Saturday, 31 January 2015

BOOK REVIEW: MY TRUE LOVE GAVE TO ME BY AWESOME AUTHORS GALORE

A collection of joyful festive stories that will keep you warm during the cold winter months
On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me . . .
This beautiful collection features twelve gorgeously romantic stories set during the festive period, by some of the most talented and exciting YA authors writing today. The stories are filled with the magic of first love and the magic of the holidays.



A collection of short stories is, by its very definition, a versatile sort of thing. A collection of short stories by a myriad of authors is even more so. If you go into it armed with the certainty that some stories will warm your heart and others will leave you unmoved, you're likely to be just fine.

And this was pretty much what I did. In the end, I found it worked out better than I hoped. (Expectation management. There's something to be said for it.)


Having said that, I enjoyed My True Love Gave To Me quite a lot. In fact, I may have set the bar too low. It's one thing prattling on about managing expectations and quite another mastering the craft. What I took away from this collection more than anything else is the beauty of diversity. I'm not necessarily talking about racial diversity (which was pretty well covered) or diversity in the sexual-orientation sense (which could have used some work). The kind of diversity My True Love Gave To Me left me with is the standpoint kind. It is so easy to see how differently this group of authors sees the world just from the way they structure their stories. This, of course, is something that can be easily deduced from their actual books, too. But lined up one after another, juxtaposed in just such a way, it's effortless to spot each of their individual styles and each of their different takes on life, romance, family, Christmas, and the holidays. And these constantly-shifting fluctuations, the up-and-down rhythm that the stories set, is why I would hesitate to dismiss any of the stories, regardless of whether or not they appealed to me personally. As a group, they work. And Stephanie Perkins should be awarded a special round of applause for arranging those stories in that dynamic order.

Midnights by Rainbow Rowell: 5/5 stars
What was perhaps the greatest achievement of Rainbow's story is how short it was, and how much it covered in so few pages. Spanning three years and the many ups and downs in the lives of the main characters, it never for a moment left me feeling like the story had been rushed. In a handful of pages, we get distinct, developed characters. We get to see a group dynamic shift as people drift apart and come together again. And we get to revel in the cuteness of it all. And for that, Rainbow gets 5/5 stars.

The Lady and the Fox by Kelly Link: 3/5 stars
Kelly Link took a novel, seldom-explored idea and ran with it. Much like Rainbow Rowell's story beforehand, it spans not one Christmas, but many. We get to follow the protagonist from a young age way into her teenage years. And while most people complained about the actual storyline, I found it to be quite unique and therefore interesting. My main problem was the occasional segue into unimportant details and long reminiscences on irrelevant topics (which might be forgiven in a book, but is problematic in a short story). And all of this was delivered in exceedingly long, run-on sentences which had me losing focus throughout and having to go back and re-read whole passages at a time.

Angels in the Snow by Matt de la Peña: 4.5/5 stars
The way this story started, I did not much expect to find it enjoyable. And yet. Matt de la Peña (whose work I've never encountered before) did a miraculous job of writing a cozy, secluded, snowed-in atmosphere on and around Christmas. As two people find themselves alone - both physically and with their thoughts - they discover what solitude means to each of them, and what lengths they'd go to in order to avoid it. I genuinely enjoyed the character development, and I loved how cozy this story was, even with a complete lack of Christmas trees, caroling and eggnog.

Polaris Is Where You'll Find Me by Jenny Han: 2/5 stars
Normally, I enjoy Jenny Han's work. This is therefore an anomaly for me. Perhaps it's just that the protagonist bore too striking of a resemblance to Han's other protagonist (Lara Jean Song from To All The Boys I've Loved Before), or perhaps it's that there didn't seem to be any semblance of a plot as I saw it. The story seemed to only really start at the ending, and it therefore left me wanting.

It's a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown by Stephanie Perkins: 5/5 stars
As the curator of this entire collection and the author of lovely independent books, Stephanie Perkins had a lot to live up to (but also a lot of leeway in case her story didn't live up to the expectations). Spoiler alert: she didn't need the leeway. Every bit as sweet as Stephanie's 300+ page work beforehand, this story was everything anyone could have expected, and more than most of us dared to hope for. Much like Rainbow Rowell's story, it delivered solid, well-developed characters and an arc which came full circle by the time the story was done. I only wish this would someday be turned into a book rather than a short story.

