I’ll Be Home For Christmas, an anthology by UKYA authors
Publisher: Stripes Publishing
Rating: Each story rated individually!
Note: We received this book in exchange for on honest review.
After reading Stephanie Perkins’ Winter and Summer anthologies, it’s about time to have one full of wonderful UKYA authors! There are a few here, like Katy Cannon and Holly Bourne that we were really looking out for, but anthologies are always an exciting opportunity to discover new authors too.
Home and Away by Benjamin Zephania
We’re not going to rate this poem because in some respects it’s just another introduction to the anthology. It really sets the scene for the fact that £1 from each sale goes to Crisis, pulling at our heart strings for Christmas, making us really feel what it’s like to live in a someone else’s shoes, especially someone less fortunate than ourselves.
Ghosts of Christmas Past by Non Pratt -★★★
A cute story about how an actual house can really feel like home. Sam’s just moved in with his nan after his parents got divorced, and he meets Amy, the girl who ends up living in his old house. Sam’s voice felt really authentic and there was something universal about him showing Amy all the little details that made his house somewhere cool to live. Overall, it had a really nice message about how its the people around you that make Christmas what it is, not the location.
If Only In My Dreams by Marcus Sedgwick – ★★.5
I love the way the same brief can take people in hundreds of different directions. Set on a spaceship, three astronauts share stories from the home countries. This definitely captured the camaraderie of Christmas, but had this haunting vibe to it, like the stories were the only things you could count on to end happily. But, this was more post-Christmas depression rather than fun, peppy happy times. This was a new author for both of us, and this short’s intrigued me to hunt down a full length novel!
Family You Choose by Cat Clarke – ★★★★★
This one did a really great job of giving the main character, Effie, a backstory and a life while still resolving things in a believable amount of time. It’s also set alongside courses in a Christmas meal, which was beyond cute and everything sounded scrumptious, especially the cake at the end, so we wish we’d been there for the Waifs and Strays meal! Also, LGBT+, so yippee! We can happily say that it was one of the highlights of this collection, as it made the best of the short story conventions and gave us everything we wanted in over ten pages!
The Associates by Kevin Brooks – ★★.5
Tells the story of two homeless men, and we don’t have much to say about it other than the narrator’s voice was so character driven, which was wonderful and we had a good laugh every now and again. Also, it being older men, the whole story is very Waiting For Godot-esque!
The Afterschool Club by Holly Bourne – ★★
The classic story of two teens at opposite ends of the social spectrum that have an unlikely friendship that the rest of their peers don’t know about forms the basis of this story. We didn’t enjoy the voice of Mercedes, as she often verged on the melodramatic and could be quite repetitive. We would’ve liked more of a sense of how the relationship would progress. The writing was quite obvious in this story too, not really leaving anything for the reader to infer, which was slightly disappointing.
Homo for Christmas by Juno Dawson – ★★★
What’s special about this story was it’s unique use of dialect, taking on a Northern accent and speech pattern. We liked the mixture of present day and flashbacks in the storytelling and Juno Dawson feels very much like a writer in touch with the teen voice!
Amir and George by Sita Brahmachari – ★★★
This is the story of a refugee boy who enters a speech competition even though his English isn’t perfect. The story is written in his broken English, which really reflects the character’s voice and felt authentic and stood out to us as the most diverse story in the collection, which we really appreciated.
The Letter by Tracey Darnton – ★★.5
This was the shortest story, probably because it was a competition winner, and I don’t think it did anything to stretch the boundaries of the Christmas theme. It was about a girl in care who received a letter from her dad, and she didn’t want to get in touch. In the acknowledgements it said that Tracey was working on her debut novel, and this short story showed a lot of promise leading up to that!
Claws by Tom Becker – ★★★★.5
Now, this was a real surprise. Everyone loves a good ghost story at Christmas, if Charles Dickens is anything to go by, and this had the perfect haunting vibe we didn’t know we wanted. Claws felt like more of a genre based short story, and the narrative stretched over all of advent. You really got a sense of the legend and the fear throughout, and it was Bee’s favourite story in the collection! The best element of the story was definitely the small town setting, it all added to the creepy atmosphere that made this a really successful story.
Christmas, Take Two by Katy Cannon – ★★★
More of a family orientated story, this felt more like the beginning of a full novel, rather than a short. There was lots of potential with the romance element that we’d have liked to have seen expanded, but the closure between the stepmother and the stepdaughter was heartwarming.
When Dad Comes Home by Melvin Burgess – ★
This was just odd, and definitely not our cup of tea. One of the shorter stories of the collection, at least, but with a very odd narrative that didn’t sit right or feel at all Christmassy. The synergy with the rest of the collection was completely off!
The Bluebird by Julie Mayhew – ★★★
This had an interesting third person perspective, with a single hint of the first person that made you feel so much sympathy towards Rae. We also really loved the fairy tale elements of the story, with the most emphasis on Rapunzel and Cinderella, which is a guaranteed additional star from me!
Routes and Wings by Lisa Williamson – ★★★★
Probably the sweetest story of the collection, Routes and Wings was a real tale of good Christmas cheer, and paying it forward. It spoke directly to the theme of home, or homelessness, to be exact, and really captured the generosity of the season. The contrast between our own stereotypes of people we know and what they’re really like was also at the forefront of this story. It was super great at making those twists and turns in expectation, and answering questions and was one of our favourites!