A lot of you probably know this, but I am obsessed with Christmas. I put up my tree around Veteran’s Day, wear Christmas socks, have a playlist with nearly 500 holiday tunes on it, love ingesting the cookies, and generally get ridiculously into the spirit of things. I also like to read a Christmas-y YA book every year, so when I heard My True Love Gave to Me would be coming out this October, I knew that this had to be my choice.
When I met Stephanie Perkins at a big signing in November, I even told her that as someone who was obsessed with both YA literature.
Anyways, I’ve recently started working short stories into my rotation by reading them in between novels—otherwise I’m worried all the short stories will blur together. I was especially happy to use this technique here, because I wanted to make this book last.
Every single story in this book was incredibly polished and well edited. It’s clear that a lot of thoughtful conversations were had about how to make this book shine. It’s also a nice product—it has a cute cover and a little illustration where each story begins.
Often I’ll only review the short stories in a collection that stand out as being especially good or bad, but in this case I can’t resist the urge to discuss all of them. I’m also going to give a star rating because I feel like it.
“Midnights” by Rainbow Rowell—4 stars
I loved that Rowell wrote one of two New Year’s Eve story in this anthology, which focuses on a character named Mags and her feelings towards her good friend, Noel. Mags wants something more out of her relationship with Noel, but in New Year’s Eves gone by, quite the opposite of this has happened. I could immediately tell how Rowell planned on ending this one, but I didn’t mind a whole lot because it was pretty freaking cute. This is also one of the steamier stories in the anthology. Definitely a thumbs up.
“The Lady and the Fox” by Kelly Link—3 stars
Sadly, this one may have been my least favorite in the anthology. Link does a good job of setting up an enchanting, wintry setting. Otherwise, though, this one was clearly supposed to feature a ghost, and that kind of confused me, along with all of the other plot points. I also remember not caring much for the love interest. Props must be given for the great setting, but otherwise I just don’t get this one.
“Angels In the Snow” by Matt de la Pena—5 stars
Guys. GUYS. “Angels In the Snow” is perhaps my new favorite short story of all time and one that I will probably read every Christmas from now on. It’s about a boy named Shy cat sitting in his boss’s apartment who is interrupted by the girl from upstairs when her shower doesn’t work. First of all, de la Pena’s prose in this one is utterly gorgeous. Secondly, although his short story is only 32 pages, he does an exceptional job of building complex characters with real, believable problems in their lives. I cared about them immediately. Thirdly, taking chances is a big theme in this story and I love how de la Pena handled that. I also loved the way this story was plotted and paced. “Angels In the Snow” holds a special place in my heart.
“Polaris Is Where You’ll Find Me” by Jenny Han—4 stars
Our main character, Natty, is Santa’s daughter. Natty has a crush on an elf named Flynn, but hasn’t been able to forget a boy she met in Sweden a few Christmas Eves ago, when she got to ride along her in father’s sleigh. Out of this whole anthology, Han probably wins the award for most festive and enchanting setting—this one will make you crave some hot chocolate and a candy cane. It’s a well written story and actually my favorite thing I’ve read by her (I’ve only read her Summer series). Perhaps my favorite mix about this story is that it was simultaneously bittersweet and optimistic, and Han got that balance just right.
“It’s a Yuletide Miralce, Charlie Brown” by Stephanie Perkins—4 stars
What a charming and quirky story! Marigold makes “comedic animated short films” and she has the perfect voice in mind for her current project—that of the young man, North, who works at a nearby Christmas tree lot that sells trees from its farm. I loved how utterly serendipitous this story was—you’ll see what I mean when you read it. North also mentioned something in his personal life that I connected to on a deeply personal level. Definitely another sweet and rereadable romance from Perkins.
“Your Temporary Santa” by David Levithan—4 stars
What do you do when it’s the holiday season and you love your boyfriend a lot? You agree to act as Santa so your boyfriend’s little sister will still believe. Levithan definitely knows how to make me laugh, and I definitely got pretty emotional as I read it. The couple in this story was cute, but as the story wrapped up, I couldn’t help but wonder if another ending would have suited our main character better.
“Krampuslauf” by Holly Black—4 stars
Our second New Year’s Eve story of the anthology! Our main character wants to help her best friend out her cheating boyfriend, and winds up inviting both the boyfriend, his other girlfriend, and a mysterious creature called a Krampuslauf to a New Year’s Eve party. Black’s story was fun, and definitely on the more fantastical side, but it turned out to be a little bit predictable. Although I had a few minor issues with this one, I thought its ending was absolutely perfect.
“What the Hell Have You Done, Sophie Roth” by Gayle Forman—3 stars
After leaving NYC to go to college in the middle of nowhere, Sophie Roth finds herself asking over an over what the hell she’s done, until she meets Russell. For a reason that I can’t put my finger on, this one didn’t stick with me as much. It’s incredibly realistic in that Russell helps Sophie reconsider how she perceives her life at college. I also loved how much pie was involved in this story. I wish I could say what I didn’t love, but I can’t put my finger on it. It could just be the fact that, thematically, this story felt a lot like other stuff Forman has written.
“Beer Buckets and Baby Jesus” by Myra McEntire—3 stars
McEntire’s story is about Vaughn, a notorious prankster, who suddenly finds himself in a position to save the local church’s Christmas pageant. Also, he happens to have a crush on Gracie, the pastor’s daughter. The humor in this one didn’t especially work on me, probably because I’m not from the south and the pranky humor didn’t do anything for me. The romance in this story was cute, and I liked what Graice had to say about her father’s profession. Ultimately, though, Vaughn’s character arc just wasn’t believable for me.
“Welcome to Christmas, CA” by Kiersten White—5 stars
This one was another new favorite for me! White’s story is about Maria, who feels trapped in her tiny town working at a small diner with her mother. When a new chef shows up, things start to change. I had a hard time seeing how anyone could manage not to adore Ben, the love interest. I loved his positive outlook on life and how into Christmas he was. I also liked how family played a huge role in this story and how Maria’s relationship with them changed. Definitely a heartwarming, five star read.
“Star of Bethlehem” by Ally Carter—4.5 stars
At the very beginning of this story, two girls named Liddy and Hulde exchange plane tickets, and Liddy suddenly finds herself in Oklahoma, pretending to be girlfriend to a boy named Ethan. Carter did a fantastic job of writing the setting as a character and making the place in this story extremely vivid. There is so much human emotion here, especially when you learn what the backstories of Liddy and Ethan’s family. I docked half a star for some serious believability issues, but I couldn’t bring myself to dock anymore than that because there was some seriously gorgeous writing here.
“The Girl Who Woke the Dreamer by Laini Taylor—3 stars
Taylor’s story was lovely and magical, but another one that I didn’t entirely get. All I can tell you is that up until Christmas Eve, men leave fits for the women they want to marry. Neve has a suitor, but somehow in the process she manages to wake up a dreamer. I felt as though Taylor built a massive world and unsuccessfully smashed it into a short story. It was a nice whimsical end to the anthology, but I just didn’t get this one. I suspect my feelings may change after a reread.