My True Love Gave to Me is a book of short stories, all Christmas themed. The stories are written by an all-star team of YA champions: Holly Black, Ally Carter, Matt de la Pena, Gayle Forman, Jenny Han, David Levithan, Kelly Link, Myra McEntire, Rainbow Rowell, Stephanie Perkins, Laini Taylor, and Kiersten White. Yes, that’s right. Cannonball favorites Laini Taylor, Holly Black, and Rainbow Rowell ALL IN ONE COLLECTION.
I was all set for this to pretty much be the best book ever. A new holiday classic.
And I guess that was my mistake. The book is fine. Some of the stories are actually pretty good. But.
I think writing a short story is a very specific talent. And a bit of a lost art. Especially for authors who specialize in trilogies that never seem to end. Stephen King is really good at it, but Stephen King works very hard at it. He constantly works on short stories to keep himself in fighting form. I’m not so sure that David Levithan is following quite the same writing regimen.
I’ll cut the book some slack. None of the stories are outright terrible.
My least favorites were Jenny Han’s “Polaris is Where You’ll Find Me” (about a human girl raised as an elf at the North Pole), and Levithan’s “Your Temporary Santa” (a gay, jewish kid dresses up as Santa for his boyfriend’s little sister?).
In the next group, stories that I thought were fine, were Link’s “The Lady and the Fox” (Link is really just too weird for me, but she is great at managing the short story format), “What Have You Done, Sophie Roth?” by Gayle Forman, “Beer Buckets and Baby Jesus” by Myra McEntire, and “Star of Bethlehem” by Ally Carter. They were all just fine. Lonely girl meets magical spirit in the woods every Christmas. Jewish girl and black boy at really WASP-y college bond over Christmas. The town Christmas pageant is saved by the least likely suspect. Hannah Montana escapes the horrible celebrity life and finds Christmas happiness in Oklahoma.
The last bunch were pretty darn good, actually.
I hadn’t heard of Matt de la Pena before, but his story “Angels in the Snow” was quite lovely.
My favorite in the book was Stephanie Perkins’ “It’s a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown.” A simple story about picking out a Christmas tree that made me care and want to know more about the characters. I hoped they would end up happy.
Holly Black’s “Krampuslauf” was weird and fun, and I liked most of it. I preferred the parts of the story that were about normal events, not the supernatural.
“Welcome to Christmas, CA,” by Kiersten White was everything a holiday story should be. Christmas miracles, love, family togetherness, communities coming together. Very nice.
Laini Taylor’s “The Girl Who Woke the Dreamer” was very Laini Taylor-y. Like an old-fashioned fairy tale that doesn’t necessarily have a happy ending. It was dark, yet romantic. I’m not sure I liked the story, but I loved the writing.
Lastly, we have Rainbow Rowell’s “Midnights”. I liked the story of these two friends and how their relationship progresses over the years, checking in on them on New Year’s Eve every year. I wanted to read more about them. My issue with it was that as a short story, it felt incomplete. It seemed more like a chapter out of an unfinished book to me. I would definitely read that book, if Rowell wanted to write it. It just didn’t really work as a 20 page story.
I love the idea behind this book, I just wish I had enjoyed it a little bit more.