Book Review : In a Holidaze

Book Review : In a HolidazeIn a Holidaze by Christina Lauren
Published by Simon and Schuster on October 6th 2020
Genres: Fiction, Romance, Romantic Comedy, Humorous, General, Holidays
Pages: 336
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three-stars

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.

In this year’s quest to get into the holiday spirit, which I must have buried beneath all the shopping, gift wrapping, decorating and trying to meet my Goodreads challenge for the year, I decided to pick up In a Holidaze, a Christmas romance novel featuring Groundhog Day-esque time travel. I really wasn’t sure how much I’d enjoy In a Holidaze since I’m pretty much a Grinch this year, but I ended up sitting down to try and read it, only to read the entire thing in one sitting. In a Holidaze is a Netflix Christmas movie incarnate—a little unrealistic, heartwarming, cheesy, funny, and filled with Christmas wishes coming true.

 

In a Holidaze follows main character Maisie, as she celebrates Christmas by visiting her favorite place in the world, a cabin owned by her parents’ best friends. For her entire life, her parents and their best friends, who are basically family at this point, visit this cabin in Utah. She grew up close with the two sons of the owners of the cabin, and around age thirteen she fell hopelessly head over heels for the eldest brother, Andrew. But she starts off the novel by getting drunk on eggnog and making out with the younger brother, Theo, only for Andrew to witness it. Things only get worse when the brothers’ parents announce that they’re selling the cabin, as it grows too costly for them to upkeep. 

 

More importantly (read: pathetically), I’ve never been into Theo, primarily because I’ve had a crazy, silent, soul-crushing crush on his older brother for what feels like my whole life. Andrew is kind, warm, gorgeous, and hilarious. He is playful, flirty, creative, and affectionate. He is also deeply principled and private, and I’m pretty sure there’s nothing that would turn him off a woman faster than knowing she made out with his younger, womanizing brother while under the influence of eggnog.

 

Devastated by her actions and losing her favorite tradition and place, Maisie gets a chance to do it all over again by helplessly calling out to the universe and asking it to show her what would make her truly happy and somehow getting stuck in a time loop and reliving her holiday vacation all over again. Maisie immediately sets out to correct her past mistakes, often hilariously, and grows more and more confident about what she wants with each time she restarts the loop. Knowing she has a chance to do it all over again if she screws up, Maisie is honest with her feelings for Andrew. The two engage in a lot of flirting over snowmen building competitions, sledding, and Christmas tree shopping and decorating. Yes, all of these things literally happen in In a Holidaze, under the guise of “tradition,” but it feels almost like the novel had a checklist for holiday tropes and was determined to check them all off. It’s cute, but I found myself asking who in the world has this much energy to travel across the country for a holiday vacation and then do all of these other things?

 

I also had trouble suspending my disbelief with a few other things in In a Holidaze. I really had trouble believing in the found family of the novel, which consists of three couples—Maisie’s divorced parents, Andrew and Theo’s parents, their college friends Aaron and his husband, Kyle, and their other friend Benny. What little I know about these adults seemed wildly different, and I was perplexed at how these people managed to have drama-free gatherings year after year, even after the divorce of of Maisie’s parents. In fact, it was shocking that Maisie’s parents managed to travel together to the cabin with their kids year after year, despite the fact that Maisie’s mom remarried and everything. Apparently her new husband doesn’t mind. This is the kind of thing that only happens in Christmas media.

 

“Although it would make sense for the grown-ups to eventually worry that something scandalous would happen between me and one of the Hollis boys down in the secluded basement, no one batted a lash. My mother was normally incredibly strict about boundaries, but we were family, after all.”

