Review: In a Holidaze – Christina Lauren
by Christina Lauren
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication Date: October 6, 2020
I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My rating:
One Christmas wish, two brothers, and a lifetime of hope are on the line for hapless Maelyn Jones in In a Holidaze, the quintessential holiday romantic novel by Christina Lauren, the New York Times bestselling author of The Unhoneymooners.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year…but not for Maelyn Jones. She’s living with her parents, hates her going-nowhere job, and has just made a romantic error of epic proportions.
But perhaps worst of all, this is the last Christmas Mae will be at her favorite place in the world—the snowy Utah cabin where she and her family have spent every holiday since she was born, along with two other beloved families. Mentally melting down as she drives away from the cabin for the final time, Mae throws out what she thinks is a simple plea to the universe: Please. Show me what will make me happy.
The next thing she knows, tires screech and metal collides, everything goes black. But when Mae gasps awake…she’s on an airplane bound for Utah, where she begins the same holiday all over again. With one hilarious disaster after another sending her back to the plane, Mae must figure out how to break free of the strange time loop—and finally get her true love under the mistletoe.
Jam-packed with yuletide cheer, an unforgettable cast of characters, and Christina Lauren’s trademark “downright hilarious” (Helen Hoang, author of The Bride Test) hijinks, this swoon-worthy romantic read will make you believe in the power of wishes and the magic of the holidays.
Content warnings: View Spoiler »car crash, ableism, alcohol use, marijuana use « Hide Spoiler
Why yes, it’s barely October and I’m already reading my first holiday book! And this is basically everything a Christmas book should be. It’s cute! It’s sweet! It’s got the childhood friends to lovers trope! It does toe the line between romance/women’s fiction but it still worked for me.
“I want to be happy, and I’m petrified that the path I’m on now is going to leave me bored and alone.
So I ask the universe, simply: Can you show me what will make me happy?”
At the start of the book, Mae’s drifting through her own life. Sure, she hates her job and doesn’t like living with her mom, but she’s not exactly motivated to change it either, until a late night eggnog-induced indiscretion and a bombshell announcement at the end of the vacation leave her completely devastated – and wishing that she could just figure out what would make her happy. And then, crash!, she’s suddenly back on the plane six days earlier.
The time loop aspect wasn’t as prominent as I’d hoped, and to be honest, I didn’t particularly enjoy the first few iterations of it. It’s only once Mae accepts that she’s in a time loop – that none of what she’s doing is permanent because she’ll just mess up and end up back on the plane again – that she throws caution to the wind and starts being more true to herself – and that’s when the book gets really interesting. And, huh, not only is Mae happier, but so are the people around her.
The cabin in Utah is the setting of so many happy childhood Christmases for Mae. Every year, several families – whose “grown-ups” were best friends in college – get together for a week. They have snow creature building competitions, go sledding, and do a wacky scavenger hunt. There’s tree decorating, baking, and lots of delicious food. It’s the sort of warm family Christmas I think most people dream about. Plus, she gets to see Andrew. Mae’s grown up with the two Hollis brothers, so much so that Theo and her are practically twins. But from the time she’s been thirteen, she’s had a crush on his older brother, Andrew.
“Climb aboard, Maisie.” Andrew looks up at me, and my heart does an aching nosedive. “There are adventures to be had.”
I’m a big fan of the friends-to-lovers trope for so many reasons, and this book does a brilliant job at it. Mae and Andy already have their own built-in jokes and a deep familiarity with each other, so the pace at which their relationship moves doesn’t seem unnatural. Not only is their chemistry great, but the romance is quite sweet as well. There’s a particularly cute moment where they’re both laying under the Christmas tree, staring up at the lights and chatting with each other. Andrew’s also supportive of Mae, both in the changes that she wants to make in her life and in their holiday traditions. And that leads in nicely to the theme of the book – that even traditions that we remember fondly need to change sometimes, that they can get stuck in a rut just like people can. As Mae learns to trust herself to be a good judge of her own happiness, it also helps those around her be happier, too.
My main con with the book is the dark moment. I thought Andrew overreacted and that the whole thing felt out of character for him. It’s hard to tell, though, as we only get Mae’s POV in the book, and she obviously thinks he hung the moon. It also means that, aside from the overreaction, Andrew feels a bit too perfect. I do think the big gesture (or gestures, in this case) makes up for it, but it was jarring. It’s also very much a rich White people book – who else could afford to have a cabin near Park Slope, Utah and take off for a holiday vacation every year?
Overall, this is a sweet and hilarious Christmas romance, and especially recommended for anyone who likes the friends-to-lovers trope.