My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Winter Romances features a variety of authors who largely write solely within the Young Adult genre, from contemporary fantasy and the paranormal, to ‘the strange things that love can do to people’. Edited by Stephanie Perkins, this collection features one of her tales, along with work by Rainbow Rowell, Holly Black, Ally Carter, Gayle Forman, David Levithan, Matt de la Pena, Laini Taylor, Jenny Han, Kelly Link, Myra McEntire and Kiersten White.
The blurb of My True Love Gave to Me calls it ‘a gift for teen readers and beyond’. It is ‘the perfect collection of short stories to keep you warm this winter… Each is a little gem, filled with the enchanting magic of first love and the fun festive holidays’. The inspiration within the collection is vast, and whilst all of the authors have used the festive period in their stories, they have done so in decidedly different ways.
Rainbow Rowell’s tale – the lovely ‘Midnights’ – opens the book. In it, her protagonist, Mags, sits in her friend’s garden on the 31st of December and reflects upon three of her previous New Year’s Eve celebrations. Each of them revolve around her allergy-prone friend Noel, who is described as ‘her person’; the one whom she turns to in periods of strife. Rowell’s writing is sharp and her characterisation works marvellously. In Kelly Link’s interesting ‘The Lady and The Fox’, a mysterious figure in a beautifully embroidered coat befriends a young girl named Miranda during successive Christmas celebrations.
In Matt de la Pena’s ‘Angels in the Snow’, a young man faces spending Christmas alone, hours away from his family. Jenny Han’s story ‘Polaris is Where You’ll Find Me’ is told from the perspective of Natalie, a Korean who was adopted by Santa, and is the only human girl to live in the North Pole. In Stephanie Perkins’ ‘It’s a Yuletide Miracle’, protagonist Marigold has gone in search of a boy who works in a Christmas tree lot near her apartment because she ‘needed his voice’ for a project; the sweetest of scenes and most sharply observed conversation ensues. The narrator of David Levithan’s ‘Your Temporary Santa’ dresses up as Santa Claus to keep the dream alive for his boyfriend’s younger sister, despite being Jewish. In Holly Black’s ‘Krampuslauf’, a New Year’s Eve celebration converges with a hearty – and clever – dose of magical realism.
Whilst I have not discussed each story here, it is fair to say that there is not a weak link in the collection. Only two of the stories were not to my personal taste, but they were still interesting to read. My True Love Gave to Me is both quirky and memorable, and it provides a great introduction to a wealth of different authors writing contemporary YA. One can never quite work out where the majority of the stories are going to end, or what will occur within them; they are largely very unpredictable, and incredibly sweet. The physical book itself is lovely, with its duck egg blue and gold cover, fluorescent pink page edging and gold ribbon bookmark. My True Love Gave to Me is a great collection, in which many different viewpoints have been considered. The characters which have been created are both believable and unpredictable, and each narrative voice has been crafted with the utmost care. It is sure to make every reader – whether teenage or older – feel marvellously festive, and is a great antidote to those winter blues.