Excerpt: Nicola Yoon's Short Story from the Meet Cute Anthology

Posted by Goodreads on January 8, 2018
Nicola Yoon
A staple of romances, a "meet cute" is the moment when our heroes first lock eyes…and the sparks fly. It could be at the counter of a coffee shop, in the brig of an alien spaceship, or across the floor of a Regency-era ballroom. Regardless of how or where they happen, "meet cutes" signal that our heroes' destinies are inextricably linked.

The new short story collection Meet Cute explores and celebrates this pivotal moment. Featuring an all-star cast of young adult talent—Jennifer L. Armentrout (Lux), Nina LaCour (We Are Okay), Sara Shepard (Pretty Little Liars), and more!—the anthology follows characters bonding over everything from a cranky customer service tweet to a missing library book.

Nicola Yoon, the acclaimed author of The Sun Is Also a Star and Everything, Everything, shares an excerpt from her Meet Cute short story, "The Department of Dead Love." In the strange, speculative world Yoon creates, relationships are resolved through efficient bureaucracy. But can red tape really help matters of the heart?



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The Department of Dead Love


The Department of Dead Love looks nothing at all like I expected. For instance, Cupid is not hanging by his entrails out front, bow and quiver lying cracked in a pool of viscous, semisweet pink fluids. The building is not a drab and windowless gray monstrosity designed to cow you into submission the moment you enter it like so many government buildings are. The DODL is not even just one building. It's a campus of them, and they are quite beautiful, actually. The committee of architects who designed the campus believed that aesthetic beauty could stave off despair.

They were wrong.

Nevertheless, the buildings are exquisite. Unrequited Love is the color of lavender tea steeped a little too long and shaped like a cresting wave. Breakups is an orange starburst of a building, like a firecracker just exploding. Bereavement is the most sedate of the buildings—a periwinkle blue lily at dusk. Most people agree that Young Love is the prettiest of all the buildings. It's the tentative green of a new leaf and shaped like a single blade of grass. Separated from the main campus by a wide blue lake and a wooden suspension bridge, it's only intended for anyone eighteen or younger. Before the building was commissioned there was a great debate about whether young people should be excluded from the general populace. After all, they too experienced unrequited love. They agonized through unexplained breakups. They suffered the debilitating loss of death. In the end, it was decided that the intense nature of young love warranted a building all its own.

The DODL's beauty is not limited to the buildings. It extends to the employees. HeartWorkers, as they're called, must have excellent Empathy Exam scores and complete a long apprenticeship before they're allowed to tend to the brokenhearted public. City workers though they may be, they are an attractive, generous, and joyous people, always ready with a smile and a hug and a "Time Heals."

That's the department's motto, by the way. Time Heals. It's inscribed on the facade of each building. It's stamped on all the stationery. It's inscribed in cursive on small golden plaques in each stall of every bathroom on every floor. I would know, as I've been in them all.

By now you're asking yourself, what brings this young man here to Young Love? More specifically, what brings him to the Office of Emotional Recovery located on the very highest floor? Even more specifically still, what brings him to the cubicle of Gabrielle Lee at the Relationship Autopsy desk?

It was a breakup.

An abrupt one.

An unexplainable one.

When relationships end, a negligible percentage of them get to have a Do Over. No one knows what the rules for getting one are, but if you are granted one, you get to have your memories reset and do your relationship over.

So. That's why I'm here. I'd very much like to do my relationship over.

__ __ __ __

"I don't understand. Everything was perfect when she ended it," I say as soon as I enter the cubicle. It's what I've said to every HeartWorker who's interviewed me so far. It takes a very long time to get referred to Relationship Autopsy. You have to make it past the Other Fish in the Sea; It's Not You, It's Him/Her; and Did You Really Love Him/Her Anyway? desks. The counselors there are excellent at helping you cope, recover, and move on so that you don't end up here.

But I don't want to cope or recover or move on. I want to understand. And then I want another chance.

The HeartWorker in the cubicle—Apprentice Gabrielle Lee, according to the nameplate—puts down the tablet she's holding and looks up at me. I'm surprised by how young she is. I'd guess she's around my age, seventeen or maybe eighteen. All the HeartWorkers I've met so far in Emotional Recovery are considerably older. Then I remember that she's an apprentice—the sole apprentice ever to have a position in Relationship Autopsy. Her Empathy Exam scores must have been perfect.

"Please have a seat," she says. Her face is a polite blank, no everything-is-going-to-be-all-right smile here. I'd heard that Autopsy workers weren't quite as cheerful, not quite as indulgent as others. Less ready with a smile and a platitude. I can understand that. It's a tough line of work, sorting through the detritus of dead relationships all day, trying to find the reason for their demise.

