My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories
Edited by: Stephanie Perkins
Release Date: October 14th 2014
*Beware: Spoilers ahead!*
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 the international bestselling Stephanie Perkins. Whether you enjoy celebrating Christmas or Hanukkah, Winter Solstice or New Year’s, there’s something here for everyone. So curl up by the fireplace and get cozy. You have twelve reasons this season to stay indoors and fall in love.
It’s finally December, and if you’re a fan of any or all things related to the holiday season, then you’re going to love My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories, a holiday anthology with stories from a dozen of your favorite YA authors. There’s something for everyone to enjoy, whether you celebrate the holidays or you simply enjoy the spirit of the season. So grab a cup of something warm and curl up under your coziest blanket. You just found twelve reasons to stay out of the cold and enjoy a little romance.
This month, I decided to try something new. I was looking for something holiday-themed to read in the midst of watching all the sappy Hallmark Christmas movies and every single showing of “Elf,” but I didn’t want something that was going to make me want to throw my Christmas tree out the window. Unlike my Halloween thrills and chills, I require holiday joy in smaller doses. I figured I probably had a few holiday books hidden somewhere on my bookshelves, and as I began to search, I immediately ran across My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories. I’d bought the anthology earlier this year after reading all of @naturallysteph Stephanie Perkin’s books (and absolutely loving them!), and as a fan of many of the other authors, I figured I couldn’t go wrong. (And aside from the fabulous editor, I loved the cover, which totally sold me with its adorableness as it features all the couples in the stories!)
However, I’m not enough of a holiday nut to want to read holiday books in the middle of the summer, so I shelved it with a plan to read it this holiday season. Of course, I’ve bought dozens of other books between now and then, but I was glad I managed to find this book again just when I was in the mood for some holiday reading. Overall, MTLFtM:THS made me laugh, it made me ‘awww!’, it made me sad that I don’t have my own holiday romance. But I’m still hoping that I might find someone worthy of a New Year’s kiss just like the characters in many of these stories. If not, I’ll just return to these romances and drink copious amounts of hot chocolate (with marshmallows, of course) while enjoying the characters and worlds these authors have created.
And now, on with the show:
1) Midnight- Rainbow Rowell: 4/5 stars
Isn’t that always the way with New Year’s parties? The guy you like always ends up kissing some other girl who gave him ‘the look’ and you’re left to eat your disappointment. Mags and Noel were very cute, and it was clear to see how their friendship evolved over the years. I loved that Noel insisted on getting his dance, and his frantic search to find Mags for a midnight kiss was great. The allergic reaction made me laugh (not at the reaction, per say, but at the circumstances), and the way it ties back to their first meeting was sweet.
- “Don’t kiss me again,” Mags said. “Immediately,” Noel said. “I won’t kiss you again immediately.”
2) The Lady and the Fox- Kelly Link: 1/5 stars
This story was pretty odd, and I’m fairly sure it’s loosely based on the Scottish tale “Tam Lin.” I liked the portrayal of the Honeywell family-exuberant, wealthy, and very, very dramatic-and I liked that it was the fact that Miranda didn’t really fit into their world that led her to find Fenny. I could’ve done without Daniel’s attempt at romance, but that’s often the way with childhood friendships. My favorite bit may have been Elspeth’s defense of Miranda at the end and the way she fully supported Miranda’s actions; it showed how much Miranda had come to mean to Elspeth since that first Christmas.
- He really has become quite spectacular looking. Well, it was inevitable. Apparently they drown all the ugly Honeywells at birth.
3) Angels in the Snow- Matt de la Peña: 2/5 stars
Cute, but nothing spectacular. There were a few interesting twists on the typical ‘snowed-in’ romance, mainly Shy’s lack of food and Haley’s truth game, which was fun. I liked the ending as they ventured out into the snow, but I felt like their connection was more out of convenience than anything else. Shy scarfing down Haley’s muffins and Olive’s antics did make me laugh, but they weren’t enough to score more points in my book.
- “You tried to cat sit and watch TV at the same time, didn’t you?”
4) Polaris is Where You’ll Find Me- Jenny Han: 3/5
I love the idea of a human girl being brought to live at the North Pole, a place she knows she doesn’t belong but the only place she’s ever known. Natalie loved her home with Santa and the elves, but it was obvious her life was going to have to change. Portraying the elves as the mythical beings rather than the traditional version of Santa’s elves was a nice touch, and I loved that they held a ‘prom’ before the Christmas work really began. There was a bit of romance here, even potentially a love triangle, and I would love to see how Natalie, Lars, and Flynn’s stories play out if this story was ever expanded.
