Tweet Cute by Emma Lord
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
As befits the title and cover art, in Tweet Cute, two smart, attractive and socially insecure Manhattan teens meet cute online. In the real world, Jack and Pepper don’t like each other very much. Yet they have an easy rapport on the social networking app that's exclusively for and by kids from their school. With the freedom and sense of security that comes from anonymity, Jack and Pepper find that they a lot in common: both feel like outsiders in their swanky Upper East Side private school; both have a snarky sense of humor; and they both harbor a disdain of the more entitled classmates who have more family money than intellectual heft.
Unfortunately, as social media/ marketing whizzes who, unbeknownst to each other, use Twitter to boost their families’ fast food businesses, they’re also competitors. The premise is fine, but there’s an inherent challenge in a book that hinges on the wit and creativity of its protagonists: the text itself has to have original things to say and say them well. Novels about poets for example fall flat when the poetry disappoints.
In Tweet Cute, the art is texts and tweets. The conflict between Pepper and Jack arises from a critical tweet by Jack about Pepper’s family account, a tweet that’s supposed to be so sharp it gets shared by a pop star, and goes viral. Rather than bask in his moment of twitter fame, Jack’s immediately consumed by worry that he’s going to be grounded for his impudence. The Tweet in question though is basic, rather than edgy: Pepper tweet brags about a new menu item at her family’s burger chain; Jack screenshots it with the comment “Sure Jan,” making fun of the larger company for being a copycat. As Twitter fights go, that’s as mild as it gets. So neither its virality nor the anxiety it inspires make much sense, and therefore the tension between the two feels pretty overblown and low stakes. I've seen Gen Z tweet. It gets a little wilder and funnier than this!
That said, when you're young and sheltered, and experiencing the stirrings of first love, everything is amplified. It's wonderful that Jack and Pepper have that space. The Manhattan Pepper and Jack live in is essentially a wholesome, G-rated version of the one depicted in Gossip Girl with some of the sweetness of Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I've Loved Before . Sometimes that’s just the escape we’re looking for as readers. Even though the conflict is tepid, the characters are interesting and really, refreshingly sweet. They care about each other, their families and their futures. There are subplots about realistic concerns like bullying, sibling rivalry, academic stress, business ethics, and divorce. The plot gets a bit more complex with time, and I grew more invested in them as things progressed. While Tweet Cute may not be the kind of YA novel that holds a ton of crossover potential, it could and should appeal to its true, hopefully less jaded, intended audience. At least least I hope so!
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