This month I’m partnering up with Lauren from Bookmarklit for Book Buddies, an every-other month feature where Lauren and I will choose a themed read to buddy read and then get together and discuss the things that stand out! You can see both of our opinions and discussions in the conversation review format, and is usually posted on the last Wednesday of the month (although for the month of December, we opted to post on Christmas!) This month’s read My True Love Gave To Me, a holiday anthology edited by Stephanie Perkins and containing short stories from twelve YA authors.
Since there were twelve stories, Lauren and I will be alternating the reviews between both of our blogs, with reviews of six on mine and six on hers. You can find the odd stories here, and the even stories over at Bookmarklit!
About the Book
My True Love Gave to Me edited by Stephanie Perkins
My rating: 5/5 Stars
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press (2014)
Length: 320 pgs
Genre: Young Adult Romance (Contemporary/Fantasy)
Format: Hardcover, purchased from Target
Though my ratings varied from story to story, I gave this anthology five stars because it takes such an array of talented authors and shows such a range of holiday values, traditions, and diversity in characters. There’s truly a little bit of something for everyone in this anthology, and it introduced me to YA authors that hadn’t crossed my radar but whom I’m sure will become new favorites (such as Kiersten White and Matt de la Pena). My main complaint would have to be there were so many stories that felt incomplete, as they would have made amazing novels! This is a great read to savor in the days leading up to the holidays, and it’s such a nice collection to add to your shelves and revisit the stories that resonated with you most.
#1 – Midnights by Rainbow Rowell
Lauren’s Rating: 4.5 Stars Cristina’s Rating: 4 Stars
L: I actually really loved this one. I had a feeling it could be one of my favorites because of how timeless the story is; I could really relate to it. Part of that makes it a bit predictable (especially because the story starts with part of the ending). I absolutely loved traveling back in time to each “midnight” of friendship. The reader can see where it’s all headed but the journey is really adorable. I wish this was a full-length book because SO much more could have been explored within their friendship! The style of the story (taking place over a few years) was definitely my favorite aspect. I love Rowell’s writing and this book reminded me that I need to read more of her books. (As of right now, I’ve only read Eleanor and Park!) One of my main concerns with this one is a bit spoilery, so I’ll try to hold back. Essentially I was left wondering WHY so many midnights passed before the events of the final midnight. Noel didn’t really explain the delay at all. I guess I would have liked to hear his thinking through the book, too!
C: I think this story was a great way to start the anthology, and I liked that it was New Year’s focused and therefore relateable to anyone despite what holidays they celebrate. It was so perfectly Rowell- the quirky yet intimate character details, the conversational tone of the writing, and the intimacy you feel toward the characters at the end. My main complaint would be that the story was a bit rushed with it cramming multiple years worth of midnights into one narrative, but I loved that it focused on that transition from high school to college and the awkward yet comfortable familiarity of returning home to a group of high school friends who are all defined by new experiences and trying to figure out how they fit together now.
#3 – Angels in the Snow by Matt de la Pena
Lauren’s Rating: 4 Stars Cristina’s Rating: 5 Stars
L: I’m a big fan of being “snowed in” as a plot for books and this one was no exception. I really liked his writing because it had a conversational, casual tone – like how I would talk with my friends. It felt very realistic in that way. The ending was left pretty open but was very hopeful. I was really frustrated at Shy’s stubbornness about eating the food he was offered, but I can see that there was a bigger message about that. Overall, an enjoyable read.
C: This was the first story that really called out to me as an “Oh my goodness, this is AMAZING” read. I had never read Matt de la Pena and didn’t know what to expect, but I loved the viewpoint of a male protagonist and the way he infuses Hispanic heritage into his story, and how important it is for the main character. I found Shy’s stubbornness to be really heartbreaking at times, as it really showed his relationship between poverty and pride and how important the simple act of being able to feed himself was to him. The romance also felt complicated and awkward and raw and real.
#5 – It’s a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown by Stephanie Perkins
Lauren’s Rating: 5 Stars Cristina’s Rating: 5 Stars
L: I am a major fan of Stephanie Perkins, so it’s no surprise that this was a favorite of the bunch. I loved the characters, their banter, and her writing style. She has a way of writing the cutest and swooniest love stories – in this case, in only a short story. I felt like I really knew both of the characters and their backgrounds. It took place over the course of a few hours but felt very well-paced. I don’t really know what to even say about this one, because pretty much every review I’ve written of her books was extremely fangirl-y and crazy! If anything, I wish I knew a little bit more about why Marigold’s apartment was in that state. There was some back story given, but really I’d love to know more about her life and family. Definitely a story that would make a lovely full book!
