The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand
Young adult | Retellings | Holiday
Published by Harper Teen
Released October 24, 2017
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | Thriftbooks
Author Links: Website | Twitter | Facebook
I kept seeing Cynthia Hand’s The Afterlife of Holly Chase on Bookstagram and Booktube, recommended by people with similar tastes to my own. I finally got it from my library in December and decided to give it a go since the story takes place around Christmas.
This novel is a modern re-imagining of Charles Dicken’s classic A Christmas Carol. In this new version, there’s a group of people that work for “Project Scrooge” and they pick one person every year to surveil and treat to a Christmas Eve just like that of Ebenezer Scrooge with the goal of teaching them the meaning of Christmas.
To put it bluntly, I did not enjoy this book. I found all of the characters annoying or bland, especially Holly. The plot seemed ridiculous to me and I was unable to take any part of the book seriously.
In the novel, Holly’s mother has died, and I thought that would finally make the character more relatable to me as my own mother passed away nine years ago. There was a single part where that was the case:
“Before, I thought Christmas was a day my mother had created entirely for my benefit. After, Christmas felt like a black hole that would suck me into it for weeks. It made me think of my mom when I didn’t want to think of her. Which understandably made me cranky, but you’re not allowed to be cranky on Christmas. You’re supposed to be all merry and bright.”
That’s a statement that I can 100% understand and agree with. I often miss my mother the most on holidays and have to force myself to not think about it. At the same time though, Holly is pretty much incapable of feeling anything other than “ooh, hot guy” or “oh, woe is me.”
I struggled a lot with Cynthia Hand’s writing style. I understand that the narrator is an annoying teenage girl, but I could not handle sentences like this:
“I fanned myself for a minute and then scanned the movie section, not finding anything good, not really expecting to see anything, but theaters typically have AC, I was thinking, and that’s when one of the titles totally jumped out at me.”
I made it to page 265 before I couldn’t do it any longer and DNF-ed it. It might be fun for a much younger reader, but I felt as though this book was incredibly childish and the main character, Holly, had absolutely no redeeming qualities. While I’ll always recommend Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, this was a hard pass for me.