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“Rich language and careful, efficient character development make the collection an absorbing and sophisticated read, each story surprisingly fresh despite the constraints of a shared theme. It’s that rarest of short story collections: There’s not a single lump of coal.” —Kirkus (starred review)
“There’s no shortage of cozy setups for holiday romance in this captivating collection of short stories…a rare seasonal treat.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Holiday canoodling stories by twelve of the top YA authors? It’s a Christmas miracle! This is the substantive stuff of dream stockings: a rollicking, blush-inducing, memorable holiday collection of breezy, bite-sized stories perfect a snug evening next to the fire.” —Booklist (starred review)
“Never mind the winter holidays; booktalk this title all year round.” —School Library Journal (starred review)
"Stunning and diverse, this holiday anthology is pure magic. This is what all anthologies should aspire to be." —RT Book Review, 4.5 stars, “Top Pick”
“This collection of holiday stories reminds readers that while the season can be painful, it’s also a time of hope. It’s a marvelous collection, certain to earn a treasured spot on many Y.A. shelves.” —The New York Times Book Review
“My True Love Gave to Me is a plummy treat… Its best stories are worth savoring long past the seasonal expiration date and even beyond the teen years.” —The Washington Post
“Satisfying and just sweet enough, like a good Christmas cookie, this will obviously appeal to those readers who get out the holiday decorations the day after Halloween, and it may even convert a Scrooge or two.” —The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
Dec. 31, 2014, almost midnight
It was cold out on the patio, under the deck. Frigid. Dark.
Dark because Mags was outside at midnight, and dark because she was in the shadows.
This was the last place anyone would look for her—anyone, and especially Noel. She’d miss all the excitement.
Thank God. Mags should have thought of this years ago.
She leaned back against Alicia’s house and started eating the Chex mix she’d brought out with her. (Alicia’s mom made the best Chex mix.) Mags could hear the music playing inside, and then she couldn’t—and that was a good sign. It meant that the countdown was starting.
“Ten!” she heard someone shout.
“Nine!” more people joined in.
Mags was going to miss the whole thing.
Dec. 31, 2011, almost midnight
“Are there nuts in that?” the boy asked.
Mags paused, holding a cracker piled with pesto and cream cheese in front of her mouth. “I think there are pine nuts…” she said, crossing her eyes to look at it.
“Are pine nuts tree nuts?”
“I have no idea,” Mags said. “I don’t think pine nuts grow on pine trees, do they?”
The boy shrugged. He had shaggy brown hair and wide-open blue eyes. He was wearing a Pokémon T-shirt.
“I’m not much of a tree-nut expert,” Mags said.
“Me neither,” he said. “You’d think I would be—if I accidentally eat one, it could kill me. If there were something out there that could kill you, wouldn’t you try to be an expert on it?”
“I don’t know.…” Mags shoved the cracker in her mouth and started chewing. “I don’t know very much about cancer. Or car accidents.”
“Yeah…” the boy said, looking sadly at the buffet table. He was skinny. And pale. “But tree nuts specifically have it out for me, for me personally. They’re more like assassins than, like, possible dangers.”
“Damn,” Mags said, “what’d you ever do to tree nuts?”
The boy laughed. “Ate them, I guess.”
The music, which had been really loud, stopped. “It’s almost midnight!” somebody shouted.
They both looked around. Mags’s friend Alicia, from homeroom, was standing on the couch. It was Alicia’s party—the first New Year’s Eve party that Mags, at fifteen, had ever been invited to.
“Nine!” Alicia yelled.
“Eight!” There were a few dozen people in the basement, and they were all shouting now.
“I’m Noel,” the boy said, holding out his hand.
Mags brushed all the pesto and traces of nuts off her hand and shook his. “Mags.”
“It’s nice to meet you, Mags.”
“You, too, Noel. Congratulations on evading the tree nuts for another year.”
“They almost had me with that pesto dip.”
“Yeah.” She nodded. “It was a close call.”
Dec. 31, 2012, almost midnight
Noel fell against the wall and slid down next to Mags, then bumped his shoulder against hers. He blew a paper party horn in her direction. “Hey.”
“Hey.” She smiled at him. He was wearing a plaid jacket, and his white shirt was open at the collar. Noel was pale and flushed easily. Right now he was pink from the top of his forehead to the second button of his shirt. “You’re a dancing machine,” she said.
“I like to dance, Mags.”
“I know you do.”
“And I only get so many opportunities.”
She raised an eyebrow.
“I like to dance in public,” Noel said. “With other people. It’s a communal experience.”
“I kept your tie safe,” she said, and held out a red silk necktie. He’d been dancing on the coffee table when he threw it at her.
“Thank you,” he said, taking it and slinging it around his neck. “That was a good catch—but I was actually trying to lure you out onto the dance floor.”
“That was a coffee table, Noel.”
