As social media increasingly permeates daily life for many, it only makes sense that it’s become a prominent feature in fiction, as well. Featuring plenty of social media and pop culture references mixed between the perfect romantic-comedy vibes, Emma Lord’s debut novel, “Tweet Cute,” is ideal if you’re looking for something fun to read.
Released January 2020, “Tweet Cute” follows Pepper and Jack, two high school seniors in Manhattan who strike up a real-life friendship while unknowingly sparring on Twitter behind their respective family restaurant accounts and anonymously chatting on an app Jack designed, called Weazel. As they get to know each other in these different capacities, their relationship goes from classmates, to friends, to something more romantic.
Pepper, who is at the top of their class and stays up late to help run her parent’s small-burger-joint-turned-international-franchise’s Twitter account, is lonely. Jack is also lonely, though it is less obvious, as he is known for joking around and being mistaken for his twin brother, Ethan, but feels trapped by his family’s East Village deli that he’s supposed to take over. Lord doesn’t force her two narrators together, though. Each step they take in their friendship feels easy and natural.
“Tweet Cute” is part of the newest generation of young adult contemporaries that embraces social media and technology in its storytelling. From tweets and texts, to pop culture and meme references, the story is a perfect mix of Gen-Z culture, high school life and romance that whisks readers away to the Upper East Side and makes them dream about every kind of baked good or sandwich imaginable.
However, Lord doesn’t let the social media references take over the story or confuse readers. It’s an important piece of the story, as it should be, but the focus remains firmly on Jack and Pepper, their relationship, and their character arcs. Instead, it allows Lord to show their personalities in a way that not all novels are capable of. Jack and Pepper behind their restaurant handles on Twitter are much bolder in order to fit in with the tone of the app. On Weazel, created for students at their high school to talk anonymously, they talk more candidly without the pressure of knowing exactly who they’re sending messages to.
When they finally start texting each other as friends, the effects it has on Jack lead to events that change their relationship again. “I sit there on my bed, almost in disbelief [the conversation] happened in the mere span of an hour when it feels like it wasn’t in the bounds of normal time,” he narrates. “The kind of conversation you already know is going to stick to your skin long after it’s over, long after the person you had it with is gone from your life.” Lord’s writing, whether it be in the form of Tweets, texts, narration or dialogue, flows with an ease that creates an enjoyable and steady reading experience.
Despite juggling two narrators and several main plot lines with various add-ins, Lord’s writing in “Tweet Cute” is beautifully paced and easy to understand. But don’t get the idea that the novel is basic or simple in any way. Instead, it provides just enough reminders of past events to keep readers with the plot as it moves along but not too many that it becomes repetitive.
It also helps that Lord’s two leads are high school seniors prone to overthinking, giving readers the chance to see a single interaction from both of their points of view, whether it be in the present or after the fact. Jack and Pepper may be written by the same person, but their narration styles are distinct enough that it’s clear whose head the reader is in at any given time. Lord shows that in the case of “Tweet Cute,” there can be more than one side to a story.
The two narrators may have multiple storylines within the novel as a whole, but Lord’s secondary characters — from Pepper’s mother, father and sister, to Jack’s parents, grandmother and twin, to their classmates and friends — aren’t just mentioned to create fully-rounded versions of Pepper and Jack. Instead, they offer stories that complement and add to the main plot lines without subtracting from the central focus of the novel. Even though the synopsis on the cover might seem like too much to bite off, Lord balances each piece in a way that brings everything together, creating a fun and memorable novel that’s so much more than a love story.
“Tweet Cute” begins with Jack and Pepper as nothing more than acquaintances. They have homeroom together and both swim (Jack on dive team and Pepper captains swim), but their interactions are limited to Jack ribbing Pepper. However, when Jack takes over for his twin brother in a leadership role shared with Pepper, the two form a friendship that changes when it’s revealed that they’re actually fighting each other on Twitter.
Their classmates-to-frenemies-to-friends-to-lovers story has many different phases, but their interactions are overall fun to read because of how their personalities work together. Whether it’s their on- and off-line banter or how they reveal themselves to each other, they always feel like a good fit, making it impossible not to root for them. Lord’s writing of these characters only reaffirms that they’re a good match as they keep each other on their toes and truly understand each other’s struggles. She’s created a pairing that makes sense throughout the entire story.
Lord’s debut with “Tweet Cute” suggests that her career as a writer is only just starting. With her second novel, “You Have a Match,” set to release in early January next year featuring long-lost sisters and Instagram culture, she’s definitely found her niche. “Tweet Cute” suggests that while she still has room to grow as an author, her instincts are impressive and she knows how to write a book you can’t put down until the back cover closes. I know I couldn’t.