Author: Holly Black, Ally Carter, Matt de la Peña, Gayle Forman, Jenny Han, David Levithan, Kelly Link, Myra McEntire, Stephanie Perkins, Rainbow Rowell, Laini Taylor, Kiersten White
Editor: Stephanie Perkins
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Check this book out on Goodreads.
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. (Source: Goodreads)
This book is an anthology of holiday stories from some of the best and most popular YA authors around. The stories represent a range in styles, holidays, settings, types of characters, and feelings. They have highs and lows, emotionally and in terms of the actual quality of the stories. For the most part though, the stories are really good and really enjoyable.
I loved this anthology, it was super enjoyable. I think it was everything I was hoping for in a holiday anthology, with lots of cute stories, holiday spirit, holiday miracles, and snow. Lots of snow. I think the order of the stories was pretty good, though starting with the best story was maybe not a good idea because it made other stories a little less impactful.
I love the cover of this book. Each of those couples is supposed to be one of the couples from the stories. After I read each story I would try and figure out which couple on the cover they were supposed to be. Some were really obvious because of the outfits, some of them were really hard to figure out because they didn’t have distinct clothing styles. I got a lot of them right, here is what they actually are.
I’m going to break this down by story, in the order that they appear in the book.
“Midnights“ by Rainbow Rowell
Rainbow Rowell is basically perfection. I’m a huge fan of Rainbow Rowell, my review of Landline should have made that clear. She is a brilliant writer, with the best lines. This was no exception. Mags and Noel meet on New Years and over the next few years fall in love and find each other. Mags and Noel are the cutest thing in the entire world. I wish this was longer and I wish there was more and I wish I could hold them close and hug the two of them. But, I also love this as it is. Because it’s perfect. I think the dialogue was sweet and romantic, which is no surprise form Rowell. The characters were adorable and memorable. I loved how the plot moved from New Year to New Year because it will made a cool plotline, and also highlighted the ways in which the characters had changed/developed. I really loved the way the story moved from high school to university as well because it makes it really easy to identify with. I basically just loved everything about this story. Most memorable line:
“I need you to be my person,” Mags said. (p. 22)
“The Lady and the Fox“ by Kelly Link
This story took me completely by surprise, it was so gorgeous and unexpected. Miranda meets Fenny when she is a child and for the rest of her life she thinks about him, she should be in love with Daniel but instead she loves Fenny. Fenny who is maybe not so human? Maybe a spirit? (I won’t tell you.) This is sort of a fantasy story, which surprised me. I was not expecting it, but it was really breathtaking. Miranda is such a strong-willed character, and her story is really memorable. Fenny is uber handsome and I absolutely adored him from the moment he was introduced. I haven’t ever read something by Kelly Link before, but if this story is anything to go by, she is a fantastic writer. I really liked that in such a small number of pages Link was able to create such depth and so many complexities in Miranda’s character, especially when it came to familial issues. This is one that totally could have been a whole book and would have rocked. I was surprised to see so many other people didn’t like this one. Sassy Fenny from when Miranda is a kid basically made the whole story:
“He was stupid to get caught,” Fenny says, “you peculiar and annoying child.” (p. 27)
“Angels in the Snow” by Matt de la Peña
Shy is cat-sitting over Christmas break, he doesn’t have enough money to go home for the holidays, or enough money to buy food. Trapped in someone else’s apartment he resigns himself to a holiday of boredom and starvation. Until Haley show up asking for his help because her shower doesn’t work. Over the next few days they get to know each other and reveal their insecurities and secrets. This was definitely not my favourite story. I liked it, but I didn’t love it. The tone was a little more serious than the other stories, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but it just wan’t my cup of tea. I didn’t like Shy as much as I had other narrators in the book. I did really like the way Matt de la Peña touched on some issues of wealth and race, though at some points it felt a little forced to bring them up? It was still well written and I liked it, just not my favourite.
“Polaris is Where You’ll Find Me” by Jenny Han
Natalie is the adopted daughter of Santa Claus, she is in love with one of the toy making elves, Flynn. She knows they can’t be together, and yet she wishes. I am really conflicted about this one. I really enjoyed the idea of the story, and thought it was super cute and holiday appropriate. The writing was good, and I loved Natalie and Flynn. I also thought it was cool that the elves were tall, and not tiny, because there’s always two different kinds of elves in media Christmas elves and mythical Lord of the Rings style elves, shouldn’t they be the same thing? The problem with this one was the ending left me confused and a little sad. I don’t know what I’m supposed to feel and it just makes me frustrated because I just…wanted something different. I would give this a 4 if I wasn’t so confused. The final comment I have here is…they’re so easy to find on the cover which made me happy.