C: Definitely the romance that I swooned over the most in this anthology as well! Perkins is so clever at coming up with premises for romances to blossom (a Christmas tree lot!) and her romance felt the most convincing even though it only took place over the course of a few hours. North has definitely made it onto my list of book boyfriends (outdoorsy AND listens to NPR? Yes please!). I need to start a petition to convince Stephanie Perkins to turn the romance between North and Marigold into a full length novel, because there’s still so much more I need to know!
#7 – Krampuslauf by Holly Black
Lauren’s Rating: 4.5 Stars Cristina’s Rating: 5 Stars
L: Probably a black sheep on this one because it was so weird, but I seriously loved this story. I can see why some people (especially those hoping for a very contemporary compilation) may not like this one as much. Holly Black used to be one of my favorites but it’s been a LONG time since I’ve read anything by her. This story just motivated me to get going on some of her books. I think it was somewhat confusing towards the end, which is why this doesn’t get a 5 star rating from me, but otherwise it really worked. Magical realism can be hit or miss for me – this one was definitely a hit. There were aspects of regular teen life that made it seem like a contemporary, but then the really cool magical stuff towards the end made it even more interesting. As usual, Black has an incredibly unique story.
C: Lauren’s not a black sheep at all, because I ADORED this one. I hadn’t read anything by Holly Black previously (this needs to be remedied immediately, I am aware) and wasn’t sure what to expect because it started out as a contemporary but I knew she was known more for fantasy. I enjoyed all of the contemporary aspects just fine, from the tensions between the haves and have-nots, the realistic relationship drama and the characters’ quest to transform an ordinary night into a magical one by their own crafty means. When the magical realism aspects kicked in, I officially fell in love, as they blended seamlessly with the story, and it was so mysterious yet believable in a slightly eerie and very enchanting way. I’ve never seen magical realism done so well in YA, and I love the darker tone Black brings to her holiday story, focusing on Krampuslauf rather than Christmas. Holly Black, you have my heart!
#9 – Beer Buckets and Baby Jesus by Myra McEntire
Lauren’s Rating: 4 Stars Cristina’s Rating: 0 Stars
L: I really liked the characters in the story although I think some of their personality was surface-level stuff. Vaughn did seem pretty aware of WHY he did the things that he did though, which was unexpected. I liked the little twist about Shelby because I was really hoping from the start that this wasn’t going to be a story that involves cheating of any kind. I’m not a religious person so any story that has to do with church is a little off-putting for me, but this one was not exactly religious. I liked a lot of comments that Gracie made about church and religion because it kind of goes against the stereotypes. Overall this was a cute story and I’m definitely interested in reading a more of McIntyre’s work.
C: This was the one story in the anthology that I had to DNF. The premise bored me and the Christmas pageant setting felt boring and stereotypical to me. I gave it zero stars since I didn’t read enough of it to rate it properly. I will say though that it’s was cool to see so many stories with male protagonists in this collection.
#11 – Star of Bethlehem by Ally Carter
Lauren’s Rating: 3.5 Stars Cristina’s Rating: 3 Stars
L: The reader is thrown into the situation without having any idea of what’s going on with any of the characters. I’m a big fan of books that do that; you slowly learn more information about what’s happening as the book goes on. It made me very intrigued! Unfortunately you really don’t find out all of the information you need by the end of the book. The pacing was off with this one. A lot of time passes without really any development or explanation. This was definitely a story that left me wanting more – not necessarily for the same reasons as the other stories said that about. It’s more because I feel like it needed a lot more information and a lot more pages to feel complete. There’s still so much missing! (What’s the full story with Ethan and Hulda?). It was a heartwarming story in general, but I think a few more pages and a bit more development would have made this one a bit better. It felt very rushed. (Maybe that’s why Ally Carter usually writes series – she’s much better at getting a full story out with numerous books!)
C: This was a cute, if predictable story (it sort of feels like it would be a good premise for an ABC Family holiday movie…nothing wrong with that!). I guessed the plot twist pretty early on so I felt like while I was reading I was waiting for the other shoe to drop the whole time about the protagonist’s real identitiy rather than focusing on the romance. Like Lauren, I wanted to know so much more about other elements of the story (like who was Hulda really? Who did she rush off to see in New York? Tell me more about Icelandic winter traditions!) It was a cute story and Ethan’s family was warm and affectionate and pleasantly present, but I didn’t really feel invested in this story like some of the others.
Continue reading the other half of our discussion on Lauren’s blog here!
- If you want a swoon worthy romance and unique and fleshed out characters, definitely check out It’s A Yultide Miracle, Charlie Brown by Stephanie Perkins!
- Krampuslauf by Holly Black brings magical realism to the anthology and features a darker, more mystical holiday celebration. It blends fantasy and contemporary absolutely breathtakingly and is a must read!
- The male protagonist POV in Matt de la Pena’s Angels in the Snow is refreshing and his multicultural narrative that draws on Hispanic culture is a great read!