Thursday, December 17, 2015

lis Let It Snow: Three Holiday Romances by Maureen Johnson, John Green and Lauren Myracle | Rating: ★★★★☆

I always had this idea that you should never give up a happy middle in the hopes of a happy ending, because there is no such thing as a happy ending. Do you know what I mean? There is so much to lose.

Some of the best, and definitely the funnest, young adult authors back in 2008 (who are, still, amongst their best) were brought together with Let It Snow, a holiday anthology filled with three short stories from each. They’re romantic, they’re sweet and they’re definitely out of a cute little holiday film. Or, well, should be–that’s how pleasant they are to read!

Maureen Jonson, John Green and Lauren Myracle each tied up a personal tone, a voice for three separate narrators, wove it all together and created a story that was sure to delight fans. It’s impossible not to smile at any of the stories within and the romance that follows.

Years later, I still find myself completely enamored with this snow storm and these characters. Rereading it feels like a nod to seasons greetings and old friends. In other words… it’s warm and fuzzy.

‘Tis the season to be… Jubilee?


In Maureen Johnson’s “The Jubilee Express” we are met with the character, Jubilee (who often goes by Julie or Lee if you are her boyfriend), and who is also named after a cute little XMAS decoration. This particular decoration brand plays a massive part in the fact that her parents, let’s wait for it, are in jail.

That’s right. Just a blink before Christmas, her parents wind up in jail due to an out of hand confrontation (they weren’t directly in) as they tried to get the latest, limited edition, piece to add to their collection.

It’s quite amusing, inconvenient and embarrassing for Jubilee to receive this news and to later discover they are being titled as being part of The Flobie Five. In all its nuisance the biggest is that Jubilee is being sent off, for the holidays, to her grandparents and has to miss her boyfriend’s smorgasbord. Which completely sucks and is the trigger for a chain of events that include her train getting stuck in a massive snow storm and one fateful trip to Waffle House.

During these events, we get a glimpse of a lot. Snow, for one, but do I really need to tell you that? Gracetown, the town covered in the blizzard. And then some characters that will come into play when the story finds itself woven together once more.

I think my favorite thing about Jubilee is her humor and her mind. She reminds me a lot of myself circa 2009 and it’s just a pleasant thing to see. I found her situation to be hilarious if not frustrating and could see her cringing at the situation her parents got into as well as her need to talk to someone. Jubilee’s holiday break just got messy and has the ability to shake up everything.

Especially when she realizes she needs a boyfriend who won’t hang up on her if he is busy. Won’t promise to “call back soon” and instead will listen. Her love story comes at a different price altogether that was brought on by a chance meeting at Waffle House.

Hint: it involves a cute boy, plastic bags, Target uniforms and an unexpected stay with his family. Also, freezing water but you’ll get to that.

Okay, okay, I can’t tell you guys everything without spoiling but it is one of the cutest holiday romances in the genre. I mean that and not just because I like the quirky name or just adore Maureen Johnson’s writing, I mainly love it so much because it made me feel alive.

Next up, John Green and his holiday romance, “A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle”–I don’t need to say it. John Green is a force to be reckoned with in young adult contemporary works and has made a name for himself in recent years. In true John fashion, his characters are witty and charming in the ways that pretentious teens can only be. As always he brings a voice to young readers that feels much like their own.

Which leads to the debate brewing around the book community. It all boils down to taste. You love him or you hate him… there’s really no in between for many. Personally, I love him. I think the air he breathes into his characters is realistic and there’s no going around that.

A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle, although short, offers us a taste of his writing and the quick pace that follows. John Green at his best, ladies and gentlemen. I always had thought that “Looking For Alaska” was my first John Green read but as it turns out, because of my love of Maureen and Lauren, Let It Snow was actually my first experience in his words. And it was the perfect first look.

I have a big soft spot for The Jubilee Express, but this second short story is just as fun and fluffy and holds perfectly to the tone that Maureen set.

I like seeing John’s take on Gracetown and through a pair of new eyes. I loved The Duke, especially, and the romance that follows between herself and our leading man. John has a way with making us feel like we’ve fallen in love for the first time once more and that’s what makes his writing fun. And for those of you wondering, yes: the dialogue is excellent and yes the friendship dynamics are on point.

