This anthology of holiday romances contains stories from some of the biggest names in YA right now, including Rainbow Rowell, Kelly Link, Jenny Han, David Levithan, and editrix Stephanie Perkins. All twelve stories involve a romance and a winter holiday, but each one is different. There are Christmas stories and Chanukah stories, real-life settings and fantasy worlds, characters who find love and characters who find themselves. Rainbow Rowell’s “Midnights” tracks the friendship of Mags and Noel over the course of several New Year’s Eves, until the night their relationship changes forever. Jenny Han’s “Polaris Is Where You’ll Find Me” is narrated by the only human who lives at the North Pole. Myra McEntire’s “Beer Buckets and Baby Jesus” involves a bad boy, a preacher’s daughter, and a Christmas pageant gone horribly awry. The variety of stories in this collection guarantees that any lover of the winter holidays will find something in it to enjoy.
Short story collections are usually hit-or-miss for me, but because of the impressive list of contributors to this book, I was hoping for more “hits” than I got. I would say I quite liked about half the stories, with Rowell’s “Midnights” being my favorite by far. By spreading the story over several years, I really got a sense of the depth of Mags and Noel’s relationship, and the climactic scene was pitch-perfect. By contrast, I felt like a lot of the stories actually needed to be full novels in order to make a real impact. For example, “The Girl Who Woke the Dreamer” by Laini Taylor had lovely writing and an interesting world, but because the story is so short, there wasn’t really enough room to develop that world. I was also underwhelmed by Stephanie Perkins’ story, which surprised me because I love her novels! But again, I think the issue is that she didn’t really have enough space to develop her characters and make me care about them. As I said, I did like about half the stories, and I’ll be checking out more work by some of these authors (Kelly Link and Kiersten White in particular), but this is not a must-read collection.