“There was room for two, Margaret.”
Mags wrinkled her nose, considering. “I don’t think there was.”
“There’s always room for you with me, on every coffee table,” he said. “Because you are my best friend.”
“Pony is your best friend.”
Noel ran his fingers through his hair. It was sweaty and curly and fell past his ears. “Pony is also my best friend. And also Frankie. And Connor.”
“And your mom,” Mags said.
Noel turned his grin on her. “But especially you. It’s our anniversary. I can’t believe you wouldn’t dance with me on our anniversary.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said. (She knew exactly what he was talking about.)
“It happened right there.” Noel pointed at the buffet table where Alicia’s mom always laid out snacks. “I was having an allergic reaction, and you saved my life. You stuck an epinephrine pen into my heart.”
“I ate some pesto,” Mags said.
“Heroically,” Noel agreed.
She sat up suddenly. “You didn’t eat any of the chicken salad tonight, did you? There were almonds.”
“Still saving my life,” he said.
“No. But I had some fruit cocktail. I think there were strawberries in it—my mouth is all tingly.”
Mags squinted at him. “Are you okay?”
Noel looked okay. He looked flushed. And sweaty. He looked like his teeth were too wide for his mouth, and his mouth was too wide for his face.
“I’m fine,” he said. “I’ll tell you if my tongue gets puffy.”
“Keep your lewd allergic reactions to yourself,” she said.
Noel wiggled his eyebrows. “You should see what happens when I eat shellfish.”
Mags rolled her eyes and tried not to laugh. After a second, she looked over at him again. “Wait, what happens when you eat shellfish?”
He waved his hand in front of his chest, halfheartedly. “I get a rash.”
She frowned. “How are you still alive?”
“Through the efforts of everyday heroes like yourself.”
“Don’t eat the pink salad, either,” she said. “It’s shrimp.”
Noel flicked his red tie around her neck and smiled at her. Which was different than a grin. “Thanks.”
“Thank you,” she said, pulling the ends of the tie even and looking down at them. “It matches my sweater.” Mags was wearing a giant sweater dress, some sort of Scandinavian design with a million colors.
“Everything matches your sweater,” he said. “You look like a Christmas-themed Easter egg.”
“I feel like a really colorful Muppet,” she said. “One of the fuzzy ones.”
“I like it,” Noel said. “It’s a feast for the senses.”
She couldn’t tell if he was making fun of her, so she changed the subject. “Where did Pony go?”
“Over there.” Noel pointed across the room. “He wanted to get in position to be standing casually near Simini when midnight strikes.”
“So he can kiss her?”
“Indeed,” Noel said. “On the mouth, if all goes to plan.”
“That’s so gross,” Mags said, fiddling with the ends of Noel’s tie.
“No … kissing is fine.” She felt herself blushing. Fortunately she wasn’t as pale as Noel; it wouldn’t be painted all over her face and throat. “What’s gross is using New Year’s Eve as an excuse to kiss someone who might want not want to kiss you. Using it as a trick.”
“Maybe Simini does want to kiss Pony.”
“Or maybe it’ll be really awkward,” Mags said. “And she’ll do it anyway because she feels like she has to.”
“He’s not going to maul her,” Noel said. “He’ll do the eye contact thing.”
“What eye contact thing?”
Noel swung his head around and made eye contact with Mags. He raised his eyebrows hopefully; his eyes went all soft and possible. It was definitely a face that said, Hey. Is it okay if I kiss you?
“Oh,” Mags said. “That’s really good.”
Noel snapped out of it—and made a face that said, Well, duh. “Of course it’s good. I’ve kissed girls before.”
“Have you?” Mags asked. She knew that Noel talked to girls. But she’d never heard of him having a girlfriend. And she would have heard of it—she was one of Noel’s four to five best friends.
“Pfft,” he said. “Three girls. Eight different occasions. I think I know how to make eye contact.”
That was significantly more kissing than Mags had managed in her sixteen years.
She glanced over at Pony again. He was standing near the television, studying his phone. Simini was a few feet away, talking to her friends.
“Still,” Mags said, “it feels like cheating.”
“How is it cheating?” Noel asked, following her eyes. “Neither of them is in a relationship.”
“Not that kind of cheating,” Mags said. “More like … skipping ahead. If you like someone, you should have to make an effort. You should have to get to know the person—you should have to work for that first kiss.”
“Pony and Simini already know each other.”
“Right,” she agreed, “and they’ve never gone out. Has Simini ever even indicated that she’s interested?”
“Sometimes people need help,” Noel said. “I mean—look at Pony.”
Mags did. He was wearing black jeans and a black T-shirt. He had a half-grown-out mohawk now, but he’d had a ponytail back in middle school, so everyone still called him that. Pony was usually loud and funny, and sometimes loud and obnoxious. He was always drawing on his arm with ink pens.
