My True Love Gave to Me by Various Authors (Edited by Stephanie Perkins)
Published by St. Martin’s Press on October 1, 2014
Genres: [Young Adult] Anthology
Format: Hardcover, Review Copy
3.5 Stars, Completed December 29, 2015
– minor SPOILERS ahead –
Like my recent review of How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, this is going to be yet another unconventional one since it’s an anthology this time. I’ll be reviewing each story on it’s own, in depth, and doing a tl;dr for the overall anthology at the end.
“Midnights” by Rainbow Rowell – 5 Stars, Completed December 3, 2015
It’s kind of weird how this always happens to me, but often times my first experience with an author’s work is through these Christmas anthologies. For example, I still haven’t read any John Green aside from his short story contribution in Let it Snow, another holiday young adult anthology. Anyway, unlike my indifference with John Green’s snippet in that bind up, I really enjoyed my first Rainbow Rowell work in this one. It was short and sweet, exactly what a holiday short story ought to be. I also really loved how there were skips in time with this one, which made it fast paced. The characters were relatable. And you can really feel the power of Rowell’s writing as a reader. I mean I was already aboard the Mags/Noel ship only having gotten a couple of pages in. On a personal level, I also really liked the storyline of “Midnights” because I found Mags character to be similar to myself. In real life, I’m very shy and the party scene has never been comfortable for me. I also found it interesting, that this also gave readers a glimpse of Mags life as a college student that stayed in her hometown, which is exactly what I did. And Rowell perfectly described how such a teen would feel when all her friends in her life left to pursue their separate careers. The motif that life and people are always changing is a solid one, and I really loved how Rowell decided to include it.
“The Lady and the Fox” by Kelly Link – 2.5 Stars, Completed December 20, 2015
This was one of the harder ones to review because there were points throughout that made this a 1/2 star read and other moments a 4/5. After reading the end, I’ve decided to take the median and go with 2.5. The beginning was incredibly slow and had a lot of flowery, superfluous prose. For a short story, it was unnecessary to include so much detail about the Honeywells. I still don’t really understand why it was so important for the readers to be reminded that the family all commonly had beautiful features and shared a love for theater. However, the mystery of Fenny was the 5 stars worthy part of the story for me. I liked how mysterious his character was and it was the main reason why I continued reading the story. (Yes, the slow beginning actually made it DNFable at first.) And the ending was another part I was quite unhappy with. The story literally just stopped. I remember after finishing this story, I stormed out in the kitchen to vent my displeasure with my dad. I was like, “How could it just stop?!” And after Rowell’s “Midnights,” I wasn’t expecting this one to be a fantasy story, which was a nice surprise. The beauty of these short stories is that that the mythology element and world building can be omitted, but I wanted to learn more about the Lady and Fenny.
“Angels in the Snow” by Matt de la Peña – 3 Stars, Completed December 21, 2015
I’m not really sure how I feel about this one. I haven’t read that much Latino literature, but I know Matt de la Peña is a pretty prominent voice for young adult readers. I did like Shy’s character and how his background was introduced to the readers. It’s also nice reading about a first generation college student since I’m also one. However, I wasn’t that much of a fan of the fast romance. I kind of wish that Shy and Haley remained as friends throughout instead. Ah well.
“Polaris is Where You’ll Find Me” by Jenny Han – 2 Stars, Completed December 21, 2015
I kind of feel the same way about this story as I did with Jenny Han’s Summer trilogy. It was pretty bland and there was very little build up with the characters and story. And I know, Natty was only adopted but the “diversity” element wasn’t really fulfilling since I didn’t get a good sense of how she was unique. She was just “Asian,” which sort of bothered me a lot. However, I did like the ending because it left readers pondering what all will happen with the Swedish, human boy, Lars.
“It’s a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown” by Stephanie Perkins – 4 Stars, Completed December 23, 2015
This was definitely one of the better short stories. It was unique and everything about both characters was very sweet and, well, memorable. I also liked the plot. The only iffy thing was how unlikely everything was. I’m not sure if I’d let a stranger into my apartment… and kiss him (some instalove?) within hours of meeting him, but other than that it was fast paced and intriguing.
“Your Temporary Santa” by David Levithan – 2 Stars, Completed December 23, 2015
I have a confession to make: I never believed in Santa Claus. Honestly, by the time I even knew there was such a figure… I was already at the age in which most kids didn’t believe in him anymore. Plus, my parents never really did the Christmas tradition with leaving presents under the tree from Santa. Or lending me the imagination that there was a chubby, bearded guy that delivered our presents. Anyway, this story was humorous and funny, but it didn’t really keep my attention or, honestly, stand out compared to the others, which is quite a disappointment since I’ve heard David Leviathan is brilliant usually. (Now that I think about it I did read his collab story, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, many years ago though)
“Krampuslauf” by Holly Black – 3.5 Stars, Completed December 25, 2015
It’s going to be weird to admit that I think I like Holly Black for her dark themes and grungy settings with badass characters complete with tattoos and piercings. (I like to think my alterego would be a kickbutt shadowhunter, dressed in all black, of course, made right out of a Cassie Clare and Holly Black collab story because I’m just so not that way in real life.) Anyway, I also love Holly Black’s imagination even if it can be a bit strange and overwhelming for some readers. Something about how her magical yet haunting creatures is what makes the story so intriguing. I can certainly see why she and Cassie Clare are such close friends in real life. (And I love most of the work both authors have published, being a huge fan of ya paranormal). Anyhow, I think I liked this one for the mysteriousness and bizarre storyline.
