Reviewed in India on 16 February 2021
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Trigger Warnings for the book: bullying, racism, xenophobia (including characters being called ‘alien’), queerphobia, lesbophobia, slurs against lesbians (d*ke, l*sbo), transphobia, pansexuality erasure
Representation: Latinx and Mexican protagonists, pansexual protagonist, Latinx side characters and love interest, trans male side character and love interest
What I love most about Miss Meteor is how instantly loveable the characters are. They are all quirky and unique, but in a way that doesn’t feel like somebody spun a wheel to find their quirks. They perfectly exhibit that middle ground of being children and adults, which is exactly what I am looking for a book about a bunch of 15-year-olds. They are wholesome and beautiful, on their way to becoming adults with strong morals and conscience.
The writing is another thing I enjoyed a lot with this book. It is subtle, beautiful, serene; it lightly tugs on your heart, beckoning you to follow along to the story. It is not immensely flowery or out of place in a novel about a small town and its beauty pageant. It effortlessly gives you the high school misfits and magical realism vibe. In my opinion, it compliments the story and the desert-like setting perfectly. There is something about it that makes you feel the ever-present sand moving through empty streets, the feeling of being in a small town in a vast country.
As much as I enjoyed reading about the characters, their stories, their relationships and their drive behind wanting Lita to become this year’s Miss Meteor, I feel as if a sense of cohesion was missing. Both Lita and Chicky have very distinct personalities and voice, which I greatly appreciate. But when you put them together in a book, it sets expectations for there to be a form of continuity, so that the reader doesn’t feel they are jumping from one island to another without any bridge connecting them; which is something I found lacking. With the way that Lita and Chicky’s friendship had disappeared, I wanted to see them spend more time together and reach out to each other emotionally; but what I got was them existing in each other’s vicinity, thinking about things that [in my opinion] did nothing to repair their friendship, but it was mended anyway. I do think that when they reached that final moment of convalescence, it does feel genuine and real; but it did not feel earned.
I loved Chicky instantly because she and I share many similarities, our sexuality and our struggle with it amongst them; but at the same time I couldn’t get a grasp on her personality and character. It may be because she keeps changing and growing throughout the progression of the story; but to me, it felt more like she needed to be fleshed out a little bit more. There were times when we’d learn new things about Chicky or Lita, and they seemed so out of the blue because there was no precedent for it; which pulled me out of story a couple of times as I desperately tried to connect the dots.
I really liked this book’s commentary on racism and xenophobia, how it explores it on different levels. It challenges the universal perception of beauty as white and thin; giving us a protagonist (Lita) who is none of those things, and having us root for her. Lita’s chubbiness is never seen as something ugly or something she needs to hide, which made me extremely happy; along with the fact that she gets to be chubby on the cover of the book. Her fatness is never erased or berated. Its themes of — growing up, learning about your own self, finding strength in your friends and family, and finding the strength to face obstacles head on — resonated deeply with me and made the book really special. Along with that, I found the humble beginnings, progression and the conclusion of the romances to be really enjoyable; which was surprising since I usually have a hard time finding romances as something genuine in most books.
In conclusion, I found this book to be like a light breezy high school movie that asks hard questions and forces you to answer them. It has its perfection and its flaws, but I believe it was worthy of my time and added value to it. I would recommend this book if you’re looking for a short, romantic comedy like book which focuses on people of colour and their struggles, with small fancies of magic and stardust