“That guy has no idea how to tell a girl he likes her,” Noel said. “None at all.… Now, look at Simini.”
Mags did. Simini was small and soft, and so shy that coming out of her shell wasn’t even on the menu. If you wanted to talk to Simini, you had to climb inside her shell with her.
“Not everyone has our social graces,” Noel said, sighing, and leaning into Mags’s space to gesture toward Pony and Simini. “Not everyone knows how to reach out for the things they want. Maybe midnight is exactly what these two need to get rolling—would you begrudge them that?”
Mags turned to Noel. His face was just over her shoulder. He smelled warm. And like some sort of Walgreens body spray. “You’re being melodramatic,” she said.
“Life-or-death situations bring it out in me.”
“Like coffee table dancing?”
“No, the strawberries,” he said, sticking out his tongue and trying to talk around it. “Duth it look puffy?”
Mags was trying to get a good look at Noel’s tongue when the music dropped out.
“It’s almost midnight!” Alicia shouted, standing near the television. The countdown was starting in Times Square. Mags saw Pony look up from his phone and inch toward Simini.
“Nine!” the room shouted.
“Your tongue looks fine,” Mags said, turning back to Noel.
He pulled his tongue back in his mouth and smiled.
Mags raised her eyebrows. She hardly realized she was doing it. “Happy anniversary, Noel.”
Noel’s eyes went soft. At least, she thought they did. “Happy anniversary, Mags.”
And then Natalie ran over, slid down the wall next to Noel, and grabbed his shoulder.
Natalie was friends with both of them, but she wasn’t a best friend. She had caramel-brown hair, and she always wore flannel shirts that gapped over her breasts. “Happy New Year!” she shouted at them.
“Not yet,” Mags said.
“One!” everyone else yelled.
“Happy New Year,” Noel said to Natalie.
Then Natalie leaned toward him, and he leaned toward her, and they kissed.
Dec. 31, 2013, almost midnight
Noel was standing on the arm of the couch with his hands out to Mags.
Mags was walking past him, shaking her head.
“Come on!” he shouted over the music.
She shook her head and rolled her eyes.
“It’s our last chance to dance together!” he said. “It’s our senior year!”
“We have months left to dance,” Mags said, stopping at the food table to get a mini quiche.
Noel walked down the couch, stepped onto the coffee table, then stretched one long leg out as far as he could to make it onto the love seat next to Mags.
“They’re playing our song,” he said.
“They’re playing ‘Baby Got Back,’” Mags said.
“Just for that,” she said, “I’m never dancing with you.”
“You never dance with me anyway,” he said.
“I do everything else with you,” Mags whined. It was true. She studied with Noel. She ate lunch with Noel. She picked Noel up on the way to school. “I even go with you to get a haircut.”
He touched the back of his hair. It was brown and thick, and fell in loose curls down to his collar. “Mags, when you don’t go, they cut it too short.”
“I’m not complaining,” she said. “I’m just sitting this round out.”
“What’re you eating?” he asked.
Mags looked down at the tray. “Some kind of quiche, I think.”
“Can I eat it?”
She popped another one in her mouth and mushed it around. It didn’t taste like tree nuts or strawberries or kiwi fruit or shellfish. “I think so,” she said. She held up a quiche, and Noel leaned over and ate it out of her fingers. Standing on the love seat, he was seven-and-a-half feet tall. He was wearing a ridiculous white suit. Three pieces. Where did somebody even find a three-piece white suit?
“S’good,” he said. “Thanks.” He reached for Mags’s Coke, and she let him have it—then he jerked it away from his mouth and cocked his head. “Margaret. They’re playing our song.”
Mags listened. “Is this that Ke$ha song?”
“Dance with me. It’s our anniversary.”
“I don’t like dancing with a bunch of people.”
“But that’s the best way to dance! Dancing is a communal experience!”
“For you,” Mags said, pushing his thigh. He wavered, but didn’t fall. “We’re not the same person.”
“I know,” Noel said with a sigh. “You can eat tree nuts. Eat one of those brownies for me—let me watch.”
Mags looked at the buffet and pointed to a plate of pecan brownies. “These?”
“Yeah,” Noel said.
She picked up a brownie and took a bite. Crumbs fell on her flowered dress, and she brushed them off.
“Is it good?” he asked.
“Really good,” she said. “Really dense. Moist.” She took another bite.
“So unfair,” Noel said, holding on to the back of the love seat and leaning farther over. “Let me see.”
Mags opened her mouth and stuck out her tongue.
“Unfair,” he said. “That looks delicious.”
She closed her mouth and nodded.
“Finish your delicious brownie and dance with me,” he said.
“The whole world is dancing with you,” Mags said. “Leave me alone.”
She grabbed another quiche and another brownie, then put Noel behind her.
