I am not one, normally, for short story collections. Inevitably there are some which are too long, and some which are too short. And some that are just, well, terrible. My True Love Gave To Me is no exception to these general rules of short story collections.
I should backtrack to say that I enjoyed the majority of the stories in this collection. The authors in question are generally well liked and reviewed (as best I can tell/remember I have only read one of the authors before) and the collection is buoyed by their collected strength. Here’s what I thought of the individual stories, and why I give the collection 3.5 out of 5 stars:
The Lady and the Fox by Kelly Link – a story of what happens with a little holiday magic, a little good luck after lots of bad luck, and a boy seemingly caught in time and space. This one leans towards Fantasy and is exquisitely well paced.
It’s a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown by Stephanie Perkins – My favorite of the bunch, this story tells the tale of one evening with Marigold and North as they fall for each other while literally unpacking Marigold’s baggage. A laugh out loud funny story.
Midnights by Rainbow Rowell – Rowell is the only author I’m sure I’ve previously read. This short story is very much like her novel length works. We experience four new years’ eves with two teens who are clearly in love with each other and don’t necessarily know what to do with those feelings. This one is another outing of pitch perfect characterization for Rowell.
The Girl Who Woke the Dreamer by Laini Taylor – perhaps the least Christmassy of the twelve stories in this collection, it is however the most romantic. In a post-apocalyptic future (I think) Neve is about to come of age and the tradition is that suitors leave tokens for their chosen wife during advent and marriages are made on Christmas Eve. In fear of her suitor, Neve calls out to the old gods, and awakens the Dreamer, who in turn falls in love with her spirit. This one is absolutely fantasy. The language is gorgeous and sumptuous, much like the Dreamer’s gifts.
Angels in the Snow by Matt De La Pena – Our protagonist, Shy, is trapped in a blizzard with next to nothing to eat, leaving him with nothing but time to dwell on his issues. Luckily for him there’s an interesting girl in the apartment above, but she’s not going to let him off easy. The pacing came and went, but this is a good story.
What the Hell Have You Done, Sophie Roth by Gayle Forman – the Hannukah tale of the bunch, Sophie Roth has ended up at college in a small town in the middle of nowhere, and its making her feel very much the big city fish out of water. Until, she meets someone else who may just be the fish she needed to meet. I really like Sophie as a character, and I liked that she screwed up as much as she got things right. I just didn’t love it.
Your Temporary Santa by David Levithan – When his boyfriend Connor asked him to dress up as Santa Claus to convince Connor’s younger sister that there is a Santa Claus for one more year. But in the process he learns more about his boyfriend’s family and his place in his life. This one was good, but left me wanting more.
Beer Buckets and Baby Jesus by Myra McEntire – Vaughn has a reputation for causing trouble, and its just one of those instances that lands him serving community service helping to repair the Christmas Nativity that he (accidentally) burned down. Hilarity, hijinks, and love, ensue.
Welcome to Christmas, CA by Kiersten White – this one was saved by its ending. Maria lives with her mom and her boyfriend in Christmas, CA. She works at the Christmas Café, and life is pretty miserable. Until Ben shows up as the new cook and things take a turn for the strange.
Krampuslauf by Holly Black – This one is like the photo negative of The Girl Who Woke the Dreamer. What Laini Taylor go right in bring the fantastical to life Holly Black does wrong in this story which seemingly never ended.
Star of Bethlehem by Ally Carter – This one had such potential, but was given short shrift. Lydia changes tickets with Hulda, a foreign exchange student, and finds herself in Oklahoma instead of New York. She’s running from a big bad thing, but this short story doesn’t give it, or her growing feelings for Ethan, enough time to evolve.
Polaris is Where You’ll Find Me by Jenny Han – this story made me angry. So angry. Santa adopts an orphan from South Korea 15 years ago, and now she’s growing up in the North Pole and falling in love with an elf. There is so much teenage angst and so little payoff. And the ending is sad.