Book Review: My True Love Gave to Me
Edited By: Stephanie Perkins
Published By: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: October 14, 2014
Page Count: 320
Source: ARC Kindly Provided by Publisher via NetGalley
Audience: Young Adult - Holiday Anthology
I have been excited about this anthology since I first saw it mentioned on Stephanie Perkins' blog. I love her writing and seeing all the other amazing authors that would be joining her in this endeavor made me yearn to get my hands on a copy. I was super lucky to snag an early edition from the publisher. This is the rare anthology treat - I actually enjoyed all of the stories. Sure, I liked some more than others, but it is rare for me to like every single story. There is a perfect balance between contemporary and fantasy in this one. Anthologies aren't always my cup of tea, but this one is a fun, diverse read that will have you wishing for snowflakes and peppermint hot chocolate.
Due to this being an anthology, I thought the best way to review it was to briefly discuss each story.
Story #1: "Midnights" by Rainbow Rowell (Rating: 5)
This was my first experience with Rowell's writing. I know, I know. I'm way late to the game and should remedy this pronto. It was nice to see a romance based on more than instalove; the characters in this one form a strong friendship before pursuing anything more. I truly need more romance like this in my reading. The kiss in this one is pure magic.
Favorite Quotation: "I need you to be my person," Mags said. "I need to see you. And hear you." (Kindle Location 413)
Story #2: "The Lady and the Fox" by Kelly Link (Rating: 4)
I have only read one other work by Kelly Link, Pretty Monsters, and it didn't appeal to me. I was worried when I started this short story that I would have a repeat experience, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that this story did appeal to me on many levels. This story felt like an old Christmas legend just waiting to be discovered. The combination of contemporary and magical realism blended together well. I did find that the love aspect didn't sit well with me, but there is only so much build up that can occur in a short story so I let it slide.
Favorite Quotation: "A crucial component of any relationship is the capacity to surprise the one you love." (Kindle Location 827)
Story #3: "Angels in the Snow" by Matt de la Pena (Rating: 4)
This was another new experience as I have never read this author's work. I was happy to see a diverse character as the main character. Shy is Hispanic and living in New York City during a brutal snowstorm. It's his first Christmas away from home; I found his stress about missing his family and his financial situation to be authentic and relevant. I also enjoyed this one because I have often thought of writing a story about two people trapped together during a snowstorm. There is something magical about this sort of setting. I was impressed with the complexity of these characters. Matt de la Pena deliver some amazing writing in a small package. The commentary on loss and socioeconomic status make this one a must read. I have already added several of his other works to my "To Be Read" list.
Favorite Quotation: "Not sure you're aware of this, but we're kind of snowed in right now, which is the perfect excuse to stream Netflix. I watched an entire season of Downton Abbey yesterday." (Kindle Location 1036)
Story #4: "Polaris is Where You'll Find Me" by Jenny Han (Rating: 3)
Jenny Han is one of my favorite YA authors, but sadly this story fell short for me. It was one of my least favorite in the anthology. I liked her descriptions of elves and the North Pole, but I didn't find myself invested in her characters and their relationships. This story seemed juvenile and silly after following the piece by Matt de la Pena. I found this one to be cute, but unfulfilling.
Favorite Quotation: There are two kinds of children. The kind who believe and the kind who don't. Every year, it seems there are fewer in the world who do. Papa says it's not an easy thing to ask a child to believe in what they can't see; he says it's its own magic. He says that if you have that magic inside of you, you should protect it all your life and never let it go, because once it's gone, it's gone forever. (Kindle Location 1592)
Story #5: "It's a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown" by Stephanie Perkins (Rating: 5)
I've already mentioned this, but I LOVE Stephanie Perkins' writing. After finishing Isla's story a few weeks ago, this was just what I needed to fill the void. Perkins has a way of creating characters that stick with you. I already want more of Marigold and North. This was a perfect Christmas confection sprinkled with Perkins' trademark style of contemporary romance. I also loved that the setting was a city that is near and dear to my heart - Asheville, North Carolina. This was one of my favorites in this anthology.
Favorite Quotation: "I've always felt lucky to live someplace where snow is rare, you know? It's the rareness that makes it so special." (Kindle Location 2243)
Story #6: "Your Temporary Santa" by David Leviathan (Rating: 3.5)
This story was a bit more serious than the others in the anthology. I know the holidays are not a happy time for everyone, but I found that I enjoyed the stories that felt more hopeful. I was impressed with Leviathan's ability to create such complexity in a short space. I still want to know what is going on with Connor's family. I have predictions, but it isn't clear in the story. I did like the emphasis on family in this one and how things can fall apart when one piece of the family is no longer in place. One thing that did make this story stand out in my mind is the main character's sense of humor.