- While Papa got to work, I set off looking for the cookies. So far my favorites were peanut M&M’s ones at an apartment in Charleston, South Carolina, and a close second were fancy raspberry macarons in Paris.
5) It’s a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown- Stephanie Perkins: 5/5 stars
The fact that Marigold was practically stalking a Christmas tree-selling nineteen-year-old boy for his voice was just hilarious. And the fact that she went as far as to let him convince her to buy a tree-and a Charlie Brown tree at that-when she didn’t have the space or a way to get the tree home just showed her determination. North’s insistence on helping Marigold with her tree and his Tetris superpower were fun, and his snark was, well, snarky while still being friendly. I loved how naturally these two were able to share their problems and their ambitions, and when they finally kissed (and kissed and kissed), it was the perfect ending. Part of me wishes I could see Marigold’s video to see her animation skills and to hear North’s voice!
- But Marigold was enthralled by the way he said the word unwieldy. A fantasy flashed through her mind in which he dictated an endless list of juicy-sounding words. Innocuous. Sousaphone. Crepuscular.
6) Your Temporary Santa- David Levithan: 3/5 stars
This story was both sad and sweet. Sad in that it’s obvious that the one who would usually play Santa-Connor’s dad-was gone, and sad in that Lana and her mother were clearly bitter and devastated by his absence. But it’s also sweet: Connor was trying to do his best to keep his littlest sister’s belief in Santa alive, and our unnamed narrator loved Connor enough to risk B&E charges to play the mythical figure he’d never believed in. I loved the interaction between “Santa” and Riley, which was heartwarming and precious, and I was especially glad that despite how nasty Lana was, she played along for Riley. And I liked that the conflict here was largely internal, as the narrator realized that he wanted more out of his relationship with Connor; he wanted Connor to openly acknowledge that they’re together and make him fully a part of his life. But he came to realize that love doesn’t always need to be showy or swoony. Sometimes cuddling in bed in the wee hours of Christmas morning is all you need.
- Then I realize I’ve left Connor’s key in my jeans, so I have to go back and fetch it—making myself look like an incompetent serial killer.
7) Krampuslauf- Holly Black: 4/5
This story’s supernatural bent made it very different from the ones before, and I loved it. I was familiar with the Krampus legend, thanks to a German sister, and I’ve always liked that the Krampus is tasked with bringing justice, like a supernatural superhero…admittedly, one more like Jessica Jones rather than Steve Rogers, but it is what it is. And there was certainly justice to be brought in this story! I loved that Wren and Hanna were determined to prove that Roth was a terrible guy to both Penny and Silkie, as if they wanted everyone in both sides of Roth’s life to know what a scumbag he was. The friendship between the three main girls was fun and totally realistic. I’ve definitely been in Hanna’s place when a friend’s attempt to help causes trouble and you end up having to go out of your way to make some big event happen. I really admired Hanna’s imagination and determination and how the these two traits culminated in a sophisticated New Year’s party where some of her invited guests brought some interesting supernatural party gifts. The party seemed fun, and in the end, Hanna realized that anything—even magic—was possible if she could dream it.
- With my fingers, he wrote that all I needed was to believe that the world wasn’t one way. That it was big enough to contain a lot of different stories in it, big enough to be unpredictable.
8) What the Hell Have You Done, Sophie Roth?- Gayle Forman: 3/5 stars
I am so glad I’m not the only one who wonders about the purpose of light-up Christmas sweaters or appreciates butt warmers in the car. I could totally relate to Sophie’s feeling of being the odd-woman-out at school-although my experience was small-town girl at the big-city school-but I understand how being somewhere totally different from the world you’ve always known makes you long for the familiar. I could also totally relate to having a fair amount of “What was I thinking?” moments, but unlike Sophie, I haven’t had one of those moments lead to a meeting with a cute guy like Russell. I loved the banter between these two and the spur of the moment adventure they had. The diner was fun and a bit awkward, but it helped the two of them realize that you can’t make assumptions about people based solely on first impressions. Russell’s decision to help Sophie celebrate the last night of Hanukkah was cute, and although I’m not one to kiss on the first date, Sophie and Russell’s kiss was a sweet ending to their unexpected evening. Also, now I really want to try apple pie with cheese.
- Sophie wondered when she was going to learn that lots of things seem like a good idea but a small amount of analysis might uncover that such seemingly good ideas are, in fact, inherently faulty.
