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The Afterlife of Holly Chase

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On Christmas Eve five years ago, Holly was visited by three ghosts who showed her how selfish and spoiled she'd become. They tried to convince her to mend her ways.

She didn't.

And then she died.

Now she's stuck working for the top-secret company Project Scrooge--as the latest Ghost of Christmas Past.

Every year, they save another miserly grouch. Every year, Holly stays frozen at seventeen while her family and friends go on living without her. So far, Holly's afterlife has been miserable.

But this year, everything is about to change. . . .

400 pages, Kindle Edition

First published October 24, 2017

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About the author

Cynthia Hand

26 books9,517 followers
Cynthia Hand is the New York Times bestselling author of several books for teens, including the UNEARTHLY trilogy, THE LAST TIME WE SAY GOODBYE, MY LADY JANE, MY PLAIN JANE, MY CALAMITY JANE, MY CONTRARY MARY, and MY IMAGINARY MARY (with fellow authors Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows), THE AFTERLIFE OF HOLLY CHASE, THE HOW AND THE WHY, WITH YOU ALL THE WAY, and the upcoming TIMELESS and MY SALTY MARY (also with Ashton and Meadows). Before turning to writing for young adults, she studied literary fiction and earned both an M.F.A. and a Ph.D. in fiction writing. She currently resides in Boise, Idaho, with her husband, two cats, one crazy dog, two kids, and mountain of books.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 4,395 reviews
Profile Image for Emma Giordano.
317 reviews116k followers
January 4, 2021
I know Christmas was yesterday and a lot of y’all are probably not interested in just now starting a new Christmas story but you ABSOLUTELY HAVE TO. This book completely took me by surprised. I had no idea I would love it as much as I did, but it totally blew me away.

I really loved the concept of this book (the synopsis does not do it justice). 17 year old terrible girl is visited by three spirits who show her her past, present and future if she does not change her way (Yes, it is an A Christmas Carol retelling). She brushes it off, she dies, and now is recruited as The Ghost of Christmas Past for “Project Scrooge” – a company that takes on a new “Scrooge” every year in the hopes of having them change their ways and make the world a better place. It was a very unique twist on a retelling, where the original tale is a central part of the story and is constantly referred to directly, but it made for a wonderful balance between a classic and new novel.

I especially loved the fact that we have two unlikeable main characters. Holly, being a ”failed Scrooge,” is self-centered, obsessed with wealth and status, unbelievably cruel to those who are “beneath” her, and is probably one of the most selfish characters I have ever read about. That being said, you can’t help but empathize with Holly and root for her happiness. Despite the fact that Holly exhibits so many behaviors I disagree with, I love her. Ethan, being this year’s “Scrooge,” is arguably even more interesting. He is introduced to us as a “Scrooge” yet in the majority of our encounters with him, he is charming, kind, and giving. Throughout the story, we are exposed to his worst moments and it leads to this interesting tug-of-war between “But he’s so great!” and “But look at what he’s done.” I thoroughly enjoyed how much this book challenged my perception of the characters and their true motivations.

Besides the plot completely captivating me all throughout the story to the point where putting my audiobook down was physically painful, the ending was also phenomenal. I made my guesses as to how things would be resolved, but I never would have imagined the truth. Again, this story takes a twist on typical young adult book endings. Though my heart partially wanted something different for the fate of the characters, I’m ultimately satisfied. I loved this book so much I had to force myself to refrain from restarting it the second I finished.

I seriously loved this book. 17/5 stars. Would highly recommend to anyone looking for a festive read, or a new paranormal YA story. I can assure you I will be rereading this one in the future!
Profile Image for Zoë.
328 reviews66.2k followers
January 8, 2019
Such a fun holiday read! This had a lot going for it, as it's a retelling of a story dear to my heart, A Christmas Carol. Plus, it's set in New York City during Christmas - and there's fantastical elements, including zombies. Totally recommend this book if you're looking for a fun, addictive read with some romance thrown in.
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,962 reviews293k followers
October 19, 2017
Everyone started sniffling at that point. Everyone, that is, except me. I never did the crying thing. It would have ruined my makeup.

I actually really enjoyed this. I went into it expecting a classic Scrooge story: a deep, meaningful tale about learning the error of your ways and becoming a better person through love of your fellow man (i.e. in this case, hot dude), but you should know - this is actually a very light, silly, feel-good book.

