So, This Is Christmas by Tracy Andreen (368 pages)
A Surprise Trip Home For the Holidays Leaves Finley Stunned
After an incredibly stressful semester at boarding school, sixteen-year-old Finley Brown spontaneously decides to book a flight home for the holidays. Her destination? A small town called Christmas, Oklahoma. Finley spends the flight imagining how happy and surprised everyone will be, including her parents, her best friend, and her grandmother. But what Finley doesn’t expect is the shock she feels when she discovers what’s happened in her hometown, a town that hasn’t changed at all in the sixteen years she’s lived there.
While everyone is stunned to see Finley, she’s really the one who’s in for a surprise. Finley’s best friend is now dating her ex, a potential source of tension and drama. Finley’s mom isn’t even home when she gets there. Her parents separated while she was gone and her mom is out of state. And Finley’s enemy is working at her grandmother’s inn. Finley’s head is spinning when she realizes that one of her classmates followed her home with his Christmas-obsessed aunt in tow. Finley may or may not have lied about how seriously her town takes Christmas to Arthur, her classmate, and now she’ll have a lot of explaining to do.
A Light, Fun Romantic Holiday Comedy
Many holiday stories are about coming home for the holidays and finding exactly what you expect, either for good or for ill. This story turns that trope entirely on its head. The story is told entirely from Finley’s point of view, so some of the character portrayals, at least initially, seem a bit like caricatures. In Finley’s defense, though, she was coming home to find some solace from her academic stress and found that the life she left was not only moving on without her, but somewhat falling apart. Watching Finley grapple with the juxtaposition of her expectations versus her reality was not only relatable but also provided solid ground for some realistic character growth.
One of the funnier aspects of the novel is that Christmas, Oklahoma is not, in fact, a Christmas paradise. To make matters more hilarious, Finley lies to her classmates and talks up her town as if this were the case. When her classmate Arthur follows her home, she has to face her lies in order to keep the fantasy going. As a resident of Plymouth, Massachusetts, “America’s Hometown,” home to Plymouth Rock, I know all about towns that don’t live up to their hype. (If you don’t know what Plymouth Rock is, Google it and prepare to be disappointed).
The Bottom Line: 4/5 Brookie Stars
If you love Hallmark movies, this book is definitely for you. Andreen herself works as a screenwriter for Hallmark so the similarities come as no surprise! While a little predictable, I sometimes find that to be a strength rather than a weakness. The predictability is a comfort in a story like this. You know nothing terrible will happen and that everyone will be happy in the end, and that’s something we’re all looking for around the holidays. As Finley re-examines her relationships and builds new ones, she learns a lot about herself, something we all do, and it’s really fun to watch her grow with Christmas in the background.
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Rachel Gomes is a 30-something high school English teacher who lives with her high school sweetheart-turned-husband and their son. Rachel is a voracious reader who loves to learn and has her doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction. She’s happiest listening to podcasts and talking to friends about the latest news in nerd culture.
Favourite book: Don’t make me choose between A Song of Ice and Fire and Harry Potter
Favourite brunch spot: The Farmer’s Table