I sit. Unlike all the other chairs in all the other DODL offices, this chair is straight-backed and hard and uncomfortable. This is not a place to get comfortable in.

She picks up the tablet she'd been reading when I walked in and begins: "It says here that Miss Samantha Fuentes broke up with you ten months ago. Is that correct, Mr. Marks?"

"You can call me Thomas."

She just waits for me to respond.

"That's correct," I mumble, looking down at my hands. Even now, after all this time, thinking about the night we broke up makes my stomach lurch.

"And you were together for five months, four days, and twenty-one hours. Is that also correct?"

Did I imagine the arch tone in her voice? I look up and meet her eyes. They're clear brown and almost too big for her small face. I can't read any emotion in them.

"Yes," I say. "That's correct."

"So at this point you've been broken up for more than twice the length of the relationship."

Was that a question? I'm fairly certain HeartWorkers aren't supposed to judge you. It's in the Charter. Of course things might be different for Autopsy workers. No one knows much about them.

Nevertheless, I'm definitely feeling a little judged. I take a closer look at her. Her skin is pale brown, almost the same shade as mine, but with pinkish undertones. Her hair is short, with soft curls that frame her face. She reminds me of something out of a fairy tale—a pixie or a woodland sprite.

If I noticed pretty girls anymore, I think I might think she was pretty. I scan her desk hoping to find something personal so I can get a handle on her personality, but there's nothing, not even a bowl of you'll-feel-better-soon-but-for-now-bury-your-feelings-with-candy candy.

Apprentice Lee is not trying to convince me that everything is going to be okay. Maybe she realizes that if you've gotten to the Relationship Autopsy offices, you already know that. There's something kind about that honesty.

"Yes," I say. "It's been over for more time than we were together and I'm still not over it. I don't think I'll ever be over it."

Her face softens, wide eyes meeting mine. I almost expect her to say Time Heals, and I'm glad when she doesn't.

It's not that I need to convince her to perform my Autopsy. She's going to do it anyway. But I want her to understand why I need to be here. That way maybe she'll agree to grant the Do Over when the time comes.

"Have you ever been on a roller coaster, Apprentice Lee?"

She nods.

"You know when you get to the top of the first drop, how the car pauses there for a few seconds to build up anticipation and then it starts to plunge and you get that sick, terrified, hollow feeling in your stomach? I mean, in your mind you might not actually be scared, but your body doesn't care about that. It only knows there's been some mistake and it's falling. That's how I feel all the time now. I need it to stop. I need to know what happened."

She doesn't say anything for a few seconds, but presses her hand at against her chest like she's trying to keep something in. "Thomas," she says, "you can call me Gabby. Come back tomorrow and we'll get started."

You can read the rest of the story by picking up a copy of Meet Cute, in bookstores now. Add it to your Want to Read shelf here.

Comments Showing 1-50 of 56 (56 new)


message 1: by TeaAndBooks (new)

TeaAndBooks I am in love with this!


message 2: by Jessie (new)

Jessie Jess I can hardly wait to read this!


message 3: by Ryan (new)

Ryan O'Blenes I have no idea what this book is about and i was told to check this book about by Marie. I guess she is a friend of Ncola Yoon. :P


message 4: by Addie (new)

Addie G I am way too excited for this! The world needs more love stories.


Valessia Harris I really like this. I am able to picture this world she is describing and i want to know more about the way it works.


message 6: by Del-Gratia (new)

Del-Gratia Crawley TeaAndBooks wrote: "I am in love with this!"

So am I


message 7: by Shorouk (new)

Shorouk Abd Elhamed Really nice . The idea is beautiful.


message 8: by Hayley (new)

Hayley Can't wait to read this!


message 9: by [deleted user] (new)

TeaAndBooks wrote: "I am in love with this!"
Same!!!!


message 10: by [deleted user] (new)

Addie wrote: "I am way too excited for this! The world needs more love stories."
I agree 100%!


message 11: by heba (new)

heba I can hardly wait to read this :)


message 12: by Storm (new)

Storm Well this hits close to home. I am Thomas right now. lol


message 13: by Zia (new)

Zia Sounds really good!


message 14: by Dusica (new)

Dusica i want more:)

reply | flag *


message 15: by Mehvish (new)

Mehvish Sooo good ! Can't wait to read the book now 🙈


message 16: by Jayda (new)

Jayda I can't wait to read this book! I'm in love with this book! :)


message 17: by Renee (new)

Renee My anticipation has built up and I feel as if I'll explode with joy the very second I get my hands on this book.


