Let me start by saying that if you’re looking for the perfect festive read then this anthology is ideal for getting you into the holiday spirit! When I requested this book for Christmas I was unfamiliar with many of the authors whose work was featured here, so I hadn’t really built up any expectations.
As this is an anthology, I’m changing up my reviewing style to accommodate each individual story as well as my opinion of the collection as a whole.
Let’s get started, shall we?
“Midnights” by Rainbow Rowell: 4 stars.
As the opening story of this anthology, Midnights does a brilliant job of setting the bar high in terms of quality writing. The relationship between the two main characters is just so cute, and the inclusion of the food allergies plot thread gave both the characters and the story a realism that I greatly appreciated. Generally, I thought the whole thing was adorable.
“The Lady and the Fox” by Kelly Link: 4 stars.
This was an unusual story, and as a result I believe you’re likely to either love it or hate it. I’d describe it as intriguing and beautiful, yet also a little confusing in places, but I personally liked the mystery. The writing style reminded me of We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, but as it was a fairytale retelling it had an aura of magic about it that drew me in and had me hooked until the very last page.
“Angels in the Snow” by Matt de la Peña: 2.5 stars.
Sadly, I struggled quite a bit to connect to the characters here. The writing was good, but I wasn’t absorbed in the romance, which should have been the key element, and I didn’t fully understand the protagonist’s reasoning behind some of his decisions, particularly with the food. This may be because I was unconsciously comparing de la Peña’s food subplot with Rainbow Rowell’s take, and deemed the latter to be much more effective. I’m not sure, but when I pick up the anthology again in the future, this is probably one I’ll skim over.
“Polaris Is Where You’ll Find Me” by Jenny Han: 3.5 stars.
I got a very distinct Elf vibe reading this one; only rather than Will Ferrell in tights we got a girl who was the adopted daughter of Santa. Polaris was, I think, the shortest of the short stories in here, but it was very festive and highly original. And THAT ENDING! I enjoy a good cliff-hanger as much as the next person, but I need more!
“Your Temporary Santa” by David Levithan: 3 stars.
When I first learned about this I was instantly on board with the premise of David Levithan’s story. The central relationship was incredibly sweet and I never found myself losing interest in the story. All in all, a very enjoyable piece of writing that left me eager to read more of Levithan’s work.
“It’s a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown” by Stephanie Perkins: 4 stars.
As editor of the anthology, I had high expectations for Stephanie Perkins’ entry. I can tell you now that I wasn’t disappointed! I was smiling the entire time I was reading this, and was suitably impressed with the depth of character development and backstory we were given in such a limited number of pages. Perfect for lovers of contemporary romance.
“Krampuslauf” by Holly Black: 4 stars.
I’ve heard mixed opinions about Holly Black’s writing, and was therefore pleasantly surprised to find that I really enjoyed Krampuslauf! It was original and quirky, and somewhat different to what I usually read. Admittedly, the planning of the New Year’s party might have been my way of living vicariously through fictional characters! I was worried that the supernatural element would overpower everything else, but when it was introduced I was pleased to find that the focus remained on the characters. My advice would be to read this one and make your own mind up.
“What the Hell Have You Done, Sophie Roth?” by Gayle Forman: 2.5 stars.
Unfortunately, I was a little disappointed with this one. Very little seemed to actually happen in this story; it just felt as though there was lots of talking, but nothing really got said until the end, by which point I’d heard the same conversations on repeat too many times to care about the outcome. In comparison, Forman’s novel If I Stay was okay, and posed some interesting questions, but Sophie Roth left me slightly bored. Whatever you might make of it, personally I intend to skip it.
“Beer Buckets and Baby Jesus” by Myra McEntire: 3 stars.
I really warmed to the voice of the male protagonist here, and I liked the way the author gave us well rounded characters both young and old. The story was funny and the romance developed fairly naturally. The situation the characters found themselves in was effortlessly cute, if not a little silly, culminating in an entertaining tale.
“Star of Bethlehem” by Ally Carter: 3 stars.
I’m of the opinion that the main problem here was that the concept didn’t work in a short story format, and would have done better had it been a full length novel. The characters needed more background and development, but nevertheless it was a nice read, with well written dialogue and interactions. Classic Ally Carter.
“Welcome to Christmas, CA” by Kiersten White: 5 stars.
Put simply, this was an absolutely beautiful story. I loved everything about it; it was so heartwarming, and I’m not ashamed to say I cried towards the end there! The character’s personalities were well developed, their backstories full of depth, and the journeys they undertook felt believable and organic. There were so many dimensions to this story aside from the central (utterly adorable) romance, including more angsty stuff and even a hint of something magical. The joy of Christmas certainly came across here and made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I think I have a new OTP. It was everything I could have asked for in a short story and more!
“The Girl Who Woke the Dreamer” by Laini Taylor: 4.5 stars.
Laini Taylor’s story is definitely the least festive feeling of all of them, but don’t let that deter you, especially if, like me, you’re a fan of fantasy and world-building. Based on the days of advent, the plot is definitely a darker, grittier piece of writing than you might perhaps expect from a holiday anthology, but I thought it was sublime! The writing style and fantasy world evoked the flavour of Game of Thrones, but in a more YA friendly way, utilising vivid description to great effect. A truly superb conclusion to a wonderful anthology.
Overall, I would give this anthology a full five stars out of five. I loved that such a spectrum of different genres were covered here and as a result of reading this I have discovered some brilliant new authors. As is always the case with these things, there were some stories that I liked less than others, but in general every page was exceedingly well written and thoroughly entertaining. I would recommend this collection to pretty much everyone, but in particular readers of young adult romance.
Best read snuggled in a blanket with a mug of hot chocolate!