Title: Tweet Cute (2020)
Author: Emma Lord
Publisher: St Martin’s Publishing Group
Imprint: Wednesday Books
Read: 20th – 26th December 2019
Genre: young-adult; contemporary
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
“Meet Pepper, swim team captain, chronic overachiever, and all-around perfectionist. Her family may be falling apart, but their massive fast-food chain is booming — mainly thanks to Pepper, who is barely managing to juggle real life while secretly running Big League Burger’s massive Twitter account. Enter Jack, class clown and constant thorn in Pepper’s side. When he isn’t trying to duck out of his obscenely popular twin’s shadow, he’s busy working in his family’s deli. His relationship with the business that holds his future might be love/hate, but when Big League Burger steals his grandma’s iconic grilled cheese recipe, he’ll do whatever it takes to take them down, one tweet at a time. All’s fair in love and cheese — that is, until Pepper and Jack’s spat turns into a viral Twitter war. Little do they know, while they’re publicly duking it out with snarky memes and retweet battles, they’re also falling for each other in real life — on an anonymous chat app Jack built. As their relationship deepens and their online shenanigans escalate — people on the internet are shipping them?? — their battle gets more and more personal, until even these two rivals can’t ignore they were destined for the most unexpected, awkward, all-the-feels romance that neither of them expected.” (Synopsis from publisher)
Set in modern-day New York, Tweet Cute is centred around the dual teen protagonists of Pepper and Jack, one the overachieving daughter of a fast food chain restaurant owner and the other the largely under-appreciated son of a beloved local deli owner connected by one very important thing – a grilled cheese recipe that is alarmingly similar. And so unravels the main conceit of the story, at first focused on the Little Guy taking on the Big Name Corporation with the two teens being entangled in the ensuing Twitter battle and fallout. For such a seemingly simple and potentially frivolous premise, the book actually proves to have a lot more bite to it than your average YA contemporary.
” ‘Besides, I kind of stopped caring about my grades so much. I think our education system is effed up. The way we’re always teaching to tests. Defining each other by numbers instead of what we can actually contribute.’ “
One of the things that impressed me most about the book was the strength of the character development – this development was not just relegated to Pepper and Jack but also saw peripheral, and not so peripheral, characters included in some way too, with my personal favourites being Pepper’s mother and Jack’s friend, Paul, who is aptly described as ‘what would happen if a Nick Jr. cartoon became three-dimensional’. A lot of the turns of phrase in this book were just on-point and I found myself laughing and smiling a lot when reading it because the narrators voices were so strong and witty. Speaking of the narrators, Pepper was a wonderful protagonist, strong and sassy but also attempting to be the peacemaker in her family (uncomfortably caught between her mother and her sister) whilst also managing the million things she seems to have on her plate, between swim team practice and doing someone else’s job by running Big League Burger’s Twitter account and just everyday school concerns. Jack, meanwhile, very much feels like the neglected twin, the one who shrinks under the shadow of his more outgoing and popular brother (he’s even mistaken for him often by people), and the one who knows he will end up being expected to inherit his family’s deli even though he has a secret talent for coding and app creation. The pair of them were never allowed to become just flimsy conduits for the story that the author wanted to tell; they felt fleshed out and like they could exist independent of one another, without their love story, and, above all, they just felt believable.
“All of which would be annoying if Ethan were just my brother, but are made at least ten times worse by the fact that he is my identical twin. There’s nothing quite as awkward as living in a shadow that is quire literally the same shape as yours.“
What I was most pleasantly surprised by, given the focus of the premise, was that a lot of the development of Pepper and Jack’s relationship actually happened IRL instead of over the Internet. Sure, they have both unwittingly befriended one another on an anonymous app, created by Jack, which has taken over their school, but the book actually spends most of its time on building their relationship as classmates (and captain of the dive and swim teams) at school and showing that side of their lives. Let’s face it, at their age, regardless of what Twitter spat they might be involved in, school would take up the majority of their time and attention so I was thankful that Emma Lord actually took the time and space in her narrative to include their days at school and show how they, slowly but surely, became to be more friendly than just school acquaintances. Their relationship felt a lot more organic because of this element, something which cutesy, fluffy contemporaries can sometimes unfortunately lack.
“My head tilts upward, the challenge in Jack’s gaze softening and giving way to something else, and just like that, something is washed away—there is nothing between us but the charge I’ve been ignoring for weeks, bare and uninsulated, like something inevitable.”
This book meshed together a lot of strands of modern culture effortlessly, and none of it felt disingenuous to the characters who would, at that age, be experiencing college admissions, a whole host of online phenomenon (social media, food blogs, meme culture, Twitter wars), career pressure, the aftereffects of divorce on a family, school regulations, family pressures and expectations, and much more. Lord handled all these with care and sensitivity and, even though it was a very light and fun book, it also tackled some really serious issues without it seeming jarring to the overall tone of the story. (Side note: one particular detail that I loved was when the school found out about the anonymous chat app and clamped down on it, trying to root out its maker and encouraging anyone who knew about it to come forward, because that is exactly what would happen in real life because of concerns about safe guarding.)
“In one stupid moment that I completely misread, I decided it was me against the world.”
In conclusion, this book was so damn adorable and absolutely a young-adult contemporary for the modern day; its plot lines are dependent upon the artificial interactions and communities that are built thanks to apps and Twitter (particularly Twitter wars) and I loved how in-touch this was with meme culture. I could definitely believe the grilled cheese Internet war that emerged between the big corporate company and the little guy deli. The characters themselves were likeable, lovely, funny, and most importantly of all, believable teenagers. If you want something cute, funny, with a good sense of humour, and a real heart to it, then you wouldn’t go far wrong in picking up Tweet Cute.
“And just like that, our Twitter war had a hashtag, we had a rabid new fanbase, and I’d learned a valuable lesson: I was better off not provoking Pepper into responding to something, because she had home-court advantage and knew how to use it.”
Emma Lord is a digital media editor and writer living in New York City, where she spends whatever time she isn’t writing either running or belting show tunes in community theater. She graduated from the University of Virginia with a major in psychology and a minor in how to tilt your computer screen so nobody will notice you updating your fan fiction from the back row. She was raised on glitter, grilled cheese, and a whole lot of love. Her sun sign is Hufflepuff, but she is a Gryffindor rising. Tweet Cute is her debut novel.
Thank you so much to St Martin’s Press/Wednesday Books for kindly providing me with an eARC of the book via NetGalley and for letting me be part of the blog tour to celebrate this book’s release!
Disclaimer: I greatly appreciate the opportunity to read and review titles prior to their release, but this does not affect my overall opinion or review of the book itself. The quotes above are taken from the eARC and may differ slightly from the final version in the printed book.