My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories by Stephanie Perkins
My rating: 3 of 5 teacups
Like almost all short story collections by various authors, this one is a mixed bag of hidden gems and ones I didn’t even finish. If you’d asked me beforehand to name a list of YA authors that I’d like to appear in a short story collection, many of the ones here would have made that list: Stephanie Perkins, Laini Taylor, Holly Black, Gayle Forman, David Levithan and maybe Rainbow Rowell (I like but don’t love her books).
Then if you’d asked me what kind of short story collection I’d like to have from these favourites of mine, you would have got all kinds of weird and wonderful suggestions from me… but a collection of holiday-themed romances would never have occurred to me as something enjoyable. I’m not much of a romantic or a Christmas person, to be honest. I’m more of a Halloween type of girl – and all the genres that could possibly go with it. But I did get some really nice surprises here. I’m not sure it’s worth buying the entire collection but it would be sad for you to miss out on the better ones. And it is a pleasingly diverse set of stories, filled with people of all races, ethnicities, religions and sexualities *thumbs up*
Personally, I think this book starts and ends with the two best stories, from Rainbow Rowell and Laini Taylor respectively. Taylor’s work came as no surprise but I didn’t see Rowell’s tale coming. She really hit me where it hurts (in a good way). The story made me sit up and take notice in a collection that I wasn’t sure would be my thing. I’m not going to review every single story properly because some didn’t pique my interest and some I skim-read, but here’s what I thought.
“Midnights” by Rainbow Rowell – 5/5
This was my favourite story and it probably wasn’t a good idea for it to appear first because so many that followed received unfair comparisons with it. It tells the story of the midnight countdown on New Year’s Eve over several years, revisiting the same characters in a non-chronological order and slowly filling in the blanks on their personalities and relationship. It amazed me how much I fell in love with the two protagonists, how well-developed their characters were in so short an amount of time and pages.
“You’re a kaleidoscope. You change every time I look away.”
It was a funny, sweet, wonderful little story. With a hint of melancholy, as all the best New Year stories should be. There’s something really sad about the possibility of the new and moving on and becoming someone else, not being who you once were. Rowell captures that hint of fear people have about growing up and everyone they once knew changing around them.
“The Lady and the Fox” by Kelly Link – 2/5
This was one I didn’t read properly. It started well and had an intriguing premise but I grew bored.
“Angels in the Snow” by Matt De La Pena – 3/5
I really liked the idea of this one and my only real problem with it was that I didn’t like the female love interest. It was refreshing to see a YA romance told from a male perspective and I liked the subtle exploration of race and racial stereotyping that existed without overtaking the main story. It’s about a guy who is house-sitting for his boss over the Christmas period and is slowly starving in a house with no food (he is broke). An encounter with his pretty neighbor sparks an interesting and unlikely relationship that is built up through the telling of stories.
Indulging more and more tidbits about each others lives, the two grow closer. But how much of what they tell each other is the truth?
“Polaris is Where You’ll Find Me” by Jenny Han – 2/5
It must just be something about Jenny Han’s writing style that doesn’t agree with me because I’ve been unable to like any of her books. I started to skim read this story and I can’t actually remember what it’s about. Hence, no real review. Oh well…
“It’s a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown” by Stephanie Perkins – 4/5
I’m really not surprised that Perkins delivered. It was her name that I saw first on this collection and I added it immediately before checking out who else was included. Her stories are always so cute and sweet, but without too much of the cheesy. This one is no exception.
Unlike Rowell’s story – that deals with a relationship over the period of several years – Perkins tells us a love story that takes place over just a few hours. And it is surprisingly effective. She builds instantly likable characters and uses her gift for dialogue to convince you to root for the two protagonists even after such a short amount of time. It is one of the more feel-good, enjoyable stories in here, but it also deals with anxieties about the future and the expectations other people have of you.
“Your Temporary Santa” by David Levithan – no rating
I didn’t read far enough with this one because I felt no connection to the characters, which is why I’m not leaving a rating or review. I’m extremely pleased that an LGBT romance was included in the collection, I know some romance collection publishers in the past have been douches about it, but I wasn’t grabbed by the story. As much as I have enjoyed Levithan’s work in the past, most of his more recent stuff hasn’t really worked for me.
“Krampuslauf by Holly Black” – no rating
Sometimes I love Holly Black so much that I get pulled in and completely addicted to her stories. And sometimes her style does nothing for me. This time was the latter. Didn’t finish.
“What the Hell Have You Done, Sophie Roth?” by Gayle Forman – 3/5
This story is about a Jewish girl who moves to college in a small, very Christian place where she feels like a complete outsider. There she meets a black boy who is equally treated like an outsider and these two big city small town misfits find something important in each other. I liked it okay.
The characters were interesting enough that I read to the end and enjoyed reading about their relationship. However, I think the story was built up solely around addressing racial and religious stereotypes, which I agree is important, but here it overshadowed everything else that happened. Most of the dialogue was made up of the two protagonists discussing the way other people saw them in this new town. I understand the idea about outsiders coming together, but I got the impression that these two got together simply because she was Jewish and he was black. Plus, the ending got a little too cheesy for me.
“Beer Buckets and Baby Jesus” by Myra McEntire – no rating
I didn’t read this one. Someone tell me if it’s good and I’ll go try it 🙂
“Welcome to Christmas, CA” by Kiersten White – 3/5
White is not one of my favourite authors. I’ve tried a bunch of her books and never been able to get into them or understand the hype. So I didn’t have much hope for this one, but I tried it and it was better than expected. Unlike most of the authors in this collection, White goes with a quirky, funny style that was easy to digest and enjoyable. The characters weren’t as memorable as some of the others, but I did get a few laughs from it.
“Star of Bethlehem” by Ally Carter – no rating
I didn’t try reading this one either because it just didn’t appeal to me. Feel free to let me know if it’s good.
“The Girl Who Woke the Dreamer” by Laini Taylor – 5/5
*sigh* And finally… Laini Taylor is so reliably, consistently good in her storytelling and her beautiful, evocative language. In a collection full of contemporaries, she manages to take us into her own fantasy world and breathe some magic and wonderful prose into the holiday season.
All evening long, real snow would fall from the ceiling to glitter on the lashes of dancing girls and ardent boys, but Neve and the Dreamer didn’t linger. They had other things to do: all of them. All the things, dreamed and undreamed, in the depth and breadth of the whole spinning world.