There weren’t that many places to sit in Alicia’s basement; that’s why Mags usually ended up on the floor. (And maybe why Noel usually ended up on the coffee table.) Pony had claimed the beanbag by the bar in the corner, and Simini was sitting on his lap. Simini smiled at Mags, and Mags smiled back and waved.
There wasn’t any booze in the bar. Alicia’s parents put it away whenever she had a party. All the barstools were taken, so Mags got a hand from somebody and sat up on the bar itself.
She watched Noel dance. (With Natalie. And then with Alicia and Connor. And then by himself, with his arms over his head.)
She watched everybody dance.
They had all their parties in this basement. After football games and after dances. Two years ago, Mags hadn’t really known anybody in this room, except for Alicia. Now everybody here was either a best friend, or a friend, or someone she knew well enough to stay away from …
Mags finished her brownie and watched Noel jump around.
Noel was her very best friend—even if she wasn’t his. Noel was her person.
He was the first person she talked to in the morning, and the last person she texted at night. Not intentionally or methodically. That’s just the way it was between them. If she didn’t tell Noel about something, it was almost like it didn’t happen.
They’d been tight ever since they ended up in journalism class together, the second semester of sophomore year. (That’s when they should celebrate their friendiversary—not on New Year’s Eve.) And then they signed up for photography and tennis together.
They were so tight, Mags went with Noel to prom last year, even though he already had a date.
“Obviously, you’re coming with us,” Noel said.
“Is that okay with Amy?”
“Amy knows we’re a package deal. She probably wouldn’t even like me if I wasn’t standing right next to you.”
(Noel and Amy never went out again after prom. They weren’t together long enough to break up.)
Mags was thinking about getting another brownie when someone suddenly turned off the music, and someone else flickered the lights. Alicia ran by the bar, shouting, “It’s almost midnight!”
“Ten!” Pony called out a few seconds later.
Mags glanced around the room until she found Noel again—standing on the couch. He was already looking at her. He stepped onto the coffee table in Mags’s direction and grinned, wolfishly. All of Noel’s grins were a little bit wolfish: he had way too many teeth. Mags took a breath that shook on the way out. (Noel was her person.)
“Eight!” the room shouted.
Noel beckoned her with his hand.
Mags raised an eyebrow.
He waved at her again and made a face that said, Come on, Mags.
Then Frankie stepped onto the coffee table with Noel and slung an arm around his shoulders.
Noel turned to Frankie and grinned.
Frankie raised her eyebrows.
Frankie leaned up into Noel. And Noel leaned down into Frankie.
And they kissed.
Dec. 31, 2014, about nine p.m.
Mags hadn’t seen Noel yet this winter break. His family went to Walt Disney World for Christmas.
It’s 80 degrees, he texted her, and I’ve been wearing mouse ears for 72 hours straight.
Mags hadn’t seen Noel since August, when she went over to his house early one morning to say good-bye before his dad drove him to Notre Dame.
Noel didn’t come home for Thanksgiving; plane tickets were too expensive.
She’d seen photos he posted of other people online. (People from his residence hall. People at parties. Girls.) And she and Noel had texted. They’d texted a lot. But Mags hadn’t seen him since August—she hadn’t heard his voice since then.
Honestly, she couldn’t remember it. She couldn’t remember ever thinking about Noel’s voice before. Whether it was deep and rumbled. Or high and smooth. She couldn’t remember what Noel sounded like—or what he looked like, not in motion. She could only see his face in the dozens of photos she still had saved on her phone.
You’re going to Alicia’s, yeah? he’d texted her yesterday. He was in an airport, on his way home.
Where else would I go? Mags texted back.
Mags got to Alicia’s early and helped her clean out the basement, then helped Alicia’s mom frost the brownies. Alicia was home from college in South Dakota; she had a tattoo on her back now of a meadowlark.
Mags didn’t have any new tattoos. She hadn’t changed at all. She hadn’t even left Omaha—she got a scholarship to study industrial design at one of the schools in town. A full scholarship. It would have been stupid for Mags to leave.
Nobody showed up for the party on time, but everybody showed up. “Is Noel coming?” Alicia asked, when the doorbell had stopped ringing.
How would I know? Mags wanted to say. But she did know. “Yeah, he’s coming,” she said. “He’ll be here.” She’d gotten a little chocolate on the sleeve of her dress. She tried to scrape it off with her fingernail.
Mags had changed three times before she settled on this dress.
She was going to wear a dress that Noel had always liked, gray with deep red peonies—but she didn’t want him to think that she hadn’t had a single original thought since the last time she saw him.
So she’d changed. Then changed again. And ended up in this one, a cream-colored lace shift that she’d never worn before, with baroque-patterned pink and gold tights.
She stood in front of her bedroom mirror, staring at herself. At her dark brown hair. Her thick eyebrows and blunt chin. She tried to see herself the way Noel would see her, for the first time since August. Then she tried to pretend she didn’t care.
