Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Cannonball Read III - Osaka Slide: #1 - Let It Snow; by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle

It's time to start The Cannonball Read 3, lit freaks!  How do you know when it's time?  It's simple:  when you see Vin Diesel up on your screen, you know it's time for another CR3 review!  Whether it will be this static image of Vin or different images of different roles he's played, I do not know.  (But I do welcome input.)  Anyhow, let's get things started off nice and easy with some Holiday Romance!

Teen literature is a genre that I should have practically overgrown by about a good eleven years (eight years in the literal sense).  Yet somehow when I found An Abundance of Katherines by John Green, it connected to the younger me instantaneously.  His stories of teenage boys fixated on quirky girls for some reason or another, along with the 4-ish star reviews for each of his books made me more interested in reading his works, seeing as I was one of those boys and he must have been too.  I came into reading Let It Snow: Three Holiday Romances with expectations that I would love the Green story but not care for the Johnson and Myracle story.  What I left with was exceeded expectations, and only in the best way.

The basic premise of Let It Snow: Three Holiday Romances is a simple one: three stories of teens in love at Christmas in the same North Carolina town.  Three different authors use the same character set/setting, and as each story progresses, we're introduced/re-introduced to characters that will become part of each story.  Some characters are mentioned off hand, some interact with other protagonists, and others are just a constant part of the background moving the plot along. Basically, this plays like an American version of Love Actually that takes place during the course of one evening.  (Except in this case, it works beautifully.  Take THAT "Valentine's Day"!)

We start off with Maureen Johnson's "The Jubilee Express"; a story involving a girl whose parents are in jail (for rather ridiculous, non violent reasons), whose boyfriend is rather distant (and an overachiever), and whose trip to Florida turns into a trek through the snow with some guy she hardly knows.  Ms. Johnson has the unenviable task of building the blocks to the world we're about to spend a good portion of time in and she does it wonderfully by making us tag along with a girl from Virginia.  Just like her, we're new to town and we're learning the lay of the land through the people we meet.  Eventually, Jubilee (Johnson's pensive protagonist) is stranded in said North Carolina town and meets Stuart, a local with a broken heart.  Through their trek in the snow to his house, she begins to think things through with her current relationship as she figures out what to do next.  "The Jubilee Express" surprised me, because I thought I'd have a hard time identifying with a young teenage girl and her relationship woes, but I actually found myself somewhat invested in the outcome of her story and enjoyed it quite a bit.  Jubilee isn't too witty or hip, she's just a cut above the rest, and the only problem is that the ending seems a little too rushed.

Johnson's set up leads to what I feel is my favorite story of the collection (no, not due to personal bias), John Green's "A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle".  The train Jubilee came in on was also carrying fourteen Pennsylvania cheerleaders on their way to a competition.  Stranded with nothing to do, they decided to go into a Waffle House to warm up/keep limber.  This pleases young Keun, the acting manager at said Waffle House.  It pleases him enough to invite two separate groups of friends to join him in Cheertastic bliss: a group of rowdy college guys and our protagonistic trio (Angie 'The Duke', JP, and Tobin).  There's a catch though:  only one group of friends can stay, and whoever has the Twister board has the power.  As if that weren't enough, the roads are crap and our protagonists end up having to walk to the Waffle House, avoid a pair of evil twins, and ultimately confront some feelings budding within their group.  Much like in An Abundance of Katherines, Green displays that he knows how to write humorous characters with introspective bents that happen to be falling in love.  And when his characters fall in love, it almost always turns out to be extremely sweet.  The romance in this story is only matched by the humor, which basically sums up Green's contribution to literature at large.

The final story, "The Patron Saint of Pigs" by Lauren Myracle, ties everything (and everyone) together into a pretty adorable ending where every couple we've encountered ends up at the same Starbucks, but not before a mini-adventure of self discovery.  One of the baristas at this particular coffee shop, a girl by the name of Addison (aka Addie), had promised her friend that she'd pick up a Mini-Pig that she adopted through a local pet store.  This, of course, had to be the day after Christmas, whilst enduring the fallout of both the winter blizzard and a break-up between her and her boyfriend (now ex).  All the while, the Universe seems to be sending her messages that she's a little too self involved and needs to put it all on hold for others.  As she treks to get the pig and sort out her cosmic destiny, she learns quite a bit and ultimately changes for the better.  What's particularly unique about this story is it seemed to have a sort of Christmas Carol vibe to it, seeing as while Addie is running one uber important errand, she runs into people indirectly trying to help her change. Although the ending is a bit of a stretch to have everyone in one room, I'm not going to argue it because books of this ilk require the amount of suspension of disbelief.

This book was an honest surprise that comes of sweeter than a "Holiday Romance" novel has any business of doing.  As I'd mentioned before the ending is rather serendipitous, but if there were a time for serendipity it may as well be Christmas.  Each story clocks in at about 100 pages and change, and the prose is a breezy read for those who want a little holiday cheer.  I would go as far to say that these three writers have made me hope that for every Mormon Mom with a wet dream, there are at least three of these whip smart writers to take her down and show us that not every teenager is a clumsy idiot who's waiting for someone to dash them away.

 Next Up: Oogy: The Dog Only a Family Could Love by Larry Levin


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