 

I also found it absolutely ludicrous that Maisie’s parents let her sleep completely unsupervised in the basement with their friends’ sons. Maisie remarks that her mom is usually very concerned with safety and propriety for her daughter, and is apparently a big Catholic too, but isn’t concerned about anything to happen to her daughter when she sleeps in the same room with two teenage boys “because they’re family.” O-kay. I found this completely unbelievable, and not just because Maisie has been in love with Andrew since she was thirteen, which clearly highlights that she does not see him as a brother, but because bad things happen to kids even among blood families all the time. 

 

Putting my disbelief at how hard In a Holidaze was pushing the found family agenda, I also struggled with the characterization of the two brothers Andrew and Theo. Theo, who Maisie was closest to growing up, is a womanizer and a playboy, who runs on compliments. He is also a complete jerk to Maisie in the original timeline where she makes out with him for half a second, only to reject his further advances. Meanwhile, Andrew is characterized as “the good one” or “the perfect one,” who doesn’t date casually, is patient, kind, and nerdy. But in all actuality, he wasn’t that great either beyond their cute flirting. I really didn’t care for the fact that when Maisie confessed her feelings to him, he basically responded that he never considered it because she was “supposed” to be for Theo. But it doesn’t take much time at all for him to get adjusted to the idea and the two are making out in closets in no time. I just didn’t find this romantic or special, because it made me wonder if he would’ve accepted any confession like this, not just Maisie’s. 

 

I was also really confused by how upset Andrew became over things that didn’t even happen in his timeline and when the two weren’t even together as a couple. Honestly, I really could’ve done without this whole unnecessary drama plot point In a Holidaze where Maisie tells Andrew about her time traveling. Their fight just felt like drama for the sake of drama and made Andrew look like a jerk who wasn’t any better than his brother. I wished instead that In a Holidaze had just played up the slow-burn and will-they-won’t-they because the novel is truly at its most fun when Andrew and Maisie are flirting. I laughed at a lot of their banter and really loved their nerdy jokes. Though I didn’t really get that the two were actually nerdy beyond these few jokes, and would’ve loved to see more of that demonstrated. I also would have liked to learn more about their lives beyond the yearly visits in the cabin besides what is glimpsed in a single conversation about their jobs.

 

“As crazy as it sounds, I think this is all happening because I asked the universe to show me what would make me happy and it’s just sending me here over and over again with no instruction booklet,” I shout upward. “Like, yes, I love it here. I get it. And now I shall live here forever. Eternal Christmas. Be careful what you wish for, am I right?” I laugh a little maniacally.

 

The last thing that kind of threw me for a loop in the novel was that the whole time traveling thing is just kind of dropped. In the beginning of the novel, Maisie is getting thrown back in time constantly, but the second she gets things to work out for herself in one of her many do-overs, the time traveling just stops and is never revisited. It felt odd that in the genre of Christmas, home to A Christmas Carol, where Scrooge also witnesses different timelines and goes back to his own to fix his ways, that Maisie never has this moment of reckoning where she has to go back and follow through on better choices. Instead, she simply makes all of her life changes in one of the timeline reruns and just gets to live with those choices in what is now the actual timeline. And at some point, the universe just decides to stop hurling her all over the timeline because it’s seemingly pleased with the adjustments she’s made. This narrative choice resulted in In a Holidaze feeling a little unfinished and unsettled. 

 

Despite this feeling, I did think In a Holidaze was a fun and lighthearted read that was a solid choice for those wanting to read something fluffy for the holiday season, if one doesn’t think too hard about some of the narrative choices. The novel often made me laugh at the hilarity of Maisie’s time traveling escapes. And it was especially a relief to read of people celebrating with their loved ones in public without the concerns of the pandemic. It definitely took me back to simpler times, when all one had to worry about was how they were going to fit in all of their holiday shopping, tree decorating, gift wrapping, and everything else. If you’re a big fan of the holiday season, romance, and the time traveling trope, In a Holidaze is definitely the perfect novel for you. I am honestly surprised that it hasn’t been adapted into a Netflix movie yet.

 

three-stars
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Posted December 14, 2021 in Book Reviews, Romance

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