I definitely didn’t expect to like this as much as I did. I’ve watched so many different versions of A Christmas Carol and Cynthia Hand’s books have elicited mixed reactions from me in the past. AND I’m not one of those “Christmas people” who takes huge joy from the holidays (my favourite Christmas song is Fairytale of New York because drunk Irish people are everything).

BUT I think I just really liked the exceptionally unlikeable Holly Chase. I've seen others complaining how she didn't learn from her Scrooge experience and was still a bitch, but hell, I liked it. She starts off as the kind of deliciously unlikeable character that I just loved to hate. After she is visited by her three ghosts on Christmas Eve (technically early Christmas morning) - unlike the original Ebenezer Scrooge - she decides to shrug and get on with being a horrible person. So she dies and wakes up in her own personal version of hell: working for Project Scrooge as their newest Ghost of Christmas Past.

Five years later, she's still there. Then the latest Scrooge is picked - a teenage guy who Holly discovers she has a lot in common with - and things start to change. Can Holly save him and finally put some things right?

Expect a fairly light story. It's not quite My Lady Jane level silliness, but it edges toward there in parts. The whole project Scrooge set-up of sneaking into the Scrooge's rooms and sifting through their memories feels like a comical version of Monsters Inc. Holly's narrative, especially in the beginning, is of someone who knows she's a horrible person and doesn't feel bad about it.

Predictably, a romance develops, but even that was okay here because I just find Holly so ridiculously funny:
He was playing tennis, wearing black gym shorts that hit him about six inches above the knee and a simple polo, and he was sweating a little.
Thank you, universe.

I like her blunt self-awareness. And I always appreciate romance with humour over starcrossed destiny.

It's not difficult to see some things coming, but the book doesn't hang everything on its conclusion and I enjoyed the ending anyway. I can't deny that the entire reading experience was pure enjoyment for me. Everything is wrapped up well and the ending suggests it will be a standalone. But, whether alone or with the My Lady Jane crew, I really hope Hand continues to write light, funny books. I enjoy them so much more than her The Last Time We Say Goodbye.

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Profile Image for chloe.
242 reviews28.3k followers
December 23, 2018
A fun, slightly cheesy (in the best way) Christmas read & I loved it :')
Profile Image for Whitney Atkinson.
916 reviews13.9k followers
December 27, 2019
DNF at 150 pages

This book was just awful and I couldn't take another page of it. The writing is so weak and outdated and cringy and these were not believable teenagers at all. (The main character says "whatevs" unironically no less than 20 times) Maybe it would work as a mid-2000s Disney Channel Original movie, but as a book in 2019, I was really struggling to get through it. So I decided to stop trying.
Profile Image for Heather.
387 reviews16.8k followers
December 13, 2017

Wow...I was not expecting to like this...at all. I heard so many negative/mixed things about it so I went into it expecting to hate it. I ended up really enjoying it, loving it even.

If your a fan of Hand's books, this is NOT like her Unearthly trio. It's written more like her work in My Lady Jane, which I loved by the way. It's full of sarcasm, dry humor and wit. Very funny with some depth and the ending---loved!

I thoroughly enjoy it & it's a perfect Christmas read but you could read this anytime of the year to be honest.

December 23, 2018

Without stories, we’re all just lonely islands.
Stories let us see and hear and feel what someone else does.
They build bridges to the other islands.
That’s why stories are so important.
They create true empathy.

Story 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Holly Chase is not a good person. Even after her dead step-mother appears and tells her about three ghosts that will visit her - past, present and future - she stays the same person. They show her all the memories, the present and her death, telling her that if she changes for the good she’ll survive.
She’ll not die.
But she refuses to believe, never letting go of her own stubborn head.
And so she died.
Now she’s working for the Scrooge Company saving Scrooge’s from their own death and bad character. But this year something is different. Five years after her own death she meets a Scrooge that reminds her so much of herself.
Ethan is rich, not very nice and seventeen years old. And handsome. Oh so handsome.
That’s why everything gets so complicated for Holly. Because next to the feelings she has towards him, she always is reminded of her own past, of her own death.
So she tries to save Ethan, but also wants to have his heart forever.
Ugh, this was such a wonderful Christmas story. I did watch the Disney movie for a „Christmas carol“. And I really loved it.
It’s this typical Christmas movie we need to watch sometimes.
It was such a funny, light hearted story and I loved it so much. It was really really cute.

Character 🌟🌟🌟
Like is said, holly is not a nice person. She’s materialistic, mean and self centered.
But slowly she realizes that the people around her actually like her and even if that surprises her a lot she does like them too.
She learns to think of more than just herself, she’s trying to help without being so selfish.
And with every day that passes she’s getting better.
Also I loved all these side characters with their different personalities. They were all so cute and special. Perfect for the story.