My favorite part of this one? Besides the romance of it all? And besides the great lines that come from the characters about cheerleaders, twister and hash browns? Okay, fine so there are A LOT of epic and hilarious moments throughout this one that is reminiscent of youth in general, but here’s my favorite part…

The scenes where Tobin, Duke and JP were on their way to the Waffle House in the snow. All the conversations, detours and struggles in between. It was dangerous but so, so hilarious and so typical teenager. I thought that their race to the Waffle House was one of the funniest things I’ve ever read and I hope you love it to. DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME KIDS! Seriously, though, don’t go out and drive in weather like that.

Lauren Myracle’s “The Patron Saint of Pigs” is last but certainly not least. Aside from my love of Maureen Johnson, Lauren’s story was the reason I bought Let It Snow to begin with. Although it has the most unlikable narrator of the three, it’s still sweet and quirky and an easy read like everything Lauren has released in the past. Who can resist self centered girls and their desire to do good, teacup pigs and friendships?

I know I can’t. Let’s rewind a bit back to Lauren, though:

Her series The Internet Girls (ttyl, ttfn and l8r, g8r) and standalone novel Rhymes With Witches were amongst my favorites in middle and high school so it’s no shock that I would have stumbled over myself to read anything by her. Fun fact: my friend (hi, Ashley!) and I were so inspired to write an IM based novel like The Internet Girls that we simply started logging our own IMs and day to day life and later embellished and edited them a little in hopes to publish it.

Of course that didn’t work out (long story involving high school dramas and the downfall of one ancient computer!) and well, let’s get me back on track.

Our narrator, Addie is going through some serious crisis! It’s all of her making even if she can’t completely see it at the start; whether that being kissing a stupid boy at a part who definitely wasn’t her lovely boyfriend, the fact that she dyed her hair pink (at a Fantastic Sam’s, no less!) and because of her inability to focus on anything else, she comes across as self centered and unlikable.

She is kind of self centered. But it’s real.

And it will definitely irk a lot of readers and they may no warm up to her until the story finishes.

Which is a shame because Addie is quite intelligent and funny in all her flaws. I like her sense of self; how dramatic she is and how much she wants life to play out like a movie. It’s her biggest flaw and it bleeds into her relationship with Jeb and ultimately could put the final nail in the coffin.

Jeb is opposite of her in some ways. He’s mushy, don’t get me wrong, but he’s not mushy-mushy and the way she thinks love should be. Which kind of makes no sense because she does love him a whole hell of a lot. I like Jeb quite a lot, even though we don’t see him much ‘till the end: he reminds me of myself in the fact that he is shy in the way that makes it difficult to express the fact that he loves somebody.

It’s only realistic that their relationship went down the path that it did but you can’t help but want there to be changes on both end. Not losing themselves, per say, but absolutely being in a place where both of them make little changes to better themselves and make the other happy. I’m glad we got to see Addie reach her senses and when she and Jeb reunite, it doesn’t disappoint.

Oh, crap. I promised I wasn’t going to get rambly in my review when it came down to Myracle’s work. But I can’t help it. I love her characters, always, and think there’s something so real in the way she carries them and sprinkles their thoughts with humor. Addie is no different.

My favorite part? Addie and her friends. Tegan, Dorrie and Addie are all sweet and I loved their scenes.

I love Tegan and how gentle she is and how much the girls went to bat to help her get the teacup pig she has been wanting. Not many books have characters who are obsessed with pigs but Tegan is, in the least obnoxious way and it’s just very sweet. I was so excited for her and then so anxious when Addie got to the pet store for the little guy only to find someone else had bought him already.

(Don’t worry, it has a happy ending and Tegan gets her pig after a series of odd occurrences!)

And then there was Dorrie who told it like it was. I mean, T is totally good cop and D is bad cop in this situation. I can tell. But I love Dorrie and her honesty and how she wasn’t holding back when Addie was being self centered and kinda dumb. It’s what makes a friendship good: someone to call you out on your crap but not maliciously.

By the end of the story, things are wrapped up in a nice red bow and your holiday spirit is soaring. Happiness, romance and fun will reign as the final pages turn; bringing in characters from the previous two stories as well. I loved it.

Overall, I thought everything about Let It Snow was fun and real and honest and humorous. As always in their writing, it didn’t feel like you were reading a book. It felt like their were pieces of you or your friends in it, regardless of your age, and in a short span of time you grew to love these characters so completely.

That’s not a tear in my eye. That’s… snow… melting?

Okay, so, I have actually run out of things to say except that Let It Snow is one of the best holiday anthologies out there (if not the best) and well worth the hype.

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