Our latest recommendation for young readers is a festive treat from Beth Garrod: All I Want For Christmas.

One of the areas that’s been heavily cut back on as newspapers and magazines trim their budgets in current times is reviews of books for young readers. As such, it’s getting trickier and trickier for authors of books for children and younger readers to get their work noticed. This weekly spot on the site is our attempt to do something about that. If you see a book you like here, please do spread the word. And who knows? We may see some of these stories on the big screen in the future.

I don’t want a lot for Christmas, but there’s one thing I always need – a festive romantic comedy. And this, the latest by one of the reigning queens of the teen romcom, is exactly what is required for what is feeling like an otherwise flat Covid-Christmas. It’s frothy, fierce and rather fantastic.

The book opens with Christmas fanatic Holly reliving her dreamy last Christmas with boyfriend Woody, unable to comprehend how this Christmas could be even better. That looks even more unlikely with Woody deciding they need a ‘break’, her mum is planning to sell her childhood home and her older sister won’t be back in time for it.

When Holly spots a post from her US-based Insta idol Elle, who is looking to swap places for the festive season, it looks like things may just find a way of picking up. Except Elle also has things she’s running away from and the pressure she’s putting on herself to have an social media picture perfect existence really may not be the answer….

The most obvious point of comparison – of ‘if you like this then you’ll love this’ ness – is of the 2006 film The Holiday. The trans-Atlantic swap Holly and Elle make, trading lives for a week to escape their respective problems, is what propels the narrative. And yes, there are some dreamy love interests awaiting both teens.

Except Garrod really does such a marvellous job with it all. She alternates between Elle and Holly with ease, both girls having distinctively different yet equally likeable narrative voices. Holly is a Christmas superfan to the point of being almost (but not quite!) overwhelming – she’s bursting with lists and strategies on how to have the perfect big day.

Elle is more tentative, projecting a persona to hide her insecurities. The girls are similar in how they dictate what their lives should look like, what they and other people expect of them – it’s such a joy to see them freeing themselves from these throughout the story. The character development really is phenomenal.

As with her beloved ‘Awkward’ series, Garrod is wonderful at both the rom and the com – this is a book that is funny as it is romantic. It really is laugh-out-loud funny as well as being rather swoony.

It’s all so joyfully festive and the perfect escapism for these times. 2020 may have done away with some of the beloved aspects of Christmas, but reading this charming book may bring a much-needed dose of Christmas spirit.  If you’re looking for that one last Christmas present, this may just be it.

 

Reading age: 11-16
Publisher: Scholastic
Further details and ordering: right here

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