The first thing you should probably know is that Yvonne Worthington Chase was dead.
Allow me to pose a hypothetical question. Totally for rhetoric’s sake. That’s it. Is it weird to stage book blog pictures in the middle of a busy, dimly lit coffee shop? Asking for a friend, of course.
Sorry. That is totally unrelated to this review. I just was trying to get the ball rolling. You know, try to start friendly conversation. Make things comfortable. Now that we’re all friends:
I have a yearly tradition. Every year at Christmas, I read through Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. I know it doesn’t change. I know it’s the same story every time. Scrooge always learns his lesson. Tiny Tim always blesses us, every one. (And I tear up every time, like it’s the first time.) Y’all. I read this book for the first time in the 7th grade. I can remember Mrs. Hagens, my seventh grade English teacher guiding us through it. And I still read it every year. For 17 years now. I’ve read that book 17 times. Making it my most reread book.
But this year, I changed it up. I did something different (and the entire world gasped a collective gasp because that really is very out of character for me.) This year, instead, I read The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand. And it has been a delightful read.
This post will contain no spoilers.
I could spend time trying to tell you about Holly Chase, the protagonist, but she describes herself pretty accurately.
So that was me. Holly Evangeline Chase. Sixteen–almost seventeen–years old, five foot seven, 115 pounds, brown eyes, blond hair, killer fashion sense, and a perfectly horrible human being.
So, here’s the gist. Holly Chase is visited on Christmas Eve by the ghost of her deceased stepmother who warns her that she will be visited by three ghosts. The ghosts come and Holly blows them off as if they’re unimportant and figments of her imagination. Unlike Dickens’s Scrooge, Holly is not swayed by their warnings. Six days later, Holly Chase dies a tragic death. Following her accident, Holly Chase awakens in an office building in Manhattan where she finds out that she has been recruited by this secret organization Project Scrooge, and she must now function as the new Ghost of Christmas Past (GCP.)
This is all in the first chapter of the book (and a little bit chapter two.) This is all premise. Don’t worry. I haven’t ruined any of the surprise of this book.
Holly spends five years as GCP before the actual events of the books take place. She seems very bored with her afterlife. It seems being the GCP does not provide much variation in her life. And then Ethan Jonathan Winters III happens.
Of course Ethan Winters happens. A boy always happens. Katniss had boy troubles. Tris had boy troubles. Strong, independent women can’t seen to get away from boys happening. They just exist. They just get in the way.
So, Project Scrooge, as you may have guessed, is the top secret organization that identifies a new Scrooge each year to try to convince to stop being an awful person. The three ghosts perform their functions exactly as Dickens would have written, taking them through tours of Christmases past, present, and yet-to-come. And this year, the current year of the book, Project Scrooge has identified young, beautiful, not-to-be-bested Ethan Jonathan Winters III.
Okay, so to be fair, I misjudged Ethan Winters from the start. But I can’t go into too much detail, because that would ruin my whole “no spoilers” clause. And I don’t ruin “no spoilers” clauses. So what I will say is that I really enjoyed this book.
I loved the subtle–and sometimes not-so-subtle–references to Dickens. I love Dickens. I’m a sucker for Dickens. And I was a fan of the numerous references. The characters all have a Dickensian pseudonym. And Dickens quotes or paraphrases run rampant through the book.
A loving heart is the truest wisdom
This quote from David Copperfield has always been one of my favorite Dickens quotes. I love its use and meaning in the book. It made me smile when it appeared in the wild. (For clarification, the actual quote is “[A] loving heart was better and stronger than wisdom…” but who’s counting, right?)
I also discovered a new favorite Dickens quote thanks to Holly Chase. I don’t know when I’ll ever have an excuse to use it, but I fell in love with it as soon as I read it.
Vices are sometimes only virtues carried to excess
Before I allow this review to get too long, I’ll give my long and short of it.
The Afterlife of Holly Chase is a delightful read. It’s no Dickens (but really, what is these days?) but it was very well written. It reads well and it’s an easy read. That doesn’t mean it’s not complex. That doesn’t mean it’s not a story with layers. It just means it reads easily. Sometimes I equate books to food. Holly Chase was like a really good soup before a main course. Not too heavy, not sweet, and a good palette cleanse before something heavier.
4.5/5 stars. Would definitely read again. (And will recommend to anybody looking for an easy Christmas read.)
The Plucky Reader