Review of Let it Snow
IT’S THE HOLIDAY SEASON! So what better book to read than one about snow, Christmas, and romance?
Let it Snow is a collab book, written in three parts by a few of YA’s biggest names: Maureen Johnson (oh, sorry, are you surprised?), John Green (you’re shocked again, right?), and Lauren Myracle. I don’t know what the process of writing this book was really like, but I kind of picture the three of them getting together and saying, “Let’s write a book that has weird, crazy adventures mixed in with cute, sweet romance!” If that’s not how the meeting went… well, that’s the book they turned out, anyway.
Just like chick-lit, I’m not much of a romance reader. I enjoy books with romance here and there, but I could never see myself enjoying a book that was completely about romantic relationships. Then this book came along. And maybe it’s because it’s YA romance (not slightly terrifying erotic romance), or because the relationships are just so darn cute, or the quality of the writing, but I LOVE this book. I bought it in 2008 and I’ve read it at least once a winter since then.
Each of the authors writes their own story, starring different characters, but like movies such as Valentine’s Day and Love, Actually, a major character in Story A is a minor character in Stories B and C. As opposed to a regular anthology or a book with two authors’ stories melded into one, Let it Snow keeps the awesome constant, but changes up the cast every hundred pages or so.
The first up is Maureen Johnson’s The Jubilee Express. Her main character Jubilee begins the story by swearing she is not a stripper (“You probably think I have heard the call of the pole. But no. If you saw me, you’d get the idea pretty quickly that I’m not a stripper [… I play field hockey, which lacks the undulating, baby-oiled grace that is the stripper’s stock and trade.”) When Jubilee (or Julie, as she introduces herself to people) finds out on Christmas Eve that her parents have been jailed due to a riot over a decorative Christmas piece, she hops on a train bound for Florida and her grandparents. Due to the gigantic snowstorm hovering over the south, the train is unable to make it and Julie meets a Target employee named Stuart at a Waffle House, where she’s gone for warmth and to get away from all the cheerleaders on her train. Upon finding out Julie has no place to go, Stuart asks her if she’d like to stay at his house with his mother and sister. Julie accepts, but the walk doesn’t go as planned; while crossing a frozen creek, the ice breaks. Since nothing bonds you to a stranger more than rescuing each other from hypothermia, Julie and Stuart become fast friends, both of them being fussed over post-hypothermia by Stuart’s mom, who has a slightly creepy determination to get Stuart and Julie together after Stuart’s recent heartbreak. Julie herself suffers heartbreak that Christmas Eve. Her perfect-in-pretty-much-every-way boyfriend Noah is being weirdly absent, even after Julie tells him she almost died in a frozen creek. After Stuart tells her for the millionth time that that is not how a good boyfriend behaves, Julie breaks up with Noah and, in order to keep herself from crying, kisses Stuart right afterward. The weirdness of their kiss prompts her to sneak out of the house, headed for her train or home or Florida- anywhere that is not Stuart’s house. But he follows her, if only to say good-bye, an encounter which turns into a much less awkward, adorable kiss. As they walk back to his house, Julie requests that Stuart not tell his mother about the kiss. ‘What?” he asks. “Don’t your parents cheer and stare when you make out with someone? Is that weird where you come from?”
Story #2 is John Green’s A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle. Stuck in the same snowstorm, Tobin and his friends JP and the Duke (the latter of whom is a girl) are perfectly content hanging out on Tobin’s sofa and having a James Bond marathon. But then their friend Keun, who works at the Waffle House, calls them to let them know that fourteen cheerleaders have just taken up residence in the restaurant. He invites them to come for some cheerleader action, and while Tobin and JP practically die of excitement, the Duke can only be persuaded to come with the promise of hash browns. Getting to the Waffle House proves more difficult than they planned, however; Tobin’s mom’s car may have 4-wheel drive, but it’s no match for the several feet of snow outside, and the car ends up stuck in a wall of snow. As they walk the rest of the way to the Waffle House, stopping every now and then to push each other over into the snowbanks, Tobin can’t help but notice how the Duke is walking. Or how pretty her curls look covered in snowflakes. Or how she’s so much more like a person than most girls are. When the trio finally reaches the Waffle House, only to be ignored by the cheerleaders, Tobin watches the Duke’s maybe-winter-formal-date Billy flirt with her and decides to retaliate by talking to a cheerleader. When the Duke leaves the restaurant upset, he follows her outside only to discover that it’s not Billy the Duke is interested in: it’s Tobin.
