One of the prevailing bits of wisdom running around if you happen to find yourself with COVID (which I probably do – not to worry, I’m not feeling too poorly, have plenty of supplies, and have a test scheduled) is to avoid screens. With that in mind, and cognizant that my brain does not want to focus on anything weighty (which is seriously impinging on my ability to finish So You Want to Talk About Race and Eva Luna) I settled in on the couch this afternoon with Christina Lauren’s In a Holidaze.
According to the handy info keepers over at Goodreads I added this to my TBR in November, but apparently had not managed to put the book blurb into my memory banks. I was caught off guard initially with the plot in front of me, but once I got my head on straight, I enjoyed it much more than the terrible holiday movies I watched yesterday in a fever dream (mistakes were made, naps were taken).
In a Holidaze is the story of Maelyn Jones. She’s 26, in a bit of a rut, and just experienced a truly horrendous end to her family’s holiday with their chosen extended family. It looks to her as though all that she enjoys most in this world is ending and she’s headed back to a life that just is, and knows that she is not happy, so she asks the universe to show her what will make her happy. One car crash later and Maelyn finds herself waking up a week earlier on her flight to Utah. In a nod to time loop stories everywhere Maelyn proceeds to restart her holiday week a couple times trying to figure out why the universe sent her back and what is in fact (and who) going to make her happiest.
The things I enjoyed in this one are many – the extended friends group who function in a familial way, the lead having to get to a place of “fuck it” in order to finally be herself, and having that be the thing that starts to make the pieces fall into place, the cozy charm of the cabin the families spend each Christmas at together and learning to let go of the lockstep of tradition. But there are also things which didn’t work for me, particularly in the early stages of figuring out who was meant to be Maelyn’s partner (I flipped to the back after about page 20 which is something I never do), and how the various motivations of Maelyn, Theo, and Andrew are portrayed. I also got seriously confused a few times as the characters (and this is a cast of about 12) routinely use nicknames for each other that are not consistent, and I had to stop and think about who was on page and that’s not helpful.
This is my third outing with the writing duo Christina Lauren (Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings) and I can see in this one positive and negatives from my previous rounds with Dating You, Hating You and Sweet Filthy Boy. I felt at a bit of a distance from the story, even though I understood the characters very well, and I wished that we got any of the story from Theo or Andrew’s point of view. We also get some sloppy plotting, specifically that there’s a a-ha moment late in the book for Maelyn that comes down to a misunderstanding happening because she didn’t take into account how the other person has historically processed emotions, but we the reader weren’t let in on that either, which made that character’s behavior a tough sit occasionally.
Do I suggest this? Yes, but with the caveats that there might be some things in it that have you give the book some side-eye, but no more than in any other holiday rom com you might choose to spend time with, and probably a lot less.