Thursday, December 25, 2014

Review - My True Love Gave to Me

My True Love Gave To Me: Twelve Holiday Stories
edited by Stephanie Perkins
Date: 2014
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Reading level: YA
Book type: short stories
Pages: 336
Format: e-book
Source: library

If you love holiday stories, holiday movies, made-for-TV-holiday specials, holiday episodes of your favorite sitcoms and, especially, if you love holiday anthologies, you’re going to fall in love with My True Love Gave To Me: Twelve Holiday Stories by twelve bestselling young adult writers, edited by international bestselling author Stephanie Perkins. Whether you celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah, Winter Solstice or Kwanzaa, there’s something here for everyone. So curl up by the fireplace and get cozy. You have twelve reasons to stay indoors and fall in love.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I reserved this book at the library and (of course) it became available when I already had two other books on the go.  Since this one is season-specific, I figured I'd better concentrate on getting through it.

I was only familiar with a few of the authors going into it, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to sample the writing of some YA authors that I'd only heard of.

Here are my thoughts on the individual stories:

"Midnights" by Rainbow Rowell - This was my first exposure to Rainbow Rowell's writing, so I wasn't sure what to expect.  For the most part, I was pleasantly surprised.  The characters weren't annoying or pretentious, though they were a bit quirky in their own way.  They felt pretty real, actually.  This was a cute little story about a number of New Year's Eves over the course of a few years, and how two teenaged friends celebrated those midnight moments.

"The Lady and the Fox" by Kelly Link - This story appears to be a variation on "The Ballad of Tam Lin" (with shades of "The Snow Queen" thrown in for good measure).  Although I liked the story, I wasn't a fan of the writing style.  There were just a few too many sentence fragments and comma splices for my taste...

"Angels in the Snow" by Matt de la Peña - I know it's the character's voice, but geez... say "shit" a few more times, will ya?  Fifteen times in a short story is... well, a bit much.  And that's coming from someone who swears like a sailor.  Other than that, this is a cute story about a guy and a girl who are sort of trapped in an otherwise-vacant apartment building by a Christmas blizzard... but it didn't really wow me.

"Polaris Is Where You'll Find Me" by Jenny Han - I didn't really like this one.  It was written passably well, but it came off as really juvenile (it is about Santa Claus and elves, after all) and also seemed a little bit racist.  Replace human/elf with black/white and you'll see what I mean; it's basically implied that you stick to your own kind, no matter what mutual feelings you both might share.  And since Santa's adopted daughter was Korean and "fell for" a blond Swede, that message was even more confusing.  (I honestly don't know what the point of this story was.  The girl was in love with an elf.  She couldn't have him because he was an elf and she was a human.  They supposedly had feelings for each other, though, despite having next to zero chemistry on the page.  Then the human girl is pushed into having a relationship with the one and only human boy she's ever met, simply because they're both human.  Sorry... I don't get it.)

"It's a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown" by Stephanie Perkins - I wasn't that crazy about this story, which features a girl named Marigold and a boy named North, who basically spend a few hours together tidying Marigold's apartment to make room for a Christmas tree.  And then they abruptly decide they need to make out.  It was just a little too insta-lovey for me.  In a longer format where the characters could've gotten to know each other over a longer period of time, it might have worked.  But in a short story, the sudden transition from "let's chat over coffee" to "let me stick my tongue down your throat" within a few hours is almost enough to give the reader whiplash.

"Your Temporary Santa" by David Levithan - In this story, a boy dresses up as Santa Claus at the request of his boyfriend to bring a little magic to his six-year-old sister.  There were some intriguing things that were hinted at, and which could have made for an interesting novel.  My main issue with this story was that it was too short; it seemed like a chapter from a novel rather than a stand-alone short story.

"Krampuslauf" by Holly Black - I haven't been a fan of Holly Black's stories in the past.  They're often too gritty and edgy for my taste.  This story was no exception... though I did like the basic premise behind it, with a girl throwing a New Year's party where some magical creatures show up.  And that's why I was super frustrated with the weak writing and editing (which has been my major complaint with this author's writing in the past; see my review for The Poison Eaters).  Compared to the other stories in this book, this one comes off as unpolished and amateurish.

"What the Hell Have You Done, Sophie Roth?" by Gayle Forman - This is a story about a girl who gets into a car with a complete stranger, and then he kills her in a cornfield while she asks herself the titular question.  Just kidding.  No, this is a short story about two college kids eating pie and hash browns, with a completely obnoxious and unlikeable main character, insta-love, and a final section so sappy that you may actually gag a little.  If you're a Christian, you might be offended by all the Christmas-bashing.  Heck, I was kind of offended, and I'm not a Christian.  (This story also has some of the nastiest language in the book.  Sophie repeatedly refers to her college town as "Bumfuckville".)

"Beer Buckets and Baby Jesus" by Myra McEntire - I started out enjoying this one, about a troublemaker who ends up having to make amends for setting the church on fire by helping with the Christmas pageant... but things took a wrong turn when Vaughn and Gracie started spouting unrealistic dialogue at each other.  They sounded like a couple of psychologists... not teenagers.  By the end of it, it was just one big eye-roll.

"Welcome to Christmas, CA" by Kiersten White - I wasn't sure if I liked this story at first.  The main character, Maria, comes off as pretty prickly, and I didn't think I'd like being in her head.  But the story actually moves along quite well.  Aside from a bit of sappiness, a few stereotypes, and a couple of technical writing issues, this is actually a pretty good story.  Although, I did wish we'd found out more about Ben's past.

"Star of Bethlehem" by Ally Carter - This is a passably well-written story about a girl who trades plane tickets with a stranger at the airport and finds herself living in the middle of nowhere with a nice family (and a cute boy, of course).  While I did get pulled into the story itself, at the end I was a little bit underwhelmed when the girl's big secret was revealed; I'm not sure what I was expecting, but it wasn't that.  The whole premise wasn't very realistic.

"The Girl Who Woke the Dreamer" by Laini Taylor - Though this author's writing drives me to the dictionary every other page or so, I really can't get enough of it.  This was my favourite story in the whole book.  It's like a fairytale, complete with magic and love and a holiday setting.  Neve is sought by a man she could never love and, in her desperation, accidentally awakens a force that she didn't even know existed.  If you enjoyed the mythology aspects of Taylor's Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy, you'll probably like this story, too.

All in all, this was kind of a mixed bag for me, with the two best tales acting as bookends for some more mediocre holiday stories.  While most of the stories didn't really wow me, a few have made me curious about their authors (who were unfamiliar to me before).  It's fun to read holiday-themed stories during the holidays, but I'm not sure if I'd ever want to read any of these on a yearly basis -- with the possible exception of "Midnights" and "The Girl Who Woke the Dreamer".

Overall: 2.96 out of 5

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