Saturday, November 29, 2014
Well, now it is the right season, and this book perfectly suited my holiday mood. Titled Let It Snow, this book contains three short novels, or three quite long stories, billed as “holiday romances,” respectively written by Maureen Johnson, John Green, and Lauren Myracle, all accomplished young adult authors. What I didn’t realize, and what really made this fun, is that the three romances are linked, all taking place from December 24 to 26 in the same small town during the same big blizzard. (Some spoilers ahead.)
The first story is Maureen Johnson’s “The Jubilee Express.” Jubilee, who goes by Julie, cannot believe it when her parents get arrested during the annual Christmas Eve line-up for the coveted Flobie Christmas Village limited edition building. Their neighbor and lawyer bundles an unwilling Jubilee onto a train to go to her grandparents, which means that Jubilee will miss her boyfriend’s family’s Christmas Eve smorgasbord. Matters get worse when Jubilee’s train not only gets stuck in a blizzard near Gracetown, it’s inhabited by a team of perky cheerleaders who seem to tumble everywhere like a bunch of good-natured puppies. Jubilee makes a break for the Waffle House across the railroad tracks only to be followed by said cheerleaders; her boyfriend will barely give her a minute on the phone; and she finally accepts an offer from a local boy, Stuart, to spend the night with his family.
This was by far my favorite of the three stories. The Flobie Christmas Village stuff is just funny, and Jubilee’s romance story was, to me, the most moving of the three. I liked Jubilee’s voice, I liked Stuart’s slightly wacky mother, and I felt that this story also embraced the Christmas spirit the most. In addition, I felt like this story had the greatest consequences, if that makes sense -- what happened really matter, and not just in the characters’ imaginations.
I’ll have to admit that I didn’t much care for John Green’s story, “A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle,” which surprised the heck out of me. I actually bought this book on the strength of John Green’s name, having absolutely loved his Looking for Alaska (and much later, his The Fault in Our Stars), and I was tempted to read his story first, but thankfully I didn't, because the way the links between the stories are constructed, you really do want to read them in the order presented.
In this story, a boy named Tobin is spending Christmas Eve watching James Bond movies with his two best friends, JP and the Duke, the latter of whom is actually a girl named Angie. Tobin’s parents are conveniently stuck in Boston due to the same storm that landed Jubilee’s train in Gracetown, where Tobin lives. While Tobin’s parents’ absence is actually less contrived than Jubilee’s, the fact that JP and the Duke’s parents don’t seem to care that their teenagers aren’t spending Christmas Eve at home strikes me as a little odd and a little too convenient. In any case, the threesome get a phone call from another friend who is working at the Waffle House and wants to share his good fortune: the place has been invaded by a group of stranded cheerleaders and so they should get down there right away! The Duke has little interest in cheerleaders, but knowing Tobin and JP think of her as one of the guys (you know where this is going, right?), she tags along.
Unfortunately, here’s where the story gets silly. While yes, I absolutely believe that a trio of teenagers would risk driving in a blizzard for an adventure, they almost crash the car -- and then they try it again anyway. The author tries to give the story false urgency by making us believe that the Waffle House friend said they will only be allowed in the restaurant if they get there more quickly than his co-workers’ friends, as though the cheerleaders are the prize in a macho death match competition.
To be fair, various characters point out that the myths surrounding cheerleaders are silly, not to mention offensive to the cheerleaders themselves. But seriously, I really don’t think that their friend would lock them out of the Waffle House (aren’t those places open 24 hours, anyway?) during a possibly life-threatening blizzard just to make sure the cheerleader-to-guy ratio remains more in his favor. Even worse, when Tobin’s car ends up in a ditch and they start walking to the restaurant, they've gone quite a ways when their friend calls to say he won’t let them in because they accidentally left their Twister game in the car. So they go back for it, even though Tobin’s feet are so cold that he actually starts having difficulty walking. Sure, risk having your toes cut off for frostbite damage so you can get a Twister game so you can see the cheerleaders!
It gets even sillier than that (no, really) but I won’t burden you with any more details. Suffice it to say that yes, I know that to young people, things that really aren’t life and death sometimes seem that they are. And so I believed that Jubilee’s Christmas was absolutely ruined (or so she thought) by missing her boyfriend’s family gathering. I believed that Stuart had been devastated when his girlfriend publicly humiliated him. But I did not believe that Tobin and his two friends had to get to that Waffle House no matter what the consequences might be, and I was annoyed that ultimately there were no consequences. No bad ones, anyway.
The third story, “The Patron Saint of Pigs” by Lauren Myracle, is narrated by Addie, a girl consumed with guilt and sorrow after fighting with her boyfriend, getting drunk, and kissing someone else. She made a plea for her boyfriend to meet her at Starbucks, but any hopes raised by his noncommittal “We’ll see” were dashed when he didn't show without explanation. The reader knows who this boy is -- remember that train that got stuck? -- and at first it’s a little hard to care too much when Addie is so self-absorbed, but actually, that’s the point of the story. Addie vows to turn over a new leaf, and starts by volunteering to pick up her friend Tegan’s teacup pig at the pet store. A series of comedic mishaps result in a wild goose (pig) chase, but hey, it’s Christmas, so the reader can't be blamed for expecting a happy ending at this point, both pig- and boyfriend-wise.
This story was also a bit contrived in the way the pig “emergency” was set up, and it is difficult to like Addie for a fair bit of the story, but in the end I enjoyed it, in part because it tied in so well to the other two pieces. Those stories didn’t have loose ends, per se, but it was nice to see the aftermath of their respective plots. Also, Addie’s transformation was a little abrupt, but still pleasant to witness. She really is a good egg who cares about her friends; she just needed to get past the drama of having drama all the time.
Overall, this was a nice, feel-good little book that’s a quick read. I'm glad I finally read it, and I’m sure I’ll be picking it back up in future years when I want to get into the Christmas spirit. I note it's also been re-issued a couple of times with new covers -- and I just noticed that the latest cover says "New York Times bestseller" on it, so people must like it. If you can get past the silliness of the middle part, it's pretty good stuff.