In the third and final story, by Lauren Myracle, Addie is not happy that it’s Christmas Eve. It’s her one-year anniversary with her boyfriend Jeb… or it would be if she hadn’t cheated on him. No matter who tries to cheer her up, Addie isn’t having any of it. Her guilt over what she did to Jeb is all-consuming, so it’s probably not the best time for her friends to tell her that she’s a little self-absorbed. They do, though, and to prove how selfless she is, Addie offers to pick up her friend Tegan’s final Christmas present: a (very expensive) teacup piglet. But the next day, while working the dawn shift at Starbucks, Addie allows trouble in Addieland to distract her, and by the time she gets to PetWorld, someone else has bought the pig. Though her break is long over, Addie is determined to track down the buyer of Tegan’s pig and get him back. Doing so requires battling snow, missing cars, the boy with whom she cheated, a classmate who hates her, and her own selfishness. In the end though, she manages to get the pig back to Starbucks and nestle him in a snow-themed coffee mug before Tegan comes to pick him up, while at the same time letting us know what happened to new couples Stuart and Jubilee, and Tobin and the Duke.
Johnson’s contribution to the book is an almost completely comic tale, so her wacky sense of humor really shines in The Jubilee Express. My roommates probably think I am crazy because I was lying on our couch cackling as I read the story for the millionth time. Stuart’s mother’s desperation to fix his broken heart and ridiculous. She constantly leaves the room to give Stuart and Julie “private time,” and at one point when she suggests the two cuddle up under a blanket, Julie comments, “Under any other circumstances, I would have assumed that meant, ‘Cuddle up under two separate blankets, spaced several feet apart, possibly with a lightly chained wolf between you,’ because that’s what parents always mean. I got the feeling from Debbie that she was fine with the situation, however we wanted to roll. If we felt the need to […] share a blanket to conserve body heat, she was not going to object. In fact, she was likely to turn down the heat and hide all the blankets but one.” Johnson does takes Julie’s relationship with Noah seriously, though- it takes Stuart pointing out what a crap boyfriend Noah is for Julie to recognize that Noah essentially keeps her around because she works in the picture of his life, not because he actually likes her. Julie doesn’t break up with Noah lightly- she makes constant excuses why he might be acting strangely- but when she does it, she’s sure and not at all sorry.
I also love Green’s story. Like Johnson’s contribution, it’s much more lighthearted than his usual style, but it’s a nice change. Green does funny and romantic very well, and I loved the slow reveal of deep-friendship-into-love between Tobin and the Duke, especially because neither of them was brave enough to admit how they felt about each other until they each made the other jealous. I think I’ve mentioned before that Green’s books can be a hit or miss for me, but besides loving this book, I also love his writing style, regardless of my feelings for the actual plot.
My opinion about Myracle’s piece is a bit different however. I’m not a fan of Myracle’s and haven’t been since I read one of her teen books many, many years ago. While most of the YA authors’ books that I read are composed by authors who flawlessly capture the teen voice, Myracle either tries too hard to incorporate “youthful” lingo, to the point where it sounds unnatural, or has her characters use their own “teen-y” words, which has the same effect. I also feel like she dumbs down her stories- at least three times, she takes several sentences to a paragraph explaining a term (such as “adopt out”) that the reader could easily figure out. Her teens, I suppose, are just too stereotypically teen-y for me. I prefer Johnson and Green’s characters, who are real people who just happen to be in their teens. While I don’t deny that young adults (and people in general) can be very selfish, Addie was so annoyingly self-absorbed (even after her magical “Christmas is for giving and being a better person!” realization) that I don’t want to spend any time with her. The only redeeming factor of Myracle’s contribution is that we get to find out what happened to the other couples.
But since you’re two-for-three with this book, you should definitely read it. I never get tired of it, especially this time of year.
“Do you still want to go out with me?” I asked. “Be honest with me, Noah.”
The other end of the line went silent for a long time. Too long for the answer to be “Yes. You are the love of my life.”
In the living room, Rachel was noodling around with the Mouse Trap, which still sat on the table. She gave me a big, toothy smile.
“Were you playing with Stuart?” she asked.
The question was loaded. I was a filthy, filthy woman, and even the five year-old knew it.
“I followed your footsteps,: he said, in answer to the unspoken question. “Snow makes it easy.”
I had been tracked, like a bear.
“I didn’t have to go that far, really. You’re about three streets over. You just kept going in loops.”
A really inept bear.
[JP] had found something terrible in the dark corner of my father’s closet: he wore a puffy, periwinkle onesie with tapered legs, an ear-flapped hat atop his head. “You look like a lumberjack with an adult baby fetish,” I said.
“Shut up, asshat,” answered JP simply. “This is ski-slope sexy. It says, ‘I’m just coming off the slopes after a long day saving lives with the Ski Patrol.”
The Duke laughed. “It actually says, ‘Just because I wasn’t the first female astronaut doesn’t mean I can’t wear her flight suit.'”
Oh, well. Stuart was with a lovely girl named Jubilee, and she wasn’t a stripper. That’s all that mattered.