message 18: by Jess (new)

Jess Omg I'm in love with this!!! I need to pick up a copy of it asap!!!


message 19: by Maddy (new)

Maddy dooner I loved reading this excerpt, definitely building up the anticipation. I cannot wait to read the full book. The writing was amazing as always.


message 20: by Ulises (new)

Ulises Estrada Wow this look pretty cool can't wait to read it


message 21: by Stephanie (new)

Stephanie Derrick Ooh... Well that excerpt ended with a cliffhanger. Can’t wait to read the entire story.


message 22: by Maddy (new)

Maddy Gillett So excited for this book. I love the idea of Nicola's story and it is making me super pumped for the rest of 'Meet Cute'.


message 23: by Eva (new)

Eva De Barros So heart warming, from what I’ve read I know I’ll love it, Nicola Yoon’s writing is always beautiful I can’t wait to read the rest of this book !


message 24: by nadiaizzaty (new)

nadiaizzaty Nice one !!!! <3 can’t waitto read the full story 😍


message 25: by Emily (new)

Emily OMG. Yesss! so excited to read this.


message 26: by John (new)

John Clark Just ordered my copy.


message 27: by Catarina (new)

Catarina PB Yes <3 omg so so happy about this!! can't wait!!


message 28: by Erica (new)

Erica Baird definitely picking up a copy tomorrow.


message 29: by anareadlover (new)

anareadlover I need to read this book, but....shipping cost makes me cry :"(


message 30: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer Omg! I love this! So great can't wait!

Www.TwoGirlsandaBookObsession.com


message 31: by Afrobelle (new)

Afrobelle Ooo I’m excited. 😍


message 32: by Tierra (new)

Tierra T. love this I waaaant


message 33: by Boat (new)

Boat The Gemini Eeeeek! "Unrequited Love is the color of lavender tea steeped a little too long and shaped like a cresting wave."


message 34: by Zahra (new)

Zahra Rahman It is an agony to wait ;;;;;


message 35: by Zenia (new)

Zenia Ryan wrote: "I have no idea what this book is about and i was told to check this book about by Marie. I guess she is a friend of Ncola Yoon. :P" me too


message 36: by Suchona (new)

Suchona Hasnat can't wait for this book


message 37: by kanel (new)

kanel I'm hooked !!


message 38: by Theresa-Mary (new)

Theresa-Mary Mc Glinchey I HAVE TO READ THIS BOOK!!


message 39: by Indra (new)

Indra I need this in my life. Love Nicola Yoon!!


message 40: by Christina (new)

Christina Well, darn it 😐
Now I have to get the book 🤗


message 41: by Ashley (new)

Ashley Drumm Can't wait to read the whole book. Definitely gonna go out and buy it


message 42: by Viviana (new)

Viviana Almendra Rehbein Like Chandler say "I don't have a idea whats is going on but Im excited"!!!!


message 43: by Ellie (new)

Ellie "Have you ever been on a roller coaster, Apprentice Lee?"

She nods.

"You know when you get to the top of the first drop, how the car pauses there for a few seconds to build up anticipation and then it starts to plunge and you get that sick, terrified, hollow feeling in your stomach? I mean, in your mind you might not actually be scared, but your body doesn't care about that. It only knows there's been some mistake and it's falling. That's how I feel all the time now. I need it to stop. I need to know what happened."


—I love the sound of this so much, can’t wait!


message 44: by Tammi (new)

Tammi DODL is unlike any government building but operates like government, at a snail's pace and unperturbed. Plus the attitude to go along with everything. Gosh. Ten months to rectify your heart's needs. Jeeze. Nicola Yoon knows how to torture this young man. Makes me wonder what happens to those who actually can't wait to have their needs addressed. My interest is definitely piqued, especially since this is a male driven narrative. Bring it on.


Charolette  (Night) Cleveland Yoon, this is phenomenal! Way to go girl! I really like this idea, this concept. Great job- going to get Meet Cute ASAP!


message 46: by Schly (new)

Schly Valessia Harris wrote: "I really like this. I am able to picture this world she is describing and i want to know more about the way it works."
So am I!!


message 47: by Debbie (new)

Debbie I hope this book will be in a giveaway and I win


message 48: by Sarah (new)

Sarah This book seems like it will be interesting, I'm excited to give it a try! 😊


message 49: by Shelby (new)

Shelby i really like this, i'm not a huge fan of fiction because i'm more of a realistic fiction, but i do really love this and if you made it into a book i would definitely read it!


message 50: by Shelby (new)

Shelby Jayda wrote: "I can't wait to read this book! I'm in love with this book! :)"
im with you jayda!


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