Love on Cue

Love on CueI’ve been looking for age appropriate romantic stories for my 11 year old. Simon Pulse has put out an entire line of them, and Love on Cue is the first one I checked out. I suppose it’s harmless enough, but I was really hoping for a better story and a main character I really cared about. I’m going to let my daughter try it anyway—maybe I’m being a motherly curmudgeon.*

This is the story of Maggie, her best friend Calla, Calla’s boyfriend Duane, the punk rocker Nico, and the heartthrob Derek. Maggie gets the lead in the high school play, but it turns out it’s a musical! And Maggie doesn’t sing! Oh no! And the male lead is Derek who she’s totally in love with! Nico to the rescue. But it turns out Nico is into Maggie. What will she do? Who will she choose?!?

SPOILER ALERT: Things you might want to know before suggesting this to your kid


The kissing is heavier than what you’ll see in a Disney movie. It’s quite tame, but I wonder if it will embarrass my daughter. She still thinks heavy kissing looks funny. I’m fine with that.

Body Image

Calla is fat. That’s how she describes herself, mostly turning it into a joke. She has a boyfriend and a ton of self-confidence, both of which put her well ahead of slender and talented Maggie in many ways. However, it’s made very clear that she’s destined for character roles because fat girls never get the lead. And she convinces herself that the guy playing opposite her is grossed out by her. This leads to a crisis of confidence that’s mostly handled neatly and off screen because Maggie is too obsessed with her own neurosis. Calla often eats junk food while talking about how she ought to go on a diet. While all of this may be realistic, it’s only background noise, which bothered me. If she’s going to have issues with body image and food, then the book should actually deal with them. I suppose we’re supposed to have a better opinion of Maggie because she’s best friends with a fat girl even though she’s so slender and talented. The whole situation annoyed me.


Maggie is incredibly whiny and self-centered. Even when she realizes her friends are in crisis, she keeps forgetting because Derek is just so cute! And she doesn’t know how to talk to him when she’s not in character! She’s a pretty awful example of how to be a friend.

Driving Safety

Calla has her driver’s license, and several times Maggie gets a ride with her. The problem is that Calla is such a terrible driver that it scares Maggie (she’s described as driving like a “drunken monkey”). She drives too fast, cuts corners too sharp, etc. It’s played off like a joke, but it’s made clear that Maggie never once speaks up about her concerns with Calla’s driving. She just keeps getting into the car and hoping she survives. I certainly hope my own kids will have more backbone than that, or it really might get them killed.

Mental Illness

I really don’t mean to sound flippant about this, but I think Maggie has diagnosable anxiety disorder and perhaps narcissism. She can’t say more than three words to Derek in social situations because she gets so nervous. She can only converse with him when she’s in character. The steps she goes through to learn to sing are ridiculous. She has a good voice—the only reason she can’t sing is because it scares her. Eventually she learns to sing with her eyes closed, but the second she opens her eyes her voice cuts out. She can’t dance with her eyes closed, so she ends up tripping all over the stage in a scene that feels like it came out of Disney Channel tween sitcom. This situation continues with so much anxiety that she’s blind—figuratively and literally—to the world around her. What she really needs is a good counselor. If you have that much trouble dealing with life, there are trained professionals out there to help you. And they usually aren’t the cute punk rocker.


Maggie’s parents just don’t exist. They’re barely mentioned in passing, and they certainly never actually show up. I get that parents are a killjoy in a teen’s fantasy world, but this girl really needed her mom to sit down with her, share some hot chocolate, and remind her that someone in this world loves her no matter what. The never-mentioned-parents left a gaping hole in the story.


We’ve got the brassy fat girl, the flaky drama teacher, the brooding punk rocker, the lanky class clown, and the golden boy heartthrob athlete. One stereotype the story avoided was making the outward golden boy turn out to be a real jerk. I was grateful for this, because if Maggie had chosen Nico because Derek broke her heart, that would have undermined the only real and meaningful growth she exhibits. She and Derek do end up dating, and it’s going quite well. She has everything she thought she wanted. Then she realizes that it’s actually Nico she loves, the one who stood by her and helped her through all of this. Her choice means something because she gives up one good thing in exchange for another—he doesn’t rescue her or serve as her consolation prize after her dreams are shattered.


I didn’t really notice anything, but my 11 year old was bothered by the words “bastard” and “sexy” because they’re words she wouldn’t say in school. She reminds me that there’s a “damn,” too.


This book is appropriate for ages 12 and up, as long as you aren’t looking for a book that sets any kind of example of how to handle…well, anything. I hope others in the Romantic Comedies line are better, because I like the idea of smartly written romantic fluff for the tween set.

*Daughter update:

My daughter read it—she kind of enjoyed it, but thought Maggie was whiny, Calla was annoying, and Derek just wasn’t all that great. She liked Duane and Nico, though. I was glad she was bothered by the fact that Calla drives horribly—she wondered how Calla got her license to begin with and why Maggie never said anything to her. That’s my girl!


Love on Cue by Catherine Hapka
Published in 2009 by Simon Pulse
Part of the Romantic Comedies line
Borrowed from BooksFree

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