Then she left.
She got halfway to her car, then ran back up to her room to put on the earrings Noel had given her last year for her eighteenth birthday—angel wings.
Mags was talking to Pony when Noel finally arrived. Pony was in school in Iowa, studying engineering. He’d grown his hair back out into a ponytail, and Simini was tugging on it just because it made her happy. She was studying art in Utah, but she was probably going to transfer to Iowa. Or Pony was going to move to Utah. Or they were going to meet in the middle. “What’s in the middle?” Pony said. “Nebraska? Shit, honey, maybe we should move home.”
Mags felt it when Noel walked in. (He came in through the back door, and a bunch of cold air came in with him.)
She looked up over Pony’s shoulder and saw Noel, and Noel saw her—and he strode straight through the basement, over the love seat and up onto the coffee table and over the couch and through Pony and Simini, and wrapped his arms around Mags, swinging her in a circle.
“Mags!” Noel said.
“Noel,” Mags whispered.
Noel hugged Pony and Simini, too. And Frankie and Alicia and Connor. And everybody. Noel was a hugger.
Then he came back to Mags and pinned her against the wall, crowding her as much as hugging her. “Oh, God, Mags,” he said. “Never leave me.”
“I never left you,” she said to his chest. “I never go anywhere.”
“Never let me leave you,” he said to the top of her head.
“When do you go back to Notre Dame?” she asked.
Noel was wearing wine-colored pants (softer than jeans, rougher than velvet), a blue-on-blue striped T-shirt, and a gray jacket with the collar turned up.
He was as pale as ever.
His eyes were as wide and as blue.
But his hair was cut short: buzzed over his ears and up the back, with long brown curls spilling out over his forehead. Mags brought her hand up to the back of his head. It felt like something was missing.
“You should have come with me, Margaret,” he said. “The young woman who attacked me couldn’t stop herself.”
“No,” she said, rubbing Noel’s scalp. “It looks good. It suits you.”
Copyright © 2014 by Stephanie Perkins
Posted October 14, 2014
Nice Holiday Anthology
I received an advance reader edition of this book from St. Martin's Press via Net Galley for the purpose of providing an honest review.
I must admit that I am not this biggest fan of anthologies but I ended up liking this one. In my experience, most anthologies have some great stories, some good stories, some okay stories, and some not so good stories and this book held to that idea. Even though I am not a huge fan of anthologies, I still like to read them because it give me opportunity to sample the writing of authors that I want to try without committing to a full length novel. There were several authors in this collection of stories that I plan to read in the future simply because I liked their story in this book.
Midnights by Rainbow Rowell - 5 Stars
I loved this story. The story jumps back and forth in time on New Year's Eve telling Mags and Noah's story. Every year they go to a party at the same house and it was fun watching their feelings towards each other change over the years.
The Lady and the Fox by Kelly Link - 2.5 Stars
This story started out strong but then lost it's magic about halfway through. By the end of the story, I actually felt more confused than anything.
Angels in the Snow by Matt De La Pena - 4 Stars
This story was quite good. A lot was packed into just a few pages. Shy is cat sitting over the holiday when a huge snowstorm hits the area. Haley lives upstairs and is also snowed in for the holidays. The pair form a unique bond over frozen pipes and banana nut muffins.
Polaris is Where You'll Find Me by Jenny Han - 2 Stars
This story was weak and I found myself drifting off. This is the story of Natty who lives with Santa at the North Pole.
It's a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown by Stephanie Perkins - 4.5 Stars
I liked this story quite a bit. Marigold buys a tree from North but really wants him to do some voice work for her. One thing leads to another and he helps her bring home a tree and helps her fit the tree into her apartment.
Your Temporary Santa by David Levithan - 2.5 Stars
This read more like a scene than a full story. We see the boyfriend of a man dress up to play Santa Claus for the man's little sister. It was readable but didn't really go anywhere in my opinion.
Krampuslauf by Holly Black - 2 Stars
I did not really care for this story. A group of friends decided to throw a New Years party so that they can confront a boy. To be honest, I just did not see any point to the story.
What the Hell Have You Done, Sophie Roth? by Gayle Forman - 3.5 Stars
A pair meet at a campus holiday event and bond over apple pie with cheese, light up sweaters, and a menorah. I liked both of the characters in this story and thought it was better than much of the anthology.
Beer Buckets and Baby Jesus by Myra McEntire - 3 Stars
A young man chooses community service at the church pageant over the alternative when a poorly aimed firecracker burns down the church's barn. He learns that not everything is a joke and not everything is as it seems as he helps pull off the ill fated pageant.
Welcome to Christmas, CA by Kiersten White - 4 Stars
This was a really nice little story about a little working town in California. It is set in the local diner and loved the growth and change that happened when a new cook comes to town.
