Published by: St. Martin's Press
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.
I never know quite how to review anthologies, but first I’ll start with short story summaries (warning: I’m not particularly good at writing summaries; as you may have noticed, I’m quite verbose). I’ll put those under a spoiler tag and afterward you’ll find some general observations on the anthology. Ask me more questions in the comments. Sounds good?
"Midnights" by Rainbow Rowell – Two friends spend New Year’s Eve together at the same party for four years. How will the time affect them and their relationship?
"The Lady and the Fox" by Kelly Link – A stranger stands outside the Honeywell holiday gathering, watching under mysterious circumstances which our heroine, Miranda, is determined to discover. Over the years, Miranda discovers herself too.
"Angels in the Snow" by Matt De La Peña – While cat-sitting for his manager, a starving NYU student meets a neighbor whose apartment has plumbing problems. Will Christmas be as miserable as Shy predicts?
"Polaris is Where You’ll Find Me" by Jenny Han – A human is adopted by Santa Claus but remains an outsider among his elves. Does this year’s Snow Ball hold the promise of true love?
"It’s a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown" by Stephanie Perkins – A girl needs help with a side project from the boy who sells Christmas trees with his family. Will their time together spark into something more?
"Your Temporary Santa" by David Levithan – A boy is asked to dress up as Santa Claus and save the magic of Christmas for his partner’s little sister.
"Krampuslauf" by Holly Black – Fairmont’s second annual Krampuslauf in which Wren and our main character try to get justice for their friend by confronting her jerkwad boyfriend leads to our MC being forced to host a New Year’s party. Will all be revealed then and will our heroine get to talk to the hot Krampus boy?
"What the Hell Have You Done, Sophie Roth?" by Gayle Forman – Sophie Roth is a sarcastic big city smart mouth at her small town college who feels like she does not belong until she meets a fellow outsider and begins to question her assumptions about her surroundings.
"Beer Buckets and Baby Jesus" by Myra McEntire – After nearly setting the local church on fire, Vaughn is forced to do forty hours of community service, including putting on the Christmas production along with the pastor’s nice daughter. Chaos ensues – will Vaughn truly help if given the proper motivation?
"Welcome to Christmas, CA" by Kiersten White – Maria saves all her tip-money so that she can escape her small town. The new cook in her mother’s Christmas-themed restaurant will challenge Maria’s perception of her family and Christmas (town and holiday).
"Star of Bethlehem" by Ally Carter – A girl switches airplane tickets with an Icelandic stranger and is then forced to pretend that she’s an exchange student in small town Bethlehem, Oklahoma. Can she escape her past for long?
"The Girl Who Woke the Dreamer" by Laini Taylor – On the Isle of Feathers, girls have limited choices when they reach the Age, so many choose marriage as defined by a prolonged twenty five days during Advent in which they receive gifts from their suitors. Neve’s courtship might hold a few surprises.
(/END SPOILER ALERT)
About the Anthology:
- Favorites - As with all anthologies, I have favorites. Rainbow Rowell, Matt De La Peña, Stephanie Perkins, and Laini Taylor killed it. Rainbow Rowell’s story reminded me a tad of Cath and Levi from Fangirl, but in a good way. Quirky characters, great humor. Her story read quickly and still held important relatable issues like how you deal with change in your friends. I’ve never read anything by Matt De La Peña, but his story had this perfect conversational style that really worked for me. Shy’s backstory has a lot of angst, and yet it never read as angst; it felt very real and grounded in realism in a way that made it possible to actually picture this character in New York. Stephanie Perkins – I love all her romances. It surprised me how hard I fell for these new characters of hers given how short a time span in which the story occurs, but alas so is her magic. Laini Taylor also has fantastic prose to complement her fantastical stories. I want more of the world on the Isle of Feathers. Beautiful and filled with magic, real and written. Note: though I’ve talked only of four authors, that doesn’t mean I disliked the other stories, just that these stood out most to me as a reader. I know that I’ll check out things by authors whose work I hadn’t read before, like something from Matt De La Peña.
- Diversity - It seems like these authors and Ms. Perkins were paying attention to the #WeNeedDiverseBooks call to action. Though I deliberately left out telling descriptions (so that no assumptions are made), this anthology does a pretty good job of including diversity in class, race, religion, and sexuality and exploring various issues related therein. Some stories go so far as to address racial and religious stereotyping outright, which is a nice change in pace from other anthologies that I’ve read.
- Similar Themes, but Unique Premises - Well, duh. But here’s the thing: coming into this anthology, I thought that all twelve stories would be contemporary romance around the holidays. I don’t know if that was just me, but I thought it might be worth mentioning. There are actually a few that don’t quite fit that CR description in that they include magical realism elements, but all of them do include a holiday of some sort, whether fantastical or real… Most of the stories are also tied together by similar themes of finding your home, reconciling with or trying to understand more of their broken or non-traditional families. I was particularly impressed with the level of character development that these authors managed in such a small space… Of course there’s also romantic love, but hey. You might also expect an anthology of holiday romances to be too cheesy/corny/etc., but though some of the stories had elements like that, none seemed to go overboard.