I liked how they set the whole book up. I thought it was really interesting and impressive that all of the stories came together in the stories. Like, there’d just be a cameo of something that happened in a different story. That takes a lot of planning and a lot of talent to write like that. I also just find it insane how authors can do collabs--I hate it when anyone outside of an extremely small circle reads my writing before it’s completed, let alone work on character and plot development.
The first story was called “The Jubilee Express” by Maureen Johnson. This one was probably my favorite of the three: a girl on a train ride home named Jubilee (it’s a long story) gets stuck in a little place called Gracetown, and a kind teenage boy and his mom and sister take her in. The whole story was just so… hopeless romantic. So first-real-love-not-just-first-love. And I think that’s the best kind of love story, one where it’s real and pure and deep--but not even that, just--just I don’t know. As much as I hate to say this as a writer, this story is sort of beyond words. This story gives hope. This story warms your heart, your whole heart, and that’s something that isn’t in every romance novel that I read.
The second story was written by none other than the iconic John Green. He was the whole reason I picked this book up--I was doing a binge of all of his books. His story was called “A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle,” and if I’m being real here, it was eh. The story followed Tobin and his two friends, the Duke (that’s just a nickname; her real name is Angie) and JP. The three are spending their night binging movies until their friend Keun calls from the Waffle House to tell them that the Waffle House is full of cheerleaders and they need to get there right now. [insert extreme Eye Roll because that’s so sexist]. And… that’s kind of it. That’s the whole premise of the story. I mean, there’s a real ship, not just the basic cheerleader body is all I want in my girlfriend, but still. It sort of sucks.
Everything didn’t suck, though. Like the Duke: she rocked. She was strong and deep and just plain real, which is what every character should’ve been like, even though they weren’t. Some characters were really shallow, like JP and these two random brothers that are just… there--and not vain-shallow, but no-character-depth-shallow. And the moral of the story was against sexism, but it took a looong time for Tobin to get to that point, and I wasn’t exactly interested as a reader to have to wait through the part that is sexist. It also sort of felt like minor characters like Keun didn’t learn their lesson in the end, which bothered me. He was the one who originally called, after all.
The third story was better, though. It was “The Patron Saint of Pigs” by Lauren Myracle (as in, Eleven, Twelve, and Thirteen Lauren Myracle--I know, a throwback). The story follows Addie, who broke up with her boyfriend Jeb but now regrets it. Lauren Myracle made Addie more than a likable protagonist. In fact, I almost disliked Addie for a while, but I was still invested in her story.
Does that make any sense? Let me rephrase: I knew that Addie wasn’t a great person, but I had hope for her. I could enjoy watching her grow as the story went. Part of the storyline was… odd, though. Like, the whole reason it’s called “The Patron Saint of Pigs” is because Addie needs to pick up her friend’s future-pet-pig from the pet store. Fathomable, but weird. Don’t get me wrong, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but definitely note-worthy.
Overall, great book, but I expected more from John Green. If my favorite author is doing a collab, then I want him to be the best, and he fell short with this book. Would still recommend, though--especially because a Netflix movie starring Kiernan Shipka (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, anyone?) and Shameik Moore (Spider-Verse) is currently post-production.