Star of Bethlehem by Ally Carter - 4 Stars
On an impulse a girl trades plane tickets and places with a girl she has never met. The results end up changing her life. I loved this story and thought that the characters were wonderful.
The Girl Who Woke The Dreamer by Laini Taylor - 4 Stars
Believe it or not I have never read anything by Laini Taylor until I read this short story. I need to fix this really soon. This was a story that I would have liked to see extended into a full length book. The world building in this short piece was well done and I can't wait to see what she can do with a full length novel.
I would recommend this collection of stories to others. I thought that the majority of the stories were very good. To be honest there were a couple of stories that I wish I would have skipped but overall this collection should appeal to a wide audience. I definitely plan to follow up with some of these authors in a full length novel.
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Posted April 17, 2015
Only in a short story anthology can organization, elves, the holiday season, and some other things besides come together to create a delightfully seasonal assortment of stories. My True Love Gave to Me, edited by Stephanie Perkins, brings together YA authors at the top of their game in this festive collection of romantic stories set during the best time of year.
If you enjoy Christmas, especially the decorating and the food look no further than Stephanie Perkins' "It's a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown" for a story that combines the wonders of home organization with a first encounter that might lead to something more. "Welcome to Christmas, CA" by Kiersten White is a sentimental story about finding home with some delectable food thrown in to taste.
Not a fan of Christmas? That's okay too. "Midnights" by Rainbow Rowell is a heartfelt New Years' story while "Krampuslauf" by Holly Black and "The Girl Who Woke the Dreamer" by Laini Taylor are fantasies set in December without being Christmas specific. Although Kelly Link centers her story around annual Christmas parties, "The Lady and the Fox" is more a Tam Lin style story than a specifically holiday story.
Don't celebrate Christmas? Gayle Forman's "What the Hell Have You Done, Sophie Roth?" and David Levithan's "Your Temporary Santa" both offer a look at the season from a Jewish perspective.
Humor is also prevalent in many of these stories, none more so than "Beer Buckets and Baby Jesus" by Myra McEntire.
Themes of family are just as prevalent in this collection as romance which can be seen in "Angels in the Snow" by Matt de la Pena and Ally Carter's "Star of Bethlehem" both of which offer very different (but true) takes on what it means to find or just think about the importance of family over the holiday season.
The story I have thought about most since finishing this story is by Jenny Han. "Polaris is Where You'll Find Me" offers a tantalizing look at what life might be like on the North Pole for Santa's daughter in a story that I can only hope will one day become a full-length novel.
Considering the range of authors and writing styles in this anthology, My True Love Gave to Me is a stunningly solid collection with a high quality of writing that spans every genre and story presented. This is a delightfully festive (and often secular) assortment of stories with something that will appeal to everyone. Perkins has done an admirable job of editing and organizing this anthology where whole exceeds the sum of its parts and is sure to leave every reader with a smile on their face.
(Careful readers may also want to examine the cover to find their favorite couple on the ice rink. The ARC I read also promises interior illustrations which I can't wait to see.)
Possible Pairings: Ex-Mas by Kate Brian, Dash and Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan; To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han, Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones, Let it Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle; Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters by Natalie Standiford
Posted January 26, 2015
This was a fun read, but there were definately some stories that were better than others. Overall pretty good. Don't give up after reading the not so good ones because there are some great ones too!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 6, 2015
I love that these authors got together to put My True Love Gave To Me out into the world. There are definitely some of my favorite authors’ works in here (Rainbow! Gayle! Stephanie!) and I had soooo much fun reading all of these short stories (although some I wished would go on forever)! It’s hard to review a collection of short stories so I’ll just say a few things on each one of them!
MIDNIGHTS BY RAINBOW ROWELL
Sigghhhhh. Dreamy sighhhh. I just love Rainbow Rowell’s writing. Something about it just stirs up all of the butterflies in me and just feels so wonderful and comfortable and makes me feel like I’m coming home. MIDNIGHTS was a story about the New Years Eves that Mags and Noel share and their story just hit all the right places for me. I wished there could have been SO much more of this short story. It was truly perfection.
THE LADY AND THE FOX BY KELLY LINK
I’ve never read anything by Kelly Link before so I had no idea what to expect, plus I think it’s REALLY hard to follow Rainbow’s beautiful story. THE LADY AND THE FOX was interesting but it had a weird feel for me… Like it was almost old and new all at once. I think this story could have been better (for me) if it was longer because I needed to really bury myself in some of the details and backstories a bit. Rainbow’s I wished could go on forever because I loved it and this I wished could go on longer because I just needed a bit more story to make that connection!
ANGELS IN THE SNOW BY MATT DE LA PENA
I really, really liked this story! It was very different from the first two and I loved how the two characters — Shy and Haley — came together. I really liked Shy and really felt for him being away from his family and everything that was going on with his family during this holiday season. I really connected with this one (another one I wish there was more of!) and it was really interesting to get to know his character. I loved the male voice and I just really enjoyed this one a lot. And fresh snow! Sigh. It always gets me.
