Wednesday, January 17, 2018
The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand
Holly is your typical spoiled rich teen who doesn't care about anyone. So it's no surprise when she is visited by three ghosts on Christmas Eve to try to change her Scrooge-ish attitude and redeem her soul. Unfortunately for her, she refuses to see the light and dies when she is hit by a car just a few days later. She's given a second chance - or at least she is not doomed to misery - when she joins Project Scrooge. Each year the organization chooses a new "Scrooge" to save and Holly is the current Ghost of Christmas Past. She has been doing her job for five years while still feeling sorry for herself when this year's Scrooge shakes up her afterlife.
I love riffs on A Christmas Carol so this book had the benefit of the doubt from me going into it and it did not disappoint. Much. Holly checks all the right Scrooge boxes: self-absorbed, following in the footsteps of a very bad role model, alienating former friends, and doing dastardly deeds to the help without caring one bit about the consequences. Catching up to her five years later in a pretty bleak situation gave me a little smile of smug satisfaction. And I think Hand is very clever to have wondered what the deal is with those three ghosts and come up with Project Scrooge as an answer. I also love the hopefulness of there being a magical organization that sets out to save a soul each year which then makes the world a little brighter and happier. It's quite in line with the idea of loving compassion.
As for the part that somewhat disappointed... The newest Scrooge is 17 years old, just like Holly, and super-hot. So of course there has to be some forbidden romance. I can deal with that aspect of the story overall but once that got started, that seemed to be the only thing happening for quite awhile in the book. I wanted to know more about the workings of Project Scrooge and what Holly's new intern was up to and watching Holly wrestle with her own inner demons. Plus, Ethan just didn't seem that bad so there wasn't the fun of seeing him do horrible things before his possible redemption. It was during all the romance portion of the book that I felt it lost some of its fun and became just another standard teen romance with the hot guy book.
As you would expect, Holly has some realizations and grows and learns some lessons along the way. Predictable? Yes, but exactly what I wanted in a Christmas Carol story.