9) Beer Buckets and Baby Jesus- Myra McEntire: 5/5 stars
“A Walk to Remember” with a feistier pastor’s daughter putting on the nativity play at Dixie Stampede. It shouldn’t make any sense, but it totally works. Vaughn’s hijinks leading up to the play were hilarious, and the fact that his latest prank led to the play having to be moved to a Civil War-themed dinner theatre was just priceless. I liked the banter between Vaughn and Gracie and that Gracie turned out to be very different from the girl everyone imagined her to be. I also really liked Pastor Robinson-he was a loving father and a great man, and I appreciated that Vaughn came to realize that the pastor genuinely cared for people, but he was also just a normal guy. Of course, everything that could’ve gone wrong did-I loved the reference to the fact that snow means an emergency trip to the store for milk and eggs and toilet paper-and I liked the change-up of Vaughn using his knack for creating chaos to harness the chaos of the night and put on the play before getting a kiss for his valiant efforts.
- “Your father swears, too?” “Not anymore. Last year, he emptied it to fund a trip to the Harry Potter theme park in Florida.”
10) Welcome to Christmas, CA- Kiersten White: 5/5 stars
Eating is an important part of every holiday memory I have. There’s just something about sharing a meal that brings out the best in people, especially at Christmastime. Ben’s skill with food worked its magic on the town of Christmas, and as Maria saw the place she hated begin to change, she, too, began to see the good in her home. I loved Maria’s good heart and how she tried to look out for those close to her, but it was great that she was still also just a typical teenager-she hated her job, she couldn’t wait to move out, and she disliked her mother’s boyfriend. But Ben made her rethink everything, and I especially liked how Ben’s attitude led to the change in the relationship between Maria, her mother, and Rick. Rick learning Spanish to better fit into their lives was so sweet, and I loved the mention at the end of them watching “Bonanza” dubbed in Spanish. And of course Ben was short for Ebenezer, because anyone named after Scrooge would end up loving Christmas and using that love to change a town and the life of one special girl.
- “I’m pretty sure you spice your cookies with something illegal.” “Cinnamon is not a controlled substance.”
11) Star of Bethlehem- Ally Carter: 4/5 stars
I thought this was going to be a “Prince and the Pauper” retelling, and it sort of was, but it was much cuter. I had to laugh as Liddy planned her escape from Ethan’s family only to end up out in the middle of nowhere, where running away was definitely not an option. Although Liddy didn’t do a very good job of pretending to be Hulda, it was obvious that Ethan’s family was glad to have her there, and once it became apparent that they knew she’s wasn’t Hulda, it was funny to see the ways the family found to tease Liddy about it without letting her know they knew. I loved the close-knit family, although I could appreciate Ethan’s need to get away from it all for maybe the only time in his life, but the love and the sense of family with the rest of the town of Bethlehem was exactly what Liddy needed. The feeling of a relationship between Liddy and Ethan felt a bit lacking, but it was safe to assume that in the hours the two spent together working on the ranch, they grew pretty close, and Ethan’s understanding and defense of Liddy with her manager showed how much he truly cared for her.
- “Some places there are twelve, but where I live there are nine because…the other three died because they forgot their shoes.”
12) The Girl Who Woke the Dreamer- Laini Taylor: 5/5 stars
A high fantasy short story was an interesting way to end this anthology, but it worked wonderfully. Neve’s world was a dark and dreary place, even darker after the death of the twins. I loved the world-building here and the tradition of choosing a sweetheart during Advent, as it was a good way to show how little choice Neve really had for her future. But I admired Neve for her determination to live her life as she chose, even when it meant risking the Reverend Spear’s wrath as she tried to turn down his suit. The mythology of the Dreamers was unique and wove in perfectly with Neve’s situation as she prayed for someone to save her. I liked seeing from the Dreamer’s point of view, especially as he fell in love with Neve, and his gifts for her were strange and beautiful. Neve’s transformation was the last gift for her, and it made the night magical for the rest of the islanders, a final goodbye from the girl who woke a god and changed her fate.
- 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.
And there you have it.
Twelve holiday tales with laughter and mystery and drama and, most importantly, romance. Hopefully these stories will hit their mark and leave you feeling a little more festive…or maybe just feeling a bit hungry and wishing you had some apple pie or some gingerbread ladies. (If you’re like me, you’ll end up feeling both.) So if you’re looking for some light reading to put you in the holiday spirit or looking for some new authors to check out as we head into the new year, check out My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories. Your funny bone and your romantic sensibilities will thank you.