POLARIS IS WHERE YOU’LL FIND ME BY JENNY HAN
This story was really cute. It definitely had a feel between Elf and The Santa Clause! The main character Natalie was adopted by Santa, lives at the North Pole with the elves, and has a crush on one of them. They don’t believe her when she says she’s kissed a real human boy before. The story is just sweet, very fun, and I love how it captures the spirit of Christmas and makes a YA story out of elves & Santa!
IT’S A YULTIDE MIRACLE, CHARLIE BROWN BY STEPHANIE PERKINS
Oh, Stephanie. How does she alway write such wonderful and poignant stories? I just loved this one and everything it was about. The little romance was adorable and I loved how everything came together. It’s so funny because I never expect to find such deeper meaning in such short stories but yep, sure enough. Steph has it in there. Loved this one! Loved how it ended too.
YOUR TEMPORARY SANTA BY DAVID LEVITHAN
This was definitely a little bittersweet but I loved the sentiment behind it. It was really interesting to see the family dynamic unfold in such a short story and I really would have loved to read more of this one too. Each person is not without their flaws and it was really great to see this cross-section of characters come together to keep a little girl’s dream of Santa alive, all the while trying to hold together their own dreams.
KRAMPUSLAUF BY HOLLY BLACK
Man, I loved this one. I personally haven’t read KRAMPUS but my besties Alyssa & Amy have (and love it) so I was happy to read a little piece of Krampus through this short story. Krampuslauf was all about friendship, loyalty, and honor – including a little traditional Krampus justice. I loved the touch of magic and the feeling that there really can be magic in the world if you’re open to believing.
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
WHAT THE HELL HAVE YOU DONE, SOPHIE ROTH? BY GAYLE FORMAN
How very Gayle. I just love how she brings so many things together in one story so effortlessly (or maybe it just seems effortless). Gayle’s stories always seem to follow the vein of finding your true self and being happy with what you are, who you have, and where you want to go. So many times I’ve related to these things and I love the college setting for Sophie Roth. It’s such a big starting point for so many people to go and truly start becoming who they really are.
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
BEER BUCKETS AND BABY JESUS BY MYRA MCENTIRE
A cute little story with Southern charm about a troublemaker and a pastor’s daughter. I really enjoyed this one (though always thrown off by a female author writing a male POV when I don’t expect it! Still love) and it was a riot to see Vaughn the perpetual mischief-maker try to bring together a Christmas pageant. I also love that not everything is what it seems in this story… Lots of ideas that your assumptions about people or what you see on the surface is not quite what a person’s character is truly about.
Rating: 4/5 stars
CHRISTMAS, CA BY KIERSTEN WHITE
Oh, I loved this story. I half-expected this to have another hidden magical meaning (like real elves or a real Santa) but it was definitely more just a story of the characters making the magic for themselves. I really loved seeing these small-town characters start to find their way, and somehow all of these Christmas stories end up being the main character finding out that what he/she thought ran far deeper than they thought. It was so heart warming and really very dynamic for me. I could just picture myself in Christmas, CA.
STAR OF BETHLEHEM BY ALLY CARTER
That was such a sweet story. I love the Ally Carter feel to it and how much fun! The concept was great and I loved the way it ended. The setting was wonderful (I love books set in the middle of nowhere) and I absolutely loved the characters – from “Hulda” to Ethan to Aunt Mary. I think this was one of my favorites! I just wanted to read an entire book and I was even already picturing it as a movie haha!
THE GIRL WHO WOKE THE DREAMER BY LAINI TAYLOR
Wow, this was wonderful. It actually took just a little bit to get into but I really, REALLY ended up loving it. It had a bit of a Daughter of Smoke and Bone feel (well, that’s all I’ve read by Laini Taylor) and yet still very much original. I loved Laini’s writing and I absolutely adored where this story went. It was such a beautiful tale and I really just dreamily sighed at the end of it. Outstanding.
Posted December 30, 2014
This was a thoroughly enjoyable read. As with any story collection, I have my favorites (I'm looking at you, Rainbow Rowell) but every story is lovely in its own way. I also especially liked "Welcome to Christmas, CA" and "The Girl Who Woke the Dreamer."Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 23, 2014
This is a great anthology to get you in the mood for the holidays. It was a fun read by a wonderful combination of authors with a variety of styles. Even if you don’t like every story, there is something in here for everyone.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 14, 2014
A collection of stories from some heavy hitting YA authors and I loved that some of these stories were out of their normal publishing wheelhouse. Reading contemporary stories from authors who normally write fantasy or sci fi was fun - especially since I am quite a contemporary fan. There was still some magic in some of the stories, but mostly stayed in the contemporary genre.