It was Nerd flirting, showing his big impressive knowledge like a peacock flashing his pretty feathers.

Relationships 🌟🌟🌟
I don’t know what to say. It was inevitable. The love story needed to happen.
But it was so fast, and I liked it first in the beginning, I liked the flirting and he mystery around it. But then Ethan wasn’t at all suspicions that he didn’t know this girl at all.
He was just rolling with it.
And I thought that was kind of weird.
If I would meet a guy and he tells me he has no phone i would be completely suspicious. Especially after googling his name and not finding anything. Like very very suspicious.
It was still a really cute love story.
But that wasn’t my favorite relationship.
It was the friendships all around Holly. The friendship with Stephanie, with Ro, her colleagues.
The relationship Holly had with her mother, Her father.
It was so heartwarming and absolutely fitting for Christmas.

Writing style 🌟🌟🌟🌟
This wasn’t the most beautiful writing i have ever witnessed. But it was good. It was nice and it had a lot of important messages to carry. It was told in Holly POV with all the thoughts she had, all the wishes, all the memories. It was funny sometimes, sometimes it was heartbreaking and sometimes you realized that we all have our bad days. But it’s the way you handle them.
It’s the way you try to make things right.
You try to be a better person.
I loved this message in the book.
Absolutely lovely book for the Christmas holidays. 🎄🎁🎀
Profile Image for Trina (Between Chapters).
858 reviews3,757 followers
December 6, 2018
I loved this! So perfect for Christmastime. I loved how this was not only a retelling of A Christmas Carol but also analyzed the tropes and archetypes from the original story. There were several quotes in this book that struck a chord with me, which of course I have no hope of finding them since I listened to the audiobook and didn't stop to note them.

Audiobook review: Erin Spencer narrates wonderfully. Highly recommend.
Profile Image for shady boots.
500 reviews2,036 followers
April 11, 2018
BITCH, OKAY. I was ready to give this book maybe a 4.5, but THAT. ENDING??? I'd be lying to myself if I gave it any lower a rating.

I think this review will be filled with me not only praising this book, but Cynthia Hand herself, being that she's one of my favorite YA authors ever. Her Unearthly series will always remain close to my heart.

Before reading this book, I was fully convinced that I'd seen or heard of every Christmas Carol adaptation under the sun, but this one was really interesting. The company in this book, Project Scrooge, consists of a team of people (and ghosts) in charge of selecting one person every year whose life and personality is parallel to that of Ebenezer Scrooge from the iconic story. They're required to learn everything they can about this Scrooge until Christmas Eve arrives and they begin their process of reformation via the ghosts of Past, Present and Future.

We all know this story, and I think Hand was fully aware of that. What I mean is, the aforementioned Scrooges in this book--our main character Holly included--are living in the modern age, so of course they're fully aware of the countless adaptations of A Christmas Carol. Obviously this makes most of them cynical and jaded; their sense of wonder at these ghosts' presence and their magical journey through time is barely there anymore because this generation has seen everything. I loved this so much because of how true it rings.

I didn't realize how much I missed Cynthia Hand's writing. She's always had this way of, even if she's writing a paranormal or fantasy story, making it have the general feel of a contemporary novel. This was something I really enjoyed about the Unearthly series as well. That series was about angels, but the way it's written and the focus on character interactions and development gives it that contemporary charm.

It also helped that she injected so much personality into this particular book's protagonist, Holly Chase. Maybe I'm biased because I like when YA books are narrated by the materialistic, snarky rich girls. This archetype is often used as a villain or rival role, but making them protagonists I always find very appealing. If done right, that is. Holly is witty, cynical, but also has that vulnerability to her. As main characters go, she's definitely one of the most entertaining voices I've read in a while.

Something else I have to commend Hand on is the way she tackles loss and grief. It's present in a lot of her work, like the second book in the Unearthly series and also in the last book I read from her, The Last Time We Say Goodbye (which broke me, by the way). This subject is also very much present in this book, despite its lighthearted story, and I love the honesty and rawness of it. I think only an author who knows loss and grief on a personal level can really portray it in its most realistic way, and Cynthia Hand strikes me as such.

And last but not least, the cherry on top of all of this, that ENDING. Bitch. Throughout this book I had a pretty good idea on how it would end, but man was I so so wrong. And I couldn't be happier that I was wrong. Honestly, I couldn't have asked for a better, more satisfying ending than that.

