Title: The Afterlife of Holly Chase
Author: Cynthia Hand
2017 Book Challenge Entry: A book published in 2017
Thoughts: I don’t really get a Christmas break. Lots of other people work up until a certain day in December and then have like, 2 whole weeks of eating and drinking and family and more eating and baking and more drinking and just…time. Not this girl. Because I am lucky enough to work in the arts, specifically in ballet, December is Nutcracker season.
I love my job. And I love Nutcracker. And I love love love Christmas. This year was especially amazing because it was our first holiday season with baby girl. We hosted Thanksgiving and Christmas, so it was stressful but it was just incredible. There was so much love in the air and in our house, but I was. Exhausted. All month. Between the show and not sleeping through the night, I just needed a break.
Books have always been and are still, a great getaway for me. This one came to me soooo by accident. I was at the library with the nugget looking for something off my too read list and saw a display for new books. I’m not going to life. The cover and title caught my eye.
It’s a beautiful cover. It’s red and gold with some lovely graphic elements and great font. But the title…The Afterlife of Holly Chase…a ghost story? Yes please.
Then I read the jacket. Here’s the gist.
Holly Chase is a 17-year-old snot from L.A. who really needs a wake up call. Since her mother died and her stepmother took over their household, Holly is the embodiment of a Kardashian wanna be. She is abandoned by her life long best friend who believes she has become too materialistic. She doesn’t want to spend any time at all with her father, a director who is busy but tries so hard to get close to her. And she is emotionally abusive to the maid/cook who is the only person for years who has shown her any kind of motherly affection. She is spoiled and selfish and needs someone to seriously give her a talking to.
One Christmas after her stepmother dies, Holly is visited by three spirits who try to convince her to change her horrid ways. She doesn’t listen and then she promptly drops dead.
The rest of the book is what happens to her after she dies.
Wait. It’s Christmas.
And this is basically A Christmas Carol with a twist?
A thousand times yes.
Once she dies, Holly becomes the new Ghost of Christmas Past in an organization known as Project Scrooge. They are the ones that orchestrate the Christmas Carol story each year for one lucky curmudgeon. Five years into her new gig, Holly is going through the motions of her job and it’s just…whatever.
Then she meets this year’s Scrooge.
And he’s hot.
So she has a time trying to figure out what to do with these feelings she is developing for a guy that she isn’t supposed to get to know in any real way. As if things weren’t complicated enough, oh yeah, she’s dead.
A YA reimagining of A Christmas Carol shouldn’t work. It’s a classic story for a reason, but it’s been done.
And done. And done. I mean, my brothers and I watch two versions of this story every single Christmas.
But it does work. It works so well.
Part of the reason this book is so fantastic, at least for me, is that it bridges the gap between familiar and fresh. Cynthia Hand took a classic story and spun it so it was modern but didn’t drift into a boring rehash. She brings in elements from the original like the idea of every Scrooge having a Nan (his sister- the person that dies and sets him on his path of bad…ness…), a Belle (the love- not always romantic-that got away because of his self centered ways) and the Fezziwig (the mentor that meant so much). But because these characters were used as lenses through which other people could be crafted, the Belle and the Nan and the Fezziwig are interesting for each Scrooge. Even though they have similar qualities, they are meaningful to the Scrooge we are presented with, so we care about them.
In addition to fun characters, Holly’s boss at Project Scrooge is a particular favorite of mine, the pacing and plot structure is fantastic. It never seems to really let up. The whole book is leading up to the ‘big show’ on Christmas Eve. So all year, they research the Scrooge du jour, and on Christmas Eve, they put on the story we all know and love as a massive performance. So you get to see all the stages they go through to prepare for what amounts to an end of the year presentation for a client who doesn’t know he is a client.
It’s way more fun than it sounds. When you throw in the dead-girl-having-a-crush-on-a-live-guy thing, I’m in heaven. Ah! See what I did there! Afterlife pun! 🙂 And AND, there is a beautiful blend of comedy and drama.
Also, the way she wrapped this book up was perfect. As I neared the end, I honestly thought, “How is she going to end this? The Scrooge now isn’t the protagonist, but it is all about his redemption.” I shouldn’t have doubted her. She totally delivered.
This book was exactly what I needed. I read it in the green room on my breaks between shows and turned it in way before it was due. I honestly wish I had a copy at home because I think I’m going to read it every year. It is like the original Christmas Carol. A repeat reading wouldn’t ruin it for me and even though I know it all turns out, it really is the journey that makes this story so wonderful and touching.