Just as I was looking for something to read to get me into the holiday spirit, Abby, Becky, and Kerry (see links below) all published reviews of a title from last fall: Let It Snow: Three Holiday Romances, by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle. I'm not generally a big short story fan. However, the reviews were positive, and a book about romance around the holidays struck me as just the right thing for my current mood. And I'm glad that I dipped in to Let It Snow. I enjoyed it very much. I was extra-pleased when I started the second story, and realized that the three stories are connected. Much better, I think, than reading three un-connected stories by three different authors.
The stories in Let It Snow take place between the afternoon of Christmas Eve, and the day after Christmas. The first story, Maureen Johnson's Jubilee Express, finds highschooler Jubilee Dougal taking a last-minute train trip through a snowstorm to visit her grandparents. When the storm stalls Jubilee's train in Gracetown, she is lured from the safety of the train by the familiar lights of Waffle House. An adventure ensues - one that sheds a new light on Jubilee's relationship with her perfect boyfriend, Noah.
I enjoyed Maureen Johnson's writing style. Her descriptions rang true for me. For example:
"I thought about calling my grandparents... They would have been happy to talk to me, but I wasn't feeling up to it. My grandparents are great people, but they are easily rattled. Like, if the grocery store sells out of some frozen pizza or soup they advertise in the circular, and they've gone to the store just for that, they'll stand there debating their next move for a half an hour." (Chapter Two, Jubilee Express)
Oh, do I know people like that. I don't want to give anything away, but I have to say that the house where Jubilee ends up spending Christmas felt real to me, too. I also like Jubilee's voice. For instance:
"There is nothing about a bad situation that fourteen hyper cheerleaders can't worsen." (Chapter Four, Jubilee Express)
Doubtless true. When I first read Jubilee Express, I was a bit confused by a couple of characters and situations that Johnson introduced and then left as loose ends. Things made much more sense to me once I realized that these situations would be resolved in the other two stories. I'm tempted now to go back and re-read that one, I must say.
The second story, A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle, is classic John Green, narrated by a smart, wry teenage boy named Tobin, and including a (very brief) road trip through a blizzard (with a quest for a Waffle House full of cheerleaders at the end). It took me a few pages to realize that the narrator was a boy, actually, but I think this is just because of the shift from the first story. Once I settled in with that, I quite enjoyed this story, too. I could see where the romance was going from pretty early on, but it was one of those cases where you're completely happy with where things are going, and want to keep reading just to make sure (like in the second Penderwicks book). Here are a couple of examples of Tobin's voice:
"There was a long moment between when Carla (the car) stopped moving forward and when she began to slide, tires locked, back down the hill. It was a quiet moment, a time of contemplation." (Chapter Four, A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle).
"Lots of guys like the Duke, but she never seemed interested in anybody. She didn't want to talk your ear off about some guy and how cute he was, and how he sometimes paid her attention and sometimes didn't and all that crap. I liked that about her. The Duke was just normal: she liked to joke around and talk about movies, and she didn't mind yelling or getting yelled at. She was much more like a person than other girls were." (Chapter Five, A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle)
I think that A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle would make an excellent movie for teens. I would watch it myself, too. There is a perfect combination of adventure, wit, romance, and absurdity.
The final story in Let It Snow is Lauren Myracle's The Patron Saint of Pigs, featuring Addie, a girl consumed by guilt for having kissed another boy, despite her love for her boyfriend, Jeb. I liked this story because it included appearances by the major players from the prior two stories, giving a glimpse at Jubilee and Tobin's respective happily-ever-afters. It finished off the book well, and left me quite satisfied with my experience.
However, I must admit that I didn't like Addie as much as I liked Tobin or Jubilee. A self-absorbed, insecure cheater is a bit of a hard sell for me. And self-pity is just not appealing (though Addie grows quite a bit through the course of the story). For example:
"Tegan and Dorrie bade their farewells, and for about two minutes I forgot my heartbreak in the midst of our goodbyes and hugs. But as soon as they were gone, my shoulders slumped. Hi, said my sadness. I'm ba-a-ack. Did you miss me? (Chapter Six, The Patron Saint of Pigs)
I also found this story sprinkled with more name brands and cultural references than the other two (American Idol, iPod playlists, Reese's Big Cup, a character who looks "like a Hollister model", and so on). I'm sure that this writing style works well for teens, but I found it a bit jarring after the other two voices.
But I did like getting Addie's perspective on the characters she knew from The Jubilee Express and A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle. Lauren Myracle did an excellent job of tying things together. For example:
One other thing that The Patron Saint of Pigs accomplished for me was to make me want to go back and start Let It Snow over again from the beginning. But I think that what I'll do instead is save it to re-read next December. I highly recommend Let It Snow for anyone, teens or adults, looking for romance and/or a dash of holiday spirit.
"Tobin wore scruffy sweaters and was friends with the Korean guy who said "asshat," and he and all of his buddies were intimidatingly clever. The kind of clever that made me feel cheerleader-dumb, even though I wasn't a cheerleader, and even though I personally didn't think cheerleaders were dumb. Not all of them, anyway. Chloe-the-Stuart dumper, maybe." (Chapter Eight, The Patron Saint of Pigs)
Publisher: Speak (Penguin)
Publication Date: September 2008
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher. Quotes should be checked against the final printed book.
Other Blog Reviews: Becky's Book Reviews, Shelf Elf, Book Nut, Abby (the) Librarian, and Reading and Breathing.
© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. All Amazon links in this post are affiliate links, and may result in my receiving a small commission on purchases (with no additional cost to you).