Spinning back around to my original focus of the month–damn health got in the way, didn’t it?–Christmas. Or rather, holiday themed stories. It would seem that the most obvious pick of recent releases would be My True Love Gave to Me, a collection of some of the most delightful holiday stories told by the best of today’s young adult authors, but the truth was I didn’t actually finish it until…
FIVE MINUTES AGO? Okay hear me out, I have a good reason!
I bought myself a copy of the book last year and read the first three or four stories only to find that one of my best friends couldn’t afford to get himself something that year (he spent his money on family and friends and of course his bills and such) so I asked him, “Is there anything else you would want?”
(I, of course, already had a present for him and gave it to him earlier that week with strict orders not to open it until at least Christmas Eve. I played it off that I wasn’t about to buy him more so it wouldn’t make him feel bad. He probably didn’t buy it all that much but is a good sport… sometimes.)
The list was pretty short considering his varied taste but it did include this little guy (he is a massive fan of Gayle Forman and David Levithan) and given the bad news that there is only one book store in my area (and no way was I driving to Chicago a week before Christmas–imagine the traffic!), all leading up to there not being any copies left in stock, I decided to wrap up my copy with the rest from his list as opposed to giving up on completing his want list.
(His list included the conclusion to The Caster Chronicles, the first of the Splintered trilogy and that nifty boxed set of John Green’s work. He previously had TCC final book and John’s work but an ex boyfriend took it from their apartment before leaving because he was that kind of douche.)
Wrapping up the book wasn’t all that hard. In spite of it being on my most anticipated reads of the year, it was worth it to surprise a friend. I ended up purchasing a digital copy this spring and found that it hurt my eyes too much to focus on it and so I waited until Book Outlet had a copy to buy and here we are. That’s why I had a delay. That's why I'm only just finishing it.
I only just finished and couldn’t wait to dive into the review because it was one of the sweetest things I’ve ever read. When it was on, it was on. I love, love holiday themed stories (although I don’t actually read them as much as I liked) and found myself rather fond of, well, all of them in a way.
My True Love Gave to Me is an easy way to get hooked into short stories and bringing some holiday cheer. Reading each story was like seeing a mini movie play on in your mind and it really lifted my spirits. It will lift yours, too.
You can’t always believe the hype in different books but this one is well earned–there is a story for everyone. The only reason I'm giving it a four star as opposed to five is that there were some shaky spots in a story or two. Not enough to cause real complaint but enough to bring down the rating a smidge. I'd consider it a 4.5, not a 4 and not a 5.
BUT! Let's get back to the collection and its goodies.
First of all, it’s filled with so much talent! I mean, c’mon, look at the authors featured! You’ll know just about every single name and I was so surprised to see some included. I’m not saying every story was my favorite thing in the world (I liked them all just fine but a couple were meh, in my mind) but I will say that the majority is a batch of winners.
And the first thing I noticed is that how easy it is to fall into the stories. How much you feel, how much you smile or laugh or want to highlight this or that. I’m going to have to purchase another copy just to make notes in it. Oh, yes, it’s that good.
The problem with collections are big as this (there are 12 stories!) is that I can’t get into every single story without spoiling the experience for you, readers. Instead of talking about every last story, I will give you my top four stories from the pages.
#4: MIDNIGHTS BY RAINBOW ROWELL is the perfectly sweet romance to open the collection and is penned by one of the biggest voices in young adult fiction. Rainbow is known, of course, for her work in the genre and has a prose that’s impossible to ignore. She is one of those rare authors who can bounce between genres without watering down the emotion and still speaks to you no matter what age you are.
All her stories are sweet and honest, jammed with all the emotions a person could imagine. As always, her humor shines through and is spot on without slapping you in the face. So it should come as no surprise that her story is a standout. Rainbow captures the romance of young love between friends, the feeling of being left out (or behind) and all the changes that come from the jump between high school and university.
She doesn’t skimp out on the holiday cheer, either. And so the atmosphere is easy to conjure in ones minds.
Midnights, a tale told through the course of several years, although only a short story, it is one of her best works to date.
“You’re a kaleidoscope. You change every time I look away.”
#3: WHAT THE HELL HAVE YOU DONE, SOPHIE ROTH? BY GAYLE FORMAN is a cute little gem that will speak to many of us. Sophie Roth is a hilarious and delightful narrator and I felt so attached to her in a way that I don’t always feel about characters–even in full length stories.
Gayle Forman’s writing, like so many of the authors featured, is magical. Beyond magical. And she brings a lot to light in such a short amount of time that I can’t get around to how much I loved it.
