It's snowing outside and I'm about to make myself some hot chocolate. So, it seemed like the perfect time to post this review.
Appetizer: This anthology features twelve festive short stories by some of the most popular authors in YA literature. The vast majority of the stories are realistic, but there is a touch or two of the fantastic (most notably in Holly Black's "Krampuslauf" and in Laini Taylor's "The Girl Who Woke the Dreamer"). There is a lot of inclusion in terms of the holidays/festivities covered (and quite a bit of cultural and LGBTQ representation...though, most of the writers representing those groups seem to be from white and middle class backgrounds--NOT ALL, but some). A few of the experiences included are choosing a Christmas tree, celebrating Chanukah, welcoming the New Year, participating in a Nativity play (or trying to), dressing up as Santa, living in a place named Christmas, etc. There's pretty much something for everyone among the stories--but most notably, there's romance.
This has been a fun book to go through during the holiday season. I enjoyed reading each story and then trying to match it to the pairs of characters on the cover.
Although enjoyable, I found myself wishing there was less romance and focus on protagonists having revelations about their lives. Call me cold-hearted (or, perhaps more appropriately, call me Scrooge), but several of the stories felt forced when they tried to wrap-up the ending with a festive kiss just as the protagonist has had an epiphany I'm particularly thinking of "What the Hell Have You Done, Sophie Roth?" which features a big-city freshman stuck on her small-town campus for a few days after the semester has ended. Another example occurs in "It's a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown" in which a young animator seeks out the help of an attractive Christmas tree salesperson with an amazing voice to add to her latest project.).
The emotional climax in Kiersten White's "Welcome to Christmas, CA" also felt forced, although that one was less focused on romance and more on a revelation about her family as the protagonist, who has always hated living in a place called Christmas, realizes she does have a sense of home. Eh, bah humbug. Stop forcing the feels and let me giggle over a character slipping on some ice or something.
I'd have to say, overall, my favorite story was "Midnights" by Rainbow Rowell. It explored the friendship (and maybe more!) relationship between Mags and Noel over multiple New Year's parties. The story featured the strong character development that Rowell is so gifted at giving her readers as well as a strong conclusion (where generally she struggles more).
P.S. Be jealous--my copy of this book is autographed by both Rainbow Rowell and David Levithan. Squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeal.
"It was cold out on the patio, under the deck. Frigid. Dark.
Dark because Mags was outside at midnight, and dark because she was in the shadows.
This was the last place anyone would look for her--anyone, and especially Noel. She'd miss all the excitement.
Thank God. Mags should have thought of this years ago." (p. 1)
"Marigold loved this Christmas tree lot. It was brighter --and maybe even warmer--than her mother's apartment for one thing." (p. 99)
"It's hard not to feel just a little bit fat when your boyfriend asks you to be Santa Claus.
But I'm Jewish," I protest. "It would be one thing if you were asking me to be Jesus--he, at least, was a member of my tribe, and looks good in a Speedo. Plus, Santa requires you to be jolly, whereas Jesus only requires you to be born.'" (p. 133)
"The whole mess started when I lit the church on fire." (p. 203)
'"Also terrible? 'Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.'"
"Santa as Big Brother. Just imagine his posters, staring at you from every wall. SANTA IS WATCHING."
"I love Christmas, but Santa is creepy."
"Thank you, yes! No one understands. If someone is watching me sleep, it had better be a hot vampire, otherwise I'm calling the cops." (p. 242)
Tasty Rating: !!!
In tangential news, one of my own New Year's resolutions is to dust off this blog and write more regularly. So, hopefully you'll be seeing more of me in the future.