When YA heavyweight authors like John Green and Maureen Johnson get together to write Christmas themed short stories, everybody wins. The three tales in this book are intertwined with characters crossing between the stories that take place in a snowbound small town.
Aimed at smart teens, this book is another young adult selection that I can recommend for adult readers as well.
The Jubilee Express by Maureen Johnson
Up first is Maureen Johnson’s Jubilee Express. It sets the tone for the whole volume and I was delighted with it! I hadn’t been as enamored with Johnson’s 13 Little Blue Envelopes and was a little worried that this would be a let-down as well, but it wasn’t at all. I feel that ending a short story at the right place is a tricky thing to get down, but this one wrapped up at just the right time.
Jubilee is the first of the characters to be affected by a huge blizzard that has blown into Gracetown stopping the progress of a passing train. Completely alone and stranded for Christmas, she makes the decision to leave the train when a whole team of cheerleaders and their perkiness finally push her to the breaking point. Her trek leads her to a Waffle House and ultimately to some completely unexpected changes in her life.
Sex, Nudity, Dating – Jubilee says her name is a stripper name and that she has to deal with jokes related to stripping. A girl cheats on her boyfriend in a bathroom. There is kissing (including reference to tongues). Jubilee’s mother worries she might be staying with molesters (she’s not).
Profanity – “ass,” “dick,” “pimp,” “asshole,”
Death, Violence and Gore – Some bumps and bruises related to an abrupt train stop. A small riot including batting people with catalogs and pouring lukewarm cocoa on others. A slap fight.
Drugs, Alcohol and Smoking – A woman at the Waffle House has been smoking. There is at least one reference to crack, but no actual use of drugs.
Frightening or Intense Things – A slight chance of frostbite and hypothermia related to blizzard conditions and an instance of going to jail.
A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle by John Green
Green’s writing is immediately identifiable, even without the smattering of “asshat” throughout. Luckily this story doesn’t rely on Green’s tried and true (and tiresome if you read too many of his books in a row) formula boy loves girl, girl is too cool. It’s also blissfully upbeat.
In another part of Gracetown, three friends are cozily snowbound when they receive an urgent call from the local Waffle House. An entire cheerleading team has become stranded in the restaurant. Only a few additional boys will be admitted in order to maintain the optimal cheerleader-to-guy ratio. Thus begins an extremely hazardous race to the Waffle House. As with any good journey the ultimate destination ends up quite different from what the characters initially desire.
Sex, Nudity, Dating – A reference to Lindsay Lohan’s legs being always open. There’s a discussion about if Daniel Craig (who plays James Bond) is hot and if it is gay to find him hot. Daniel Craig is in his underwear. There’s a discussion of one character having “tiny balls”. The hotness of cheerleaders is covered at length as well as the possibility of having sex with them. There is making out and kissing.
Profanity – “asshat,” “sucks”, “shitty,” “pissed”, “crap,” “slut,” “stupid,” “Jesus Christ”, “God,” “damn,” “jackass,” “hell,” “screwed,” “frakkin'” and “retarded” used as an insult as well as someone flipping someone off.
Death, Violence and Gore – A joke about cancer. During a James Bond movie, James Bond kills people. There is some actual fighting, including some reckless behavior with cars and use of a tripline. Someone makes a snow angel that’s meant to be shaped like a body at a homicide investigation.
Drugs, Alcohol and Smoking – Two of the contenders in the race to the Waffle House are in possession of a keg of beer. A character is a worrier as evidenced by his childhood fear that if he didn’t do his homework he’d end up strung out on heroin by fifth grade.
Frightening or Intense Things – There’s some very questionable driving in the snow.
The Patron Saint of Pigs by Lauren Myracle
I can’t decide if it’s better or worse for Myracle that her story came last. This story is the weakest in the set, but it may simply suffer from the comparison to Green. On the other hand, at this point, I’d built up such a sense of goodwill towards Gracetown and its blizzard trapped residents that I didn’t care so much.
Addie is a self-absorbed, shallow, largely unlikable character. On the upside, she’s surrounded by people who are fed up with her, so the whole story is largely about how she’s going to fix the fact that her life is kind of a mess because she’s inconsiderate and needy. Also, there’s a teeny tiny pig involved, which helps when you’re getting as sick of Addie as her friends are. Cameos by all previous characters help to wrap up the whole book in one enjoyable wintry package.
Sex, Nudity, Dating – Guys are “hot”. There is definite kissing. One guy is shirtless.
Profanity – “bitches,” ” suck/suckage”, “asshat,” “shit,” “damn,” “durn,”
Death, Violence and Gore – None.
Drugs, Alcohol and Smoking – The stoners at school are not nice. Addie gets drunk (beer shots are involved). There’s a reference to Cheerwine.
Frightening or Intense Things – None.