“What the Hell Have You Done, Sophie Roth?” by Gayle Forman – 4 Stars, Completed December 25, 2015
I was skeptical going into this because I’m not a fan of Gayle Forman’s writing (granted I only read If I Stay by her but it didn’t leave a great impression with me), and I was pleasantly surprised by how wonderfully wintry adorable this romance was. I also found it interesting that it was about a young freshman that felt unhappy with the college she chose. Because, honestly, I wasn’t always happy with the university I attend. I didn’t live in a dorm so I felt very isolated and secluded my first few semesters in college. Living at home, off campus you’re never really there to join in on the campus activities and events; and you easily miss out on so many social opportunities. And the school I attend… I purposely only applied to that one school alone because of the family business, the money I’d save from not paying for housing, and financial/scholarship opportunities I couldn’t fathom giving up. So, unexpectedly, I felt connected to Sophie because of our similarities in that respect. But like Sophie, I realized it wasn’t about the school at all. Or the fact that I stayed in my hometown, but I was the one missing out on the college experience and that it wasn’t too late to fix it and makes these years the best years of life. I can now admit I’m very happy with the college I attend. Anyway, back to the review. A nice plus this story offered: Interracial couples for the win! It made me smile that this one had a small twist of diversity. But my only problem was that overall the build up of the romance was just on witty comebacks the majority of the time. Past the amusing banter, some of the characters somehow lacked depth and didn’t really stand out to me (other than Sophie and her college complex that is).
“Beer Buckets and Baby Jesus” by Myra McEntire – 1.5 Star, Completed December 27, 2015
Ah, I really did not like this one. The writing was okay. The story was okay. The characters were okay. But that’s just it, “Beer Buckets and Baby Jesus” was just too boring for me. It’s about a young guy that turns over a new leaf around the holidays and there’s some strong undertones of redemption… but I guess it wasn’t for me. Also, I just didn’t really understand the humor.
“Welcome to Christmas, CA” by Kiersten White – 3.5 Stars, Completed December 28, 2015
Now this one was utterly so cute! I’ve read White’s first installment in the Paranormalcy trilogy years ago and really liked it. (Actually, I’ve been wanting to revisit that series for a while now.) I like how easygoing and comfortable White’s writing style is. It was definitely interesting seeing her write a contemporary story this time unlike her usual genre, paranormal. However, the story was fun but overall not a very strong one. There were some gaps in which I wish White filled in for us before the last page. If only the readers got to learn more about Ben’s background and his time learning cooking at juvie.
“Star of Bethlehem” by Ally Carter – 4 Stars, Completed December 28, 2015
Even though this entire story is highly improbable and probably would never happen, especially now with security being so tight at airports (I’m pretty sure they do check boarding passes even at interior gates-contrary to what this story mentions), it was might cute and became one of the few storylines in this anthology I really enjoyed. However, the only downside to this was that I found the romance and story itself very fast paced-everything escalated a little too quickly that it made the dubious story seem even more unrealistic and unlikely to actually happen in reality.
“The Girl Who Woke the Dreamer” by Laini Taylor – 5 Stars, Completed December 29, 2015
Stephanie Perkins did a wonderful job with arranging the placement of the stories, leaving the best, in my opinion, at the start and the last. I noticed this wasn’t among a lot of readers’ favorites, but this was just the right type of story for me. I love any well done tale infused with fantasy or paranormal elements and this one happened to have them. I also really loved the story and the thorough story building-as thorough as one can be with a short story-and the descriptive writing. However, if you’re not a fan of books that don’t have much dialogue, I don’t recommend this one for you. There were few exchanges between characters, and it was a pretty text and description heavy story-a well done one nonetheless.
My True Love Gave to Me Overall – 3.5 Stars
Holiday anthologies are my favorite (sort of an overstatement since I’ve only read two though) because they’re just so warm and perfect accompanied with hot cocoa while wearing an ugly sweater (not sure why the outfit matters but it does; maybe it’s a mood setting element while reading).
This particular compilation of stories had some that were very good and others which were meh and unmemorable. A few of them weren’t my cup of tea but I can certainly see that they could be for others. So, with that being said, I still think this is great read for the holidays or winter season because there’s a diverse pick of stories fit for all types of readers.
Special thanks to St. Martin’s Griffin for giving me the opportunity to read and review My True Love Gave to Me. In no way did this affect my reading experience or honest review. And thanks so much for supplying the gif version of My True Love Gave to Me book cover; it’s so cool!