“It’s a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown” by Stephanie Perkins
Marigold is looking for the voice she wants to be a part of her new film. North has that voice. North works at the Christmas tree lot in her neighbourhood and he’s very persuasive, meaning Marigold buys a tree she doesn’t want and invites a boy into her life she maybe does want. This was the cutest most amazing story I’ve ever even…so cute. Overwhelmingly good. This story rocketed up the list to be one of my favourites as soon as I read it. Marigold is adorable and a little broken, unsure of her future because of her family situation. North is handsome and courteous (and perfect) and lost because he doesn’t want the future set out for him. North comes into Marigold’s life and while he doesn’t fix things up for her (not in the literal sense) he gives her somewhere to start from. The story was sweet and perfect and everything I was looking for in this anthology. The emotional depth in so few pages was brilliant. Also, so easy to spot Marigold and North on the cover! Favourite line(s):
“You know what’s the strangest thing about tonight? Tonight, being an astoundingly strange night?”
“That you still don’t realize I’m willing to do anything, anything” – he gestured in a full circle around them – “to stay in your company.” (p. 125, I cut the end off a bit, sorry)
“Your Temporary Santa” by David Levithan
The narrator (pretty sure he’s nameless? maybe I’m just dumb?) plays Santa for, his boyfriend, Connor’s little sister on Christmas Eve. There’s an obvious hole in their family where their father used to be, the role he is stepping in for, which causes him a lot of trouble. There isn’t anything he can do but what Connor has asked. I liked this story, I certainly didn’t love it, but I liked it. I thought it picked up a lot towards the end, especially when there were more hints of the family problems in Connor’s household. I wasn’t a huge fan of the narrator, he was very much like many of Levithan’s other male leads. If you’re a fan of Levithan this story is very typical of his style. I’m not such a huge fan which is maybe why I didn’t love it. I think the writing and characters were very typical of his style, kind of cynical kind of snarky. The holiday feeling was very much infused, reminded me a little of Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares. The tone is a little darker, less cheery, less light, which made it a little more of a depressing read. Still very good, and definitely perfect for people who are already fans of Levithan. The writing towards the end of the story, the last 2 or so pages, is really exceptional. Here’s a standout bit:
My heart is drawn, almost involuntarily, toward him. I see him asleep and feel I could love him for a very long time. (p. 147)
“Krampuslauf” by Holly Black
Hanna wants to believe in magic, she wants to believe in better and greater things. One night at Krampuslauf she meets those better and greater things, and at her New Years Eve party she find the will to live them. I thought this story was good and very interesting. It’s definitely a unique story in the book. Using Krampuslauf as the holiday in the story was really interesting because you definitely don’t ever hear about this in books. I wound up looking it up while I was reading because it seemed really interesting. It was really unexpected, and definitely really interesting. I like Hanna and I liked her hopefulness and her belief in magic. I though Joachim was sweet, though the romance was really nonexistent. The pace was really off in this one. There was a lot happening in the last few pages and not a lot in the large bulk before it. This made me find it a little difficult to read. The writing was good, and there were some interesting and memorable lines, my favourite being:
He was like a painting you wanted to burn so you could finally stop staring at it. (p. 173)
“What the Hell Have You Done, Sophie Roth?‘ by Gayle Forman
Sophie Roth decided to go to a pastoral college far from “big-city” New York. When she got there it wasn’t what she expected, but was exactly what she should have expected. She closes herself off to everything foreign in her pastoral setting. Until one Hanukkah evening when she meets Russell and she realizes what she’s been missing out on. I loved this story to bits. Sophie was very realistic, her story rang so true. Sophie became kind of closed off in university and that is such a reality of what can happen to people when they reach university. I found Russell incredibly charming, the way he swooped in and save Sophie’s night but also her whole college experience was just amazing. Forman develops such a sweet and realistic romance in a small number of pages and it really is amazing. The best thing is the romance is also really important to her whole being. Opening up to Russell makes her realize what she’s missed at school but also what she’s been avoiding since her grandmother died, and it’s just amazingly well done. Favourite line:
Because this Bumfuckville had diners dropped from Oz. It had wingmen who had her back in poetry class. It had people like Cheryl, who, come to think of it, was being big-citily sarcastic herself. And it had guys like Russell. (p. 199)
“Beer Buckets and Baby Jesus” by Myra McEntire
Vaughn is and always has been a trouble maker. When he accidentally sets fire to the church just days before the nativity play is set to hit the stage he is saved from a jail sentence by the pastor, and the father of his lifelong crush, Gracie. Together with Gracie and her father he fixes the problem he caused and learns he doesn’t need to be bad to get attention. I found Vaughn sort of relatable, I know that pranksters aren’t usually the most relatable to me, but I found his desire to be payed attention too really relatable. I think as a kid I would be annoying to get attention too. I like Gracie too, and her dad. I liked what they represented, the “Christian spirit” of giving love instead of judgement. I especially liked how Gracie said her father chooses to love, and that’s why he helped Vaughn. The story was really cute, a little fast paced, but cute. I really enjoyed it. I think there was a lot of good banter in the story, my favourite bit (it’s pretty much a romcom classic, but McEntire used it so well) was:
“What about you, Gracie? Since I have so much to offer, would you be willing to start something with me? Or are you afraid I’ll ruin your reputation?”
