and I cried buckets while reading Code Name Verity and meeting her is the first step to becoming her best friend. I really didn’t think it would happen because the Autographing area was crazy (and Kareem Abdul Jabar was signing so I stood next to him for a little bit . . . that happened).

The afternoon of day two devolved into one long line as we waited to see Victoria Schwab signing copies of her adult book from Tor: Vicious.

Victoria Schwab BEA13

It was insane and I really thought we were going to be turned away BUT Nicole and I made the cut which was really exciting. In terms of random, wacky things that happen to me thanks to twitter: one of my tweets was screenied in Victoria’s BEA recap post. Also, I saw Victoria a few times around BEA and recognized her which was fun. The surreal part was “talking” on twitter and hearing that SHE recognized ME. Random, wacky and awesome!

There were a lot of other books on Day Two because it was insane as I said. But these were definitely the highlights.

And then we have . . .

Day Three: June 1

Day Three of BEA is always the mellowest because the show closes earlier and there are generally fewer authors signing and things to do. This was a day to hunt down books we had missed previously and also to catch a few last authors.

Because the day was mellow and because I am obsessed with Alex Bracken, Nicole and I made a really easy decision: We would get to Alexandra Bracken’s line as soon as possible and wait an hour to meet her while she signed Never Fade. And believe it or not that wasn’t the crazy part. The crazy part was that other people had the same idea but even then we were among the first thirty people. I’d like to think that success helped start the day on a high note.

Alex Bracken BEA13

After running around the autographing area for a bit longer it was, happily, time for lunch.

The really great thing about Saturday was that after lunch we got to meet up with fellow blogger Cecelia from The Adventures of Cecelia Bedelia. We had met last year at BEA on Diana Peterfreund’s epic line and I was really excited to see her again.

With an afternoon that was wide open until Robin Wasserman’s 1:30 signing, I convinced everyone that we needed Cinders by Jan Brett in our lives. I mean, a chicken Cinderella? It was a total no brainer. Also, I have Brett’s book from when I was a kid so I was really excited to meet her. It was very fast because the line was long but it was awesome and the book is fantastic.

Then it was time for the last really long line: Robin Wasserman signing copies of The Waiting Dark.

The line was so long, in fact, that we had time to pose for a picture with Cecelia’s phone:

Cecelia, Nicole, Emma BEA13

The line kept moving, we saw Robin Wasserman and her very cool dinosaur necklace. We picked up out last tote bags of books. We applauded our excellent planning. We went home and started thinking about what books we would read first.

And that, dear readers, is the rundown of my BEA 2013.

“Are you Miss Print?”

What ensues is going to be an embarrassingly detailed account of the events leading up to Thursday night which was, by far, the highlight of my week:

On Wednesday one of my favorite authors, Carolyn MacCullough, tweeted about an event at Books of Wonder where she would be appearing. I almost never get to go to events like this because they inevitably conflict with my work/school schedule. But the stars aligned on Thursday and I was able to attend!

I had posted on my own twitter about the event and my plans to attend because, well, it seemed like something everyone should go to. Much to my surprise and excitement, Ms. MacCullough responded to my tweet saying she hoped to see me there. I was pleased, but didn’t think much of it because I imagine authors always get crazy amounts of replies on Twitter and just try to respond to what they can to be nice (because writers are inevitably the nicest people in the world after librarians).

The event was short, but so much fun. I always love visiting Books of Wonder because it reminds me of Meg Ryan’s store in You’ve Got Mail. And because they have a cupcake shop. I always feel like the employees are watching me, but that might be my own paranoia from bringing in my own books to be signed–it feels wrong somehow.

Anyway, after Ms. MacCullough and the two other authors (Philip Reeve and Mari Mancusi) finished talking about their books, people were encouraged to get their books signed. And I did not need to be told twice.

I went up to Carolyn MacCullough feeling very awkward with my three books to be signed (Once a Witch and Drawing the Ocean are two of my favorite books and I’m looking forward to reading my library-borrowed-copy of Falling Through Darkness and my newly signed copy of Stealing Henry). I felt really awkward because that’s a lot of books for one person to want signed, so I went up to her (first person to do so, also super awkward) and said that I didn’t know if she would want to sign all of them.