I read these stories here and there over two weeks and I loved spacing them out and just curling up for a half an hour at a time and reading just one story. I will not review each one individually, but I definitely loved most and only disliked two. I loved how each author approached writing a story about Christmas or the holiday season.
I would definitely recommend this book to readers of the YA genre and those who dabble in it from time to time. I hope that there are more collections like this in the future.
Posted November 12, 2014
Average rating for all 12 stories – 3.5 stars rounded to 4
Tis the season for anthologies and box sets, and here is a Holiday themed anthology for fans of YA stories. Anthologies are wonderful for readers, bringing them the chance to ‘test the waters’ with authors they may not be familiar with, and St. Martin’s Press has gathered twelve authors in this book, perfect for a story-a-day.
While the themes are all centering around romance, each of the authors brings a twist to their story, giving readers a new perspective and approach. Ranging from 3- 5 stars for inventiveness, clever characters and memorable plot I’ll touch on each story individually.
Midnight by Rainbow Rowell - 5 stars
A best-friends romance that travels between New Year’s celebrations over a span of years highlights and displays the subtleties of the relationship and their connection. Her prose is evocative and carefully chosen: each word is perfectly placed to create the emotion and imagery the author intended. A lovely short story that will have you wanting more.
It’s a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown by Stephanie Perkins - 5 stars.
A single night brings us this relationship that builds and burns with emotion. Perkins captures the emotional development and shows the love in a few short words, and readers are presented with a couple that is believable despite the speed.
The Girl Who Woke the Dreamer by Laini Taylor - 5 stars
There is a dream-like quality to this short, and Taylor creates this fantasy tale that is redolent of snow, ice and hot cocoa. Wholly different from the others, Taylor’s imagination takes flight and bring the reader along for a thoroughly enjoyable ride.
Beer Buckets and Baby Jesus by Myra McEntire – 4 Stars
A serial prankster is avoiding juvenile detention by doing some community service. Fun, funny and irreverent, McEntire creates characters that are so wholly fun to read that you want to know them, even if you aren’t certain you want them in your house.
Krampusland by Holly Black – 4 Stars
While the premise wasn’t all full of holiday cheer – a party organized to ‘tell off’ a badly behaving peer, the story soon changes as characters learn to be more of what they ‘should’ be and learn to incorporate the images they have for themselves into their own personalities. An interesting read.
Welcome to Christmas, CA by Kiersten White – 4 Stars
More of a story where the main character finds her own footing in her relationship with her family, her friends and using her own experiences to help someone move from an abusive relationship. A clearly presented ‘coming of age’ story full of revelations.
What the Hell Have You Done, Sophie Roth by Gayle Forman – 3 Stars
Focusing more on the differences between the couple, I loved the premise and Sophie who was so overcompensating in trying to find someone “like her” that she utterly missed the mark. While the story is very much a ‘don’t judge a book by the cover’ morality play, that point wasn’t as effective with all of the highlihts. Rather than coming together and forming a couple that felt honest and real, we were seing all of the reasons why they aren’t a match.
Your Temporary Santa by David Levithan – 3 Stars
While I was excited for an LBGTQ story, there was too much left wanting in this one: I needed more backstory to really feel connected to the characters or to feel the ending appropriate.
The Lady and the Fox by Kelly Link – 3 Stars
A story that relied on magical realism but felt simply improbable with insta-love without real character build or even a solid emotional feel to grab on to.
Star of Bethlehem by Ally Carter – 3 Stars
A bit of a tricky premise, with the reasons not coming clear until the very end, this last minute switch story at Christmas was unique but there was something missing in the development of this ultimately sweet yet unfulfilling tale.
Polaris is Where You’ll Find Me by Jenny Han - 2 Stars
This one was difficult to connect to or follow, the lead character felt immature and unfocused, and sadly the story just had too many misses for me to enjoy. There were development issues in the construct, and just a bit more development of the characters would have improved this greatly.
Angels in the Snow by Matt De La Pena – 2 Stars
While I found this cute and clever, with humor and some great dialogue, it just didn’t speak to me as I hoped it could.
I received an eArc from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
Posted October 24, 2014
I thoroughly enjoyed this collection of holiday short stories. From Rainbow Rowell to Ally Carter to Kiersten White, I have several favorites among these authors, but a few I haven't read anything by--yet. With most anthologies, I sometimes lose interest in some stories, as they just aren't my cup of tea. Across the board, all of these, even in genres I don't normally gravitate toward, I found I really enjoyed all of these short works. They're mostly contemporary, realistic style pieces, with a few edgier bits thrown in. A couple may register a little more paranormal for some, actually seemed to be based in various fairytale/folklore roots, which I found especially interesting. This was a well put together, well edited selection of holiday tales that won't go out of style anytime soon.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 22, 2014
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Posted March 22, 2015
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Posted January 9, 2015
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