This was like The Good Place: Teen Holiday Edition. So if you know me at all (for those who don’t, know that I’ve watched that show several times now because it’s forking awesome okay), you’ll know I enjoyed this book.
In Cynthia Hand’s The Afterlife of Holly Chase, Holly is a materialistic, selfish, entitled brat. But one Christmas night, three spirits visit her, warning her of the way she is living and showing her the error of her ways. But Holly, sure this is some kind of prank, rejects their advice—and dies in a freak accident the next day. Now, in the afterlife, she has to work for Project Scrooge as the new Ghost of Christmas Past, trying to save other selfish souls. But five years in, everything is about to change, when the new Scrooge proves to be a teenage boy—a really attractive teenage boy, who Holly finds herself caring about in a way she never has before.
I’ve always liked A Christmas Carol, and this sounded like a really fun young adult modern retelling. And it was!
Holly works as a protagonist—she’s quite self-centered and quite a jerk at the beginning, but that’s the point. And her character development over the course of the book is pretty good, and while she annoyed me at first, I still wanted to see where her journey ended up. The new Scrooge, Ethan, wasn’t the most original character; he’s a conventional young adult love interest boy, but his role worked in the story. The side characters like Boz and Stephanie and Ro were good, especially Stephanie. (Though I did want more backstory on Boz.)
I have to say, this was a clever retelling of the classic story. The references and homages to the original are clearly done with affection and respect. I also caught some Grinch references and… a Monsters, Inc. reference? The latter was… oddly fitting, given the context.
The ending of this book—no spoilers here, don’t worry—was a pleasant surprise to me. Not in terms of the Christmas Carol-y parts, but the core relationship. I liked seeing a book, especially a light-hearted holiday teen novel, not have the character development fully revolve around romance. It was refreshing, and made for a satisfying and sweet ending for Holly.
In the end, The Afterlife of Holly Chase was a fun Christmas story about a girl learning what is really important in this world. The characters are decent, and the plot is entertaining. This isn’t the most groundbreaking book, but if you’re looking for some light holiday enjoyment, this is a great choice.
Overall rating: 8.4/10