“Meet You In The Middle” Divides Readers
Is Meet You In The Middle A Divisive Rom-Com?
Wow. Stay away from reviews on this book before you read it. Trust me on this. What I thought was a cute opposites attract romance is widely perceived as pro-Trump propaganda for white women.
Cards on the table, let me just say I lean toward Democrat. Though my spiritual beliefs tend toward conservative, I’m passionate enough about health care as a human right, women’s issues, and gun control to pinhole my allegiances to the leftist end of the political spectrum. I’m a God-fearing tree hugger.
Still. I one hundred percent maintain that people need to calm the heck down and strive for understanding other perspectives. You don’t have to believe what your political counterpart believes. You also don’t have to hands-on-hips ears-plugged refuse to listen.
I miss the days when news was balanced. When elected lawmakers took it as a given they would work together to create laws rather than against each other. Before CNN and Fox News —the era of responsibly reported news. I miss my high school Debate Club where we argued smoking should be banned one week. Then championed freedom to smoke the next. I miss my dad, who taught me to see both sides of any issue.
On The Propaganda Side of the Aisle
My jaw fell open when, after joyfully reading Devon Daniels’ “Meet Me In The Middle,” I discovered a horrific amount of antagonism on Goodreads over this book. The first page of reviews revealed surprisingly strong negative reactions:
“This is just thinly veiled Trump reelection propaganda designed to make the 53% of white women who voted for him in 2016 feel okay about doing it again.” (One star.)
“Awww, isn’t it sweet how he rolls his sleeves up to his forearms while forcing Americans to go out and vote during a pandemic?” (Instead of a star rating, this commenter filed the book under “no thank you.”)
“I used to think that you could be fiscally conservative and socially liberal. That was how I based my political decisions when I was newly of voting age. It seems clear to me, however, that most “conservatives” are not actually fiscally conservative. They equate conservative values with morality, and it’s a very specific type of morality. It’s the same thinking that lends itself to sexism, slut-shaming, fatphobia, and the war against drugs. It’s a ‘we’re better than them’ mentality…Conservative women are going to eat up this book.” (2 stars.)
“Lolno. There IS no “meeting in the middle” when it comes to human rights.” (1 star.)
On The Escapist Rom-Com Side of the Aisle
Finally, I landed on a review that echoed my own reaction to this cute rom-com written using the haters-to-lovers trope where two people on opposite sides of the political fence manage to choose love and respectfully disagree on their opinions.
“Every once in awhile I come up for air from historical fiction, and for MEET YOU IN THE MIDDLE: I’m so glad I did! What a hilarious, thrilling, sexy read! Friends, this kind of story will take you back to the golden age of Rom-Com. Pure joy from start to finish.” (5 stars)
What Am I Missing By Enjoying This Book?
Perhaps I missed the propaganda message by failing to read the Author’s Note where many of the commenters claim they clued in to author Daniels’ insidious message. After seeing these reviews, I made a point to read Daniels’ sidebar at the end of her novel. I saw no side-taking in her Author’s Note. My eyes gravitated toward phrases like “as politically neutral as possible,” “bipartisan relationships,” “focus on what unites us instead of divides us.” Am I blind to secret propaganda messaging?
I loved the premise. Liberal Kate and conservative Ben are Senate staffers. They have their reasons for believing what they believe. Kate swears she would never date a Republican. They each make an effort to expose each other to partisan groups on both sides, to comical extremes. When Ben and Kate realize they are helplessly attracted to each other, Kate wants to keep their relationship secret.
It’s touch and go whether they’ll work out how to act on the crazy heat developing between them. But, it’s a rom-com, so of course they manage to choose love over differences in the end. Let me repeat, it’s a ROM-COM. Not an opinion piece. Not memoire. Not propaganda masquerading as quality literature (as far as I know).
I guess in today’s climate of political extremes (Republicans vs. Democrats, Hoax vs. Fact, Science vs. Freedom…), I enjoyed the suspension of disbelief that two sides on any issue might actually appreciate each other’s point of view. Might even fall in love.
Am I a monster for choosing an uplifting rom-com that made me nostalgic for bipartisan affection? Maybe. You know where to find me if you want to voice your objections. I promise I’ll listen.