I adored this book. I had so much fun. And once again it solidifies my opinion that Cynthia Hand is a force to be reckoned with in YA. I can't wait to see what else she cooks up, cause if her previous work is any indication, I can tell I'll love it to bits.
Profile Image for Peyton Reads.
174 reviews1,937 followers
December 21, 2020
I originally gave this book a 4 stars and upon rereading it I give this book a 5 stars!! Love this book so much! Definitely brought me to tears.
Profile Image for Lori.
308 reviews100 followers
February 3, 2018
This is a retelling of A Christmas Carol staring a perfectly heinous teenager as Scrooge. I kept thinking she was in purgatory after she died. I don't remember Dante having a section for people stuck at one point in their adolescence. I for one would sincerely repent whatever offense that I had committed.
Profile Image for Sara (sarawithoutanH).
481 reviews2,990 followers
December 23, 2018
This was a cute book! I didn't like it quite as much as everyone else, but it was a sweet read. I would equate this book to a Netflix/Hallmark Christmas movie, which is always good when you're in the mood for that sort of thing. The writing and characters didn't wow me, but I had a good time and I really loved the ending.
1 review
September 18, 2017
This is now MY FAVORITE BOOK, and I didn't think I could love it more than Cynthia Hand's Unearthly series. Had to check this out from a friend who got an early copy.

I cried my eyes out!!! Loved the love story at the heart of this supernatural and often really funny book. It starts out so much fun and builds to this beautifully heartbreaking conclusion.

Holly Chase is your classic LA bitchy girl who on Christmas Eve is given the chance to repent but tells the ghost to take a hike. Then she dies. Her only chance at redemption is as a zombie helping to save a boy as evil as she was from becoming a zombie like her. But she falls in love with him. I'm not gonna do the spoiler alert here. You just have to read it.

It's so sweet and a great Christmas lesson for all of us who have misplaced values. It really is the most creative and lovely romance I've ever read. Fault in Our Stars is obviously a very real drama, but I had the same final reaction here as I did with Fault. Could not stop crying!!!
Profile Image for Karen Barber.
2,532 reviews60 followers
May 12, 2017
Seems weird reading this in May, when the book isn't due until October, but I must thank edelweiss for giving me the opportunity to read this early.
There's very few people that will not be familiar with the story of Scrooge and his shot at redemption. With untold students having to study 'A Christmas Carol for GCSE I can see this being an interesting companion piece.
So, in this story we begin with Holly Chase showing us - in full glory - why she's so deeply unpleasant. The knowing nods to Dickens come very quickly, and then we get a deviation. For this is not a straightforward retelling.
In this version Holly dies and is then taken to work on Project Scrooge, a secretive set-up where once a year the crew attempt to save the life of one Scrooge (or the modern equivalent). We watch as Holly and her team prepare to help out seventeen year old Ethan, a rich boy who's lost his softer side.
From the off we can see Holly - our ghost of Christmas Past - has a lot more invested in this case than others she's worked on. Though things aren't done conventionally here, we root for Holly as she tries to change someone's future.
As the book progresses there's hints that things are not quite as we were led to believe. However, it all ties together nicely.
This must be the only book I've read where I'm actually happy that the romance I was hoping for all along didn't quite go to plan. When you read it, you'll know why.
Aside from the modern setting and the easily identifiable characters, I loved the way Hand updates the source for a modern reader. And the geeky English teacher in me loved all the Dickens references and quotes.
What's not to love?
Profile Image for ˗ˏˋ lia ˎˊ˗.
282 reviews376 followers
February 21, 2021
“a loving heart is the truest wisdom.”

this was absolutely the most perfect read for this time of year and i’m so glad i have enjoyed it this much! i was a little worried before going into this, as people and reviewers i trust had INCREDIBLY differing views on the afterlife of holly chase. so naturally, i was hoping to still like it but was very much scared that i’d be one of those who didn’t.

the main character, holly chase, is so fucking unlikable and, additionally to her being a total brat, kept unironically saying ‘whatevs’ in like every second sentence, which already made me wanna dnf this. but i didn’t wanna be that person to give up on a story because of a purposefully unlikable protagonist and mannnn there was so much more to the story. the plot captivated me and the audiobook narrator did such a good job that i couldn’t stop listening to this all day and binged this in almost one go (with maybe two small breaks to do stuff that required listening to something else than the audiobook).

what i loved most was the character development and especially the ending!! it was honestly perfect. neither what i would have hoped for in the beginning nor what i had expected, but thinking back about the course of the story it was the most perfect ending and i’m so very happy to have given this book a go and plan on rereading around christmas next year!