Favorite Quotation: It occurs to me now to wonder where, exactly, this fur is supposed to have come from, if Santa spends so much time at the North Pole. Perhaps it's him, not global warming, that's dooming the polar bears. (Kindle Location 2357)
Story #7: "Krampuslauf" by Holly Black (Rating: 5)
Holly Black's writing always has a darkness swirling about it so I was interested to see how this trend would play out in a Christmas story. She didn't let me down. I got both darkness and Christmas light. The combination of Black's style of writing and the holidays made for delicious reading. I had never heard of Krampus before beginning this story, but I enjoyed learning the lore behind this holiday villain. It also doesn't hurt that Black manages to make him sound yummy. There is also an emphasis on the divide between social classes. This story was tied with the Perkins' piece for my favorite in the anthology.
Favorite Quotation: "That is some Harry Potter sh*t." (Kindle Location 2999)
Story #8: "What the Hell Have You Done, Sophie Roth?" by Gayle Forman (Rating: 5)
Gayle Forman's writing has a way of clawing through your mind, leaving traces of itself in every nook and cranny. Years after reading If I Stay, I still tear up just thinking about Mia and Adam. Forman manages to leave her mark yet again with this little gem. It didn't leave me in a state of emotional derailment like If I Stay, but there was a lot of food for thought. I walked away from this one thinking about how deceiving appearances can be and how taking chances in life often leads to the biggest rewards. How often have I missed a chance at something awesome because I was too caught up in my own little existence? How many times have I missed a chance to form a relationship because I was too busy lamenting my circumstances to notice someone? In addition to reminding me of some important life lessons, I loved the two diverse characters that drive this story. I also was happy to see Hanukkah make an appearance in the anthology.
Favorite Quotation: The look they exchanged was like a road map of the history they'd already traversed tonight. (Kindle Location 3402)
Story #9: "Beer Buckets and Baby Jesus" by Myra McEntire (Rating: 4)
This is another appearances are often deceiving story. Myra McEntire sets her story in small town Tennessee. Vaughn, the local troublemaker, has burned down the barn of a local Methodist church right before their big Christmas play. To serve his community service, Vaughn must help get the production up and running again in its new location: The Rebel Yell, a Civil War dinner theater. His crush on the minister's daughter will ramp up the tension a bit. I found this one to be a sweet, country fried tale that made me smile.
Favorite Quotation: Kids in our town spent their childhoods perpetually frustrated by the pink radar line on weather forecasts that never dipped far enough south to bring snow, yet always included us in tornado warnings. (Kindle Location 3783)
Story #10: "Welcome to Christmas, CA" by Kiersten White (Rating: 4)
Kiersten White cooks up a cute magical realism dose of holiday cheer in this one. Christmas is a small mining town in California that has seen better days. Nobody comes to the town on purpose these days until a new cook arrives at the local diner. His food has a way of making people happy and business begins to boom. This is another fun read that featured a diverse main character. In addition, I liked the complexity of Maria's family.
Favorite Quotation: "I think if you can find the right food to connect yourself to a happier time, or a happier version of yourself, it can help you remember. Help you get back to who you were when you were happy. It can change everything." (Kindle Location 4302)
Story #11: "Star of Bethlehem" by Ally Carter (Rating: 2.5)
This was another of my least favorite stories in the anthology. I enjoyed Ethan and his family, but the majority of the story was confusing. I realize it was done this way to keep readers guessing about Lydia, but I just found it difficult to buy into.
Favorite Quotation: I didn't mark any quotations while I was reading this one.
Story #12: "The Girl Who Woke the Dreamer" by Laini Taylor (Rating: 5)
Again, I have to admit that I have never read anything by this author. So many of the Larks love Laini Taylor's writing that you would think that I would have succumb to peer pressure long before now, but alas, I have not. I do plan to remedy that soon because I enjoyed this little tidbit of Taylor's writing so much. It was up there among my favorites in the anthology. The lore and setting lured me in from the opening paragraph. The story was beautiful and provided the perfect ending to this anthology.
Favorite Quotation: She expected rain, because rain was as sure a feature of a December day as hungry foxes. (Kindle Location 5084)
My overall experience with this anthology was a highly favorable one. I loved that each story was set during the winter months and had some connection to the holidays, but they were not your typical Christmas fare. There is enough variety here to appeal to every reader. This is one you'll want to preorder and plan to read when the chill hits the air.
One Last Gripe: I'm still frustrated that I never learned why Ben was in juvie in White's story.
Favorite Thing About This Book: I loved seeing so many of my favorites in one place and getting to know new writers.
First Sentence: It was cold out on the patio, under the deck.
Favorite Character: North - I always love Perkins' male characters.
Least Favorite Character: Lydia from Carter's story
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 international bestselling author Stephanie Perkins.