Your Temporary Santa by David Levithan: 2/5 stars
As with Jenny Han's story before, I didn't feel like this one had a strong enough plot to carry it. Perhaps it was the case of setting the bar too high, given David Levithan's prowess when it comes to collaborating on projects and co-authoring books. (He's a champ.) This time, however, I found myself not really invested in the characters or the overall story, and forgetting it the moment it was over. (I'm sorry, David, I'll do better, I promise!)

Krampuslauf by Holly Black: 5/5 stars
At long last comes an author who turns the entire collection on its head by introducing not only paranormal elements, but also anti-heroes, questionable motives and a completely different holiday - one based not on goodness and virtue, but on mischief and debauchery. It is quintessential Holly Black, and I couldn't help but love it. Holly Black is an unprecedented master of morally ambiguous plots and of strange speech patterns for otherworldly characters - all of which shone in this story and made it something entirely different than anything that came before it.

What the Hell Have You Done, Sophie Roth? by Gayle Forman: 4/5 stars
If Gayle Forman should be applauded for anything, it's her transformative skills. She never delivers the same story twice. And in the spirit of her chameleonism, What The Hell Have You Done, Sophie Roth was quite unlike Gayle's other work I've encountered in the past. In a handful of pages, it covers everything from class differences to racial issues and to attempting to discover oneself in college. And it does this all while maintaining a cute and lighthearted manner. Happy Hanukah, Gayle Foreman. This was a great one. (Having said that - apple pie with cheese? No.)

Beer Buckets and Baby Jesus by Myra McEntire: 3.5/5 stars
Myra McEntire delivers a sweet, heartfelt story of second chances and discovering oneself - all while doing community service, partnered with a girl wearing a fake pregnant belly. It's not as weird as it sounds, I promise. And while I didn't feel a great connection to the characters, the message of faith in people it contained was one I could easily appreciate. And with a sad dearth of male protagonists, it stood out like a star of Bethlehem in the night. (That's what the Wise Men said!)

Welcome to Christmas, CA by Kiersten White: 4.5/5 stars
Officially the only story in the collection which reduced me to a sobbing mess - in the unlikeliest of parts, too: a distinctly happy one (and one which had to do with family, not romance). Kiersten White's story was both heartwarming and heartbreaking, all the more so once the ending came. It is the sort of story which resonated deeply with those of us who have found ourselves too eager to escape our lives, our towns or our very own skins - only to find they might not be such a bad fit after all. Excuse me while I head over to Amazon and buy Kiersten White's other books. I've been missing out.

Star of Bethlehem by Ally Carter: 3.5/5 stars
What a fun premise this was. From the first scene to the last, Ally Carter's story was a good time in a short small package. Having said that, as with some stories before, the character development wasn't my favorite in this collection. And I might have even preferred the overall story arc without the romance as a subplot, because this was the part in particular which fell somewhat flat for me. But all in all, Ally's story was endearing and uplifting, and can we just take a moment to appreciate how apt a title that is?

The Girl Who Woke the Dreamer by Laini Taylor: 5/5 stars

Laini's work has one distinct quality which never fails to deliver - it is so glaringly, so wholly unique that it never quite seems to fit in (a good thing if ever there was one, in this world of sameness). The Girl Who Woke The Dreamer is every bit a Laini Taylor masterpiece as any of her other work is, with its distinct trademarks, the foremost of which is that it is a story some will love, and the story some will never understand. As Laini's sworn fan, I maintain that these are the only two options. One does not dislike a Laini Taylor story - one merely fails to see its brilliance. More of a fairytale than a short contemporary story, Laini's set-up is one of lost worlds, corrupted ideals and hope - always hope - for a time where dreams become a reality. It was the crowning jewel of this collection and the most perfect of the endings.




Excuse me while I go rehydrate. This was the longest review I've ever written. Meanwhile leave us a comment and tell us how you enjoyed My True Love Gave To Me (or if you're yet to read it), or find us on social media for some quality fangirling.

No comments:

Post a Comment