I know I said yesterday that number 134 was going to be my last review of the year, but that was before I remembered that there was a Rainbow Rowell short story out there in the world that I hadn’t read. Also, it has it’s own entry on Goodreads, so even though it’s part of a bigger anthology, My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories (eleven of which I have yet to read), I don’t feel reviewing it is cheating. 135 is a nicer, rounder number to end the year on.
Margaret “Mags” and Noel meet at a New Year’s Eve party at Mags’ friend Alicia’s in 2011. Margaret doesn’t really know anyone else there and is feeling a bit left out when a tall boy comes over and chats with her. He explains how he’s allergic to any number of things, including tree nuts, and therefore feels that Mags may in fact have saved his life by alerting him to the fact that the dip had pine nuts in it. We meet the couple again the next New Year. Noel is still the socially outgoing one and well-liked by everyone. Mags observes everything and everyone from the sidelines. Noel considers Mags one of his best friends, but as she points out, he has lots of best friends.
We see a number of parties at Alicia’s, where Noel is charming and tries to get Mags to dance with him. He gives her so much attention, but always ends up kissing someone else at midnight. Come 2014, Mags is seeing most of her friends for the first time since they went away to college, Noel included. Mags got a scholarship to a school in Omaha, so she’s the only one who hasn’t gone anywhere and experienced new things. She can’t take the idea of seeing Noel kiss another girl when midnight comes, so she hides outside.
Rainbow Rowell is one of my favourite writers. I cannot think of a book or story she has written that I haven’t absolutely loved (seriously, the lowest rating I’ve given to any of her books is 4.5 stars). The only reason this is now my lowest-rated of all of her works is that one thing has to be, and this is so very short. It has that wonderful Rowell wit, great characters who you make a connection with instantly, even if you’ve barely had any time to read about them. She paints a very vivid picture of the setting in very few words, and even this 15-page story has a recurring cast of characters that she develops the lives of cleverly, off-page. We only see them in little glimpses every New Year’s Eve, in the same location, but we are given hints of how their lives have changed since the last time. As with Kindred Spirits, the little novella she wrote for World Book Day earlier this year, there just isn’t enough here. I get all the things I associate with a great Rowell story, but with only 15 pages to spend time with these characters, I’m left unsatisfied and wanting MORE!
There is also no longer anything out there in the world published by Rowell that I haven’t now read. I really hope she’s working on something new, and I can’t wait until I get my hands on whatever it is.
Judging a book by its cover: This story doesn’t have any cover of its own, I’ve used the cover for the short story collection where it’s included. As far as I can tell, the cover has all the various protagonists from the stories ice skating on a pond. I couldn’t begin to tell you which little cartoon people are supposed to be Mags and Joel. It’s a pretty cute cover for a short story collection, though.
Crossposted on my blog.