It was honest and fun and sweet and oh-so-sarcastic. Sophie, I think is, a lot like all of us and that is what makes her such a gift to read about. I loved her sarcasm and her flaws and her offhanded way of behaving–I especially loved her love interest and the way they meshed together so easily.
I would love, love, love a full story about them. And their cute conversations, their pie eating habits (cheese on apple pie!?), their honesty, their sarcasm and the references to The Simpsons. Who doesn’t love Ned Flanders, am I right or am I right? ;)
“She kissed him, not knowing if the kiss would go on for a minute, an hour, the whole night. She kissed him not knowing what would happen next semester, next year. But at the moment, none of that seemed to matter. The kiss was what mattered. Not just the kiss, but what the kiss said. What it unlocked. What the night unlocked. What they had unlocked. Tomorrow would be different. Sophie understood this. There really was no such thing as minor miracle.”
#2: ANGELS IN THE SNOW BY MATT DE LA PENA is undeniably sweet and honest and will resonate with many college age readers at a sort of standstill. If you’re struggling with money issues or even home sickness or just not knowing where you belong, it will be easy to fall into this short story.
I had a hard time putting this one as number two because I related to both Shy and Haley on so many different ways and thought their connection that formed was the sweetest of the sweet. I thought that Matt captured so much truth into so few pages that it was bound to be my number one–in many ways it is tied with my number one.
Shy and Haley are both complex and met under cliche Christmas dramedy situations (I.E: he is cat sitting for the holidays, and is snowed in, she is his bosses neighbor who has a problem with her water working and so she has to shower at Shy’s place) but they were so much more than that.
This is the first work I’ve read by Matt but I am excited now to read more from him. There’s so many places to start and I can’t get over how much he made me feel in only a small bit of pages. Imagine how much he’s going to make me feel in a novel!
Bonus points for how emotion he made me feel in Shy’s mind. I loved every minute of it. It was only an added bonus that the story took place in New York and there was a winter fricken’ wonderland brewing in the background.
“I guess I don’t really know what I want to do, either. Sometimes I feel like a shook-up bottle of soda. Like, I have all this passion that wants to explode, but I don’t know where to aim it yet. Is that kind of what you mean?”
“Exactly. And sometimes I get worried I’ll never know where to aim it.”
#1: THE LADY AND THE FOX BY KELLY LINK is by far my favorite of the collection. I’ve never read anything by Kelly and I didn’t actually know what to expect from this story but I know it left me feeling warm and tingly and full of possibilities. It was a tale of snow and love that comes only when there is snow falling outside.
I thought it was fun and unique and exactly what I needed. It felt very much like classic holiday storytelling and was easy to curl up with at the fire, hot chocolate in my hand. There was something sweet and realistic about it, all wrapped up in the fantasy of it all.
Miranda is impossible not to love and root for. You barely get to know her and already want good things for her. It was nice seeing her grow and how sharp she became in the presence of the Honeywells and their little world. Hell, the Honeywells are great, too.
I liked hearing how she thought and how much those thoughts grew in the years since the story began. She always seemed older than what she was and her interactions with everyone show that, but it truly shines in the moments she sees Fenny and all the little times in between in the snow. I liked their first meeting and the first things she said to him, what he told her in return.
Overall it was my favorite because it represents the holidays perfectly. That feeling, you know? And so much more. Kelly makes it all fit together so seamlessly; falling in love with it is the easiest thing you can do.
The magic. The struggles. The in betweens. The waiting. The romance. The snow. The “ghosts” and fairy tale-like prose. Every last thing. I felt at the end that anything could happen and that’s ultimately what made it one of the best holiday stories told.
It was magical.
“The presence, the puissance that Elspeth commands, just for a little while when Elspeth takes the stage, is a game. Elspeth plays at the thing. Here is the substance. Power is something granted willingly to Elspeth by her audience. Fenny’s Lady has it always. What a burden. Never to be able to put it down.”
Honorable mentions include David Levithan's Your Temporary Santa and Stephanie Perkins' It's A Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown! If I had done a top six stories countdown (aka half of the book) I would have included those two in it as well. Narrowing it down was painful but it had to be done so the list wasn't excessive--but there were plenty of stories that shined bright in the collection and those two are amongst the best.
This holiday season, and all the ones yet to come, if you are looking for a little cheer and love holiday movies/specials My True Love Gave to Me is the perfect collection for you to pursue. It's fun, it's cheerful and full of some great tales. I promise you will love at least--at least--one story from the batch to choose from. So what are you waiting for, kids? It's the perfect holiday treat or stocking stuffer.