There’s lots to love about a good fictional relationship: the flirting, the breakups, the makeups, the happy endings, the sad but inevitable partings. But nothing’s quite as addictive as the meet cute, that glorious and often goofy encounter between two characters that, unknown to them, heralds the start of a monumental connection. Done poorly, the meet cute can be clichéd or cringe-worthy—but done well, it can be a true delight. Here are nine of our favorite moments in which two hearts become one…or, at any rate, two meant-to-be characters first drenched each other with coffee or shared a seat on the Hogwarts Express.
Meet Cute: Some People Are Destined to Meet
In the rom-com sense, meet cutes always lead to happy endings: polar opposite characters frustrate each other into true love. The fourteen short stories that make up this anthology give you a more diverse—and more realistic—look at romance. Some end happily, while others take a more bittersweet turn. In Ibi Zoboi’s “Hourglass,” for example, the quest for a dress that truly fits turns up something very different, while in “Somewhere That’s Green,” Meredith Russo crafts a trans-girl-meets-girl situation that will rip your heart out. And then there’s Nicola Yoon, who imagines a chance encounter that sparks interest in the unlikeliest of places: “The Department of Dead Love.” Really, there’s something for everyone.
A Taxonomy of Love, by Rachael Allen
Spencer has struggled his whole life with Tourette’s syndrome and, subsequently, fitting in. When Hope moves in next door, something changes—something magical, even though that something isn’t always easy. The course of the novel traces Spencer and Hope, and their friendship and relationship, from the awkward days of thirteen all the way to nineteen. But it all starts, literally, with the girl next door, a classic setup that sparks an emotional ride.
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Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, by J.K. Rowling
“You’ve got dirt on your nose, by the way. Did you know?” It’s not a line that’s guaranteed to sweep any potential match off their feet. But, you know, Hermione Granger is the brightest witch of her age and she makes it work for her first meeting with future husband Ron Weasley, who is, well, not overly smooth. This particular meeting is made all the cuter by the sheer number of other first romantic encounters that have occurred on the Hogwarts Express, the Love Boat of the wizarding world.
Cinder, by Marissa Meyer
There’s a certain zaniness to a truly great meet cute, and a cyborg girl meeting the handsome prince while her robo-foot is sitting there, detached, certainly qualifies. The standard girl-meets-prince arrangement gets a good tweak here, too, with Prince Kai crawling to Cinder for help because of her known gifts as a mechanic.
Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell
That Cath has written a version of a meet cute in her Simon Snow fan fiction makes her own accidental introduction to Levi all the sweeter. It’s also interconnected with the first time Cath meets her roommate and bestie-to-be Reagan, so the whole scene is a double-whammy of awkward and endearing new beginnings.
Eliza and Her Monsters, by Francesca Zappia
Eliza has created a hugely popular online comic. Wallace is its biggest fan. Online, with the relative anonymity her alias provides, Eliza flirts with Wallace in all the awkward, emoji-laden ways. But when he transfers to her school, he’s unaware Eliza is the brain behind Monstrous Sea, so they have the opportunity and the challenge of meeting all over again. Bonus meet cute points for secrets.
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Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
All Aristotle Mendoza and Dante Quintana seem to share when they first meet at a swimming pool are their very unusual, classically trained names. Ari is at a real low point, upset and consumed by the secret shames his family refuses to talk about. He’s hardened and scrappy, while Dante is smooth and cool and confident. But that’s just the beginning of a very eventful and poignant summer, one of those ones where everyone’s crying.
The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green
Four words: children’s cancer support group. From the moment Hazel and Augustus meet in that particular setting, it’s clear the ending to this beginning will be difficult and painful. It is, but all the days and weeks in between are some of the purest and fully lived of any two characters in YA or any other genre.
When Dimple Met Rishi, by Sandhya Menon
By definition, arranged marriage is on the other end of the spectrum from love marriage, but try telling that to Dimple and Rishi’s parents. Dimple thinks she has dodged her parents’ attempt to find her an I.I.H. (“Ideal Indian Husband”) when they agree to send her to a summer coding bootcamp. Rishi, though, knows what he’s been signed up for and is delighted to woo his future bride. Their outlooks are opposite in almost every way, and they butt heads, to be sure: starting with Dimple dousing Rishi with a huge cup of Starbucks when he comes on too strong at first sight. But there are plenty of swoons coming, with or without their parents’ intercession.