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One From the Archive: ‘My True Love Gave To Me: Twelve Winter Romances’, edited by Stephanie Perkins ****

I will just highlight the fact that I do not tend to read young adult books at all, but wanted to read something a little different a couple of years ago.  I received a review copy of this, and enjoyed it far more than I first thought.  The moral of the story is read everything, folks.

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. 9781250059314

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.

Purchase from The Book Depository

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‘My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Winter Romances’ – edited by Stephanie Perkins ****

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.

Purchase from The Book Depository

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‘Doll Bones’ by Holly Black **

Holly Black is most famous for the ‘Spiderwick Chronicles’ series, a great collection of books.  In her newest novel, Doll Bones, she has written the story of three children, Zachary, Poppy and Alice who, at the outset, are playing with mermaid dolls ‘bought from Goodwill – with big shiny heads, different-colored tails, and frizzy hair’.

‘Doll Bones’ by Holly Black

The children are afraid of ‘The Queen’, who lives in a cabinet in Poppy’s house, a ‘bone china doll of a child with straw-gold curls and paper-white skin’.  Black describes the way in which ‘Zach couldn’t remember when exactly they’d decided that she was the Great Queen, only that they’d all felt like she was watching them, even though her eyes were closed, and that Poppy’s sister had been terrified of her’.

Eliza Wheeler’s illustrations were the highlight of the volume for me.  She draws beautifully, and captures more magic within her pictures than the words sadly appear to have done.  The writing style feels a little too colloquial at times, and it did not really hold my interest.  It seemed a little drawn out, and the action which happened within the book did not seem to occur at pivotal points.  As this is a novel which is aimed at children, I would expect it to begin in a more punchy manner.  The beginning of Doll Bones is a little dull, and if I had been a child, I would have undoubtedly stopped reading it.  Black’s characterisation works well, but it was the only element of the novel which I actually enjoyed.

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‘The Spiderwick Chronicles’ by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black ****

I first heard of ‘The Spiderwick Chronicles’ some years ago, but it has taken the watching of a video on Booktube – in which Little Book Owl has the most beautiful edition of the collected series – for me to get around to reading it.  Rather than write separate yet similar reviews for each book in the series, I thought it would be a good idea to amalgamate them into one rather long critique.

Artwork from ‘The Ironwood Tree’

Throughout the entire series, I absolutely adored the beautiful illustrations and cover designs, and I loved the way in which the tale was introduced by way of two letters – the first from one of the authors, Holly Black, and the second purported to have been written by the Grace children, the protagonists of the series.  I was expecting to find myself reading something similar to Lemony Snicket’s ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’ books (and I must admit that I was hoping for such a series too).  Whilst ‘The Spiderwick Chronicles’ books are not as witty or well written as the aforementioned, they are just as readable and creative.

The first book in The Spiderwick Chronicles is The Field Guide.  I cannot help but fall for books with chapter titles which begin ‘In which…’, so that was a major point in the book’s favour at the outset.  The three Grace children – Mallory and her younger twin brothers, Simon and Jared – have moved with their mother into their Great-Great-Aunt Lucinda’s house following their parents’ divorce.  In the first book, they find a secret library within the house, and uncover ‘The Field Guide’ – an informative book which tells them all about faeries and the magic world.

Throughout all of the books in the series, the authors set the scene well and build atmosphere marvellously.  They have given great consideration to the pace of the stories, and each is very difficult to put down.  By the end of the first book, I was longing to know what would happen next, and was so pleased to acquire the rest of the series so that I could read it soon afterwards.

The second book is entitled The Seeing Stone, and in it, young Simon goes missing, prompting a search by his siblings.  I liked the way in which, from one book to the next, DiTerlizzi and Black recapped the important details from the previous tale at the outset.  This book particularly was incredibly inventive, and I must admit I did find their goblins rather creepy.  They were far from the little devious men which I was used to from Blyton’s books.  In this novel particularly, I very much enjoyed the element of not quite knowing what was going to happen next.  The plotlines are woven cleverly.

A beautiful illustration from the series

I liked the way in which, in all the books, the children were made to work together, despite their occasional dislike and mistrust of one another.  In the third tale, Lucinda’s Secret, the children get to meet their aforementioned Great-Great-Aunt Lucinda, who is a wonderfully eccentric character.  I found this tale a lot darker than the previous two, and some of the elements which DiTerlizzi and Black touch upon would probably have scared me when I was younger.

The fourth book, The Ironwood Tree, was my least favourite of ‘The Spiderwick Chronicles’, despite its beautiful cover (see the picture above).  The pace and storyline of the tale did improve as it went along, but it did not quite match up to the rest of the series for me, both in terms of its plot and characterisation.

I am pleased to say that the final book in the series, The Wrath of Mulgarath, improved dramatically, and it is fair to say that I very much enjoyed ‘The Spiderwick Chronicles’ overall.  The ending to the series was wonderfully thought out, and I very much liked the slightly extended length of the book, which tied up all of the loose ends from the other stories.  I would highly recommend ‘The Spiderwick Chronicles’ to all, and am rather looking forward to reading through them again when I have my own children.