Love is in the peppermint-scented air in these 12 playful, often touching holiday tales, each by a popular young-adult author. There’s flirting and yearning — even an elf prom — amid the fir trees in a collection that represents a rich range of writing styles, voices and holiday traditions.
Rainbow Rowell (“Eleanor & Park”) leads with “Midnights,” a neatly structured story about a long wait for the perfect New Year’s kiss. “Your Temporary Santa,” by David Levithan (“Two Boys Kissing”), stars a bemused Jewish guy who dresses like Old Saint Nick for his boyfriend’s little sister. A blizzard plays matchmaker in “Angels in the Snow,” by Matt de la Pena (“Mexican White Boy”), a nuanced exploration of class, race and loss wrapped up in the getting-to-know-you experience of two college students stranded in New York.
Most of these stories hew to a contemporary setting and the first-person perspective, but several surprise and delight with ventures into less familiar YA territory. Christmas snow brings a mysterious visitor from another time to a talented young seamstress in “The Lady and the Fox,” by Kelly Link (“Pretty Monsters”). And the pagan solstice overshadows the Advent rituals of a small village in Laini Taylor’s “The Girl Who Woke the Dreamer.” In this lush story by the author of the “Daughter of Smoke & Bone” trilogy, an orphan embraces possibilities previously unimagined and begins to hatch “out of a small, dark life into a great, unfathomable one.”
Holiday anthologies are often as enticing as a re-gifted fruitcake — slickly packaged and sticky sweet — but “My True Love Gave to Me” is a plummy treat. Compiled by Stephanie Perkins, author of “Anna and the French Kiss,” it will appeal not just to teens but to the increasing number of adult readers helping to keep YA fiction on the bestseller lists.
In June, an article in Slate titled “Against YA” took these adult readers to task for enjoying YA novels with, as Ruth Graham put it, their lack of emotional complexity and simple, “uniformly satisfying” endings. The kid-lit-o-sphere immediately blazed like a yule log with references to many titles that don’t fit that criticism. Add this anthology to those astute books. Its best stories are worth savoring long past the seasonal expiration date and even beyond the teen years.
Quattlebaum is a children’s author and regular reviewer for The Post. She teaches in the MFA program in Writing for Children & Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts.
Edited by Stephanie Perkins
St. Martin’s Griffin.
320 pp. $18.99. Ages 13 and up.