Then the unthinkable happened.

Carolyn MacCullough, one of my favorite authors in the world, asked me who I was because I looked familiar. I was so floored that only bad, tongue-tied explanations came from my mouth. I tried to explain that I had retweeted about the even and she had replied but I don’t think it came out right. But eventually it came across that I was on Twitter.

And then something else unthinkable happened.

I was recognized (by one of my favorite authors!) as a book blogger. Carolyn MacCullough said to me, “Are you Miss Print?” And, as my readers already know, of course I am! I became, if possible, even more tongue-tied and needed a moment to regroup, telling her that I couldn’t believe she knew who I was.*

And so Carolyn MacCullough signed my books (saying it was nice to meet me in one of them) and we had a really nice conversation. It turns out she had been reading my blog and even asked how my mom was doing.** I told her that Drawing the Ocean is one of my favorite books (it actually has been since I read it after seeing her read part of it at an author event at Jefferson Market Library several years ago). And she said, I had given her one of the best reviews on Amazon and that it brought tears to her eyes.

Then we parted. She said it was nice to meet me in person and I said of course that I was thrilled to meet her and to have made it to the event and confirmed her suspicion that she would see more of me on Twitter. And then I went home with some of the cupcake shop’s awesome cupcakes in tow.

The funniest thing about the whole thing was that I almost didn’t go. I felt weird about going alone. Especially to an event that featured young adult authors. No one is a bigger champion of YA books being for everyone (not just teens) but it felt strange, somehow, to be going to an event ideally targeting teens when I was not a teen. But I went anyway because my mom said I was being silly and the stars had aligned to allow me to go and because I really wanted to meet Carolyn MacCullough even if it was weird and I was nervous before talking to her (at which point I was so excited there was no room for anything else).

I’m so, so glad I did. Because it was worth it. So, I guess if you’re going to get anything besides my fangirl-y happiness from this just know that if you want to go somewhere, you should go. Even if it means going alone or feeling weird or silly, it’s worth it. Because you’ll be doing what you want to do. And maybe Carolyn MacCullough (or you know, whoever you might call your favorite ________) will recognize you too. And that will be an opportunity that you claimed for yourself and made into a really amazing moment***.

*I’ve won scholarships and awards before. I’ve gotten good grades. But somehow this recognition was almost sweeter because it was for something I built from scratch on my own, simply because I wanted to.

**If even one of my favorite authors is wondering about my mom, it occurred to me that I should post something mentioning that she is, in fact, doing well.

***If anyone doubts me, Ms. MacCullough also tweeted me after the event saying it was nice to meet so I have incontrovertible proof that I wasn’t dreaming all of it.

The Ten Stages of Twitter

  1. You hear about Twitter from a friend or in the news. Intrigued, you file the information away for future use.
  2. Twitter keeps coming up but you still have no idea what it means. You ask a friend on Twitter to explain it to you. The idea of posting updates about your day in 140 characters or less sounds ridiculous. So does the idea of Facebook status updates minus the Facebook part.
  3. You discover a friend (or famous person’s) Twitter account. Intrigued, you being to read their updates by visiting the site periodically.
  4. After going through this for a week or two, you decide it might be time to join Twitter and see what it’s all about for yourself.
  5. Having joined Twitter it seems likely that you will never have anything interesting to say ever again. (You also have no followers.)
  6. Your Twitter self feels lonely, so you find the friend (or famous person) who inspired you to join Twitter and start following their updates. Some exploring leads you to the Twitter accounts of other interesting friends (or famous people).
  7. You’re starting to get the hang (and even the point) of Twitter. But you don’t understand how people spend entire days on the site. You check every evening or so and update a bit then.
  8. You discover Twitterfox, Tweet Deck, or some other programs that allow you to update Twitter from your internet browser window, desktop, or even your phone. You’re not sure how you  lived without these programs. You waffle between protective your updates and leaving them visible to the public.
  9. You start networking and chatting with the friends (or famous people) you have found on Twitter getting useful advice on everything from books to electronic purchase as well as some other unexpected bonuses.
  10. The next time someone asks for an explanation of Twitter, you’re the one doing the explaining.