“What makes you think that I won’t ruin yours?” (p. 222)
“Welcome to Christmas, CA” by Kiersten White
Maria lives in a town that will get her nowhere. There’s no job prospects, no hope for further education, no future. She works at a restaurant, and the new hire, Ben, has a skill in making food that perfectly suits the needs of the person eating it. Together Ben and Maria try to make everyone in towns holiday a little brighter and their lives a little better. Maria is sort of an angsty character, her family doesn’t have a lot of money and she’s not a fan of her step-dad, not that she’s gotten to know him. Despite that she cares about people, especially her co worker Candy. Ben is a former juvenile delinquent whose, sort of, magic power helps people find the happiness they need to survive. They’re both really charming and engaging characters. Ben is basically a loveable goofball and everytime he grinned I was grinning too. I really enjoyed this story, it wasn’t my absolutely favourite but the writing was great. The plot hinges more on her family relationships which was fantastic, and really the development of these relationships is the most important thing. I loved the romance, it was cute and sweet and Ben was definitely a favourite romantic interest for me. Definitely has a great holiday feel, which some holiday magic infused.
“Star of Bethlehem” by Ally Carter
Lydia is running away from something (can’t tell you, spoilers) and Hulda, and Icelandic exchange student, offers her the perfect escape. They swap tickets and both run away. Lydia winds up in Oklahoma with Hulda’s jilted boyfriend, Ethan. Living with Ethan’s family Lydia learns what happiness is to her and what family should feel like. I wasn’t really a fan of this one. I liked Lydia but didn’t love her, I didn’t feel there was much depth to her character, and what there was felt forced. Ethan was cute, a stereotypical cowboy, but he was also lacking depth. The backstory was good, but similarly shallow emotionally. I found the pacing was too fast and didn’t leave a lot of room for development emotionally, in the plot, or in the characters. It was still cute, but not as good as the other stories in the book.
“The Girl Who Woke the Dreamer” by Laini Taylor
Neve is a young girl of the age to marry, and the creepy preacher has chosen her to be his fourth wife. She prays to the old gods to protect her and awakes one of these gods. Okay, so, to be completely honest I did not enjoy this story until about halfway through. I found the pace very slow, the content and language confusing, and the plot a little difficult to pay attention to. Then all of a sudden the pace picked up, the story got more interesting, tension was building, the Dreamer was awake and active and terribly interesting. The language became more clear and amazing. It just got GOOD. Honestly, the ending of this story made such a good finale for the book. The story wasn’t particularly holiday-esque which would be my major complaint aside from the pace issues. That was disappointing and while the ending made a great end to the whole anthology it lacked the holiday spirit that should have been there. My favourite line in the story, which comes around the point when the book picked up pace:
He was the god of tide-lap and wingbeat, talon and pearl. She was the goddess of…herself. And he could not look away from her. (p. 313)
Overall, I would highly recommend this book to fans of any of these authors, or fans of YA novels in general. This is the perfect holiday treat.
Have you read My True Love Gave to Me? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!
Check out Holly Black at her Goodreads, website, and Twitter.
Check out Ally Carter at her Goodreads, website, and Twitter.
Check out Matt de la Peña at his Goodreads, website, and Twitter.
Check out Gayle Forman at her Goodreads, website, and Twitter.
Check out Jenny Han at her Goodreads, website, and Twitter.
Check out David Levithan at his Goodreads, website, and Twitter.
Check out Kelly Link at her website.
Check out Myra McEntire at her Goodreads, website, and Twitter.
Check out Stephanie Perkins at her Goodreads, website, and Twitter.
Check out Rainbow Rowell at her Goodreads, website, and Twitter.
Check out Laini Taylor at her Goodreads, website, and Twitter.
Check out Kiersten White at her Goodreads, website, and Twitter.
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