→ 4 stars
Profile Image for Lisa.
202 reviews1 follower
May 9, 2017
Holly Chase is the very definition of a Scrooge and every Scrooge deserves a second chance. Fun YA retelling of the classic Christmas Carol with a few great plot twists that I never expected.
Profile Image for Lauren Lanz.
686 reviews247 followers
December 23, 2020
“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of it for anyone else"

In a retelling of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, seventeen year old Holly Chase is the scrooge. Five years ago, three ghosts visit Holly trying to convince her to become less selfish. Holly is unbothered by the apparitions, refusing to acknowledge her selfishness, and ends up dead.
Now, Holly works for project scrooge, a place where failed (and very dead) scrooges must try and prevent others from walking down their same path.

The main thing that stands out to me in this story is the protagonist.
I know Holly’s meant to mirror the troubling scrooge, but damn sometimes this girl made me want to rip my hair out. I guess this is a positive in a way, as the author (probably) deliberately set out to make her stuck up and irritating as all hell: something that the original also did. This being said, Holly’s demeanor hardly changes until the very last chapter, where things feel rushed and out of nowhere.

I enjoyed learning about all of the side characters and what shaped them to become particularly scroogey or not-so-scroogey. Cynthia Hand did a fantastic job creating tension and suspense through the romance of all things. I was really surprised to become so invested in the outcome of events surrounding Ethan’s fate.

Sure, the writing was a bit juvenile, though for a festive read I can’t find it in me to be too harsh about this. Overall things flowed very easily, which allowed for a quick read (which I love). Most people seemed to love The Afterlife of holly Chase a lot more than I did, so keep that in mind! This might end up being a really nice holiday read for you! :-)
Profile Image for Lucy Tonks.
488 reviews716 followers
March 3, 2021
"It's a wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profund secret and mystery to every other."

This is the perfect Christmas read and I'm sure that I'll re-read it every year around this time since I love this story so much. This is a pretty cheesy book, but in the best way possible! It is so cute!

This is a contemporary fantasy book that follows Holly Chase and one night on Christmas Eve she is visited by the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future and if she does not change her ways and she doesn't become a better person, she will die. She didn't and she died. Five years later she is working for this company called Project Scrooge as the Ghost of Christmas Past. But this year things start to change.

I love this book! Since I re-read this book, it's pretty clear that I loved this book. The plot was very good, it took me a bit to get into the plot though (both time that I read this book), but once I got into it, I couldn't put it down! The first time I read this book, I read it in one freaking sitting. I read in five hours. This 400 page book. It took me five hours to read it. That's how entertaining this story was.

If you couldn't tell already, this book is a Christmas Carol retelling. Through out most of the book, there are a lot of references to a Christmas Carol with everything happening at Project Scrooge. I've never read A Christmas Carol or seen the movie for that matter, so I had no idea what happened in that story really before reading this book. So going into this book I had no idea what to expect.

Holly in the beggining of the book is a completle brat. But, but, that character development, damn is so good. Cynthia Hand did such a great job of bringing Holly Chase's character to life. We had a few side characters like Ethan, Steph and Boz, but since the story is about Holly, we didn't get to know them as well as we got to know our protagonist.

I've see quite a few reviews where people said that they did not like the ending of this book that much, but I freaking love it. This book is full of Christmas miracles and the ending was just that. A miracle. And it was the cheesy ending that I wanted!

This is a favourite book of mine and I'll make it a tradition of mine to re-read it every year, as I have a tradition to watch the Home Alone movies every year around Christmas time!

"But love doesn't always have to be about the happy ending, Love can be about beginnings, too."
December 28, 2022
A Great Read for Any Fan Of A Christmas Carol

I loved this story. My Grinch button has been in the on-position so far this December. This book, with its totally different take on the Dicken’s classic but with so much reverence for the original within it, was just what I needed to read right now. I will recommend it to every reader I know! Merry Christmas 2019 to you all!
Profile Image for Natalie Monroe.
592 reviews3,539 followers
October 28, 2017

Because The Afterlife of Holly Chase was published in October instead of December, I thought this gif especially appropriate.

Ready? Sing along with me now!

On the twelfth day of Christmas Cynthia Hand sent to me:
12 helpings of warm fuzzies
11 Dickens references
10 pop culture nods
9 scoops of light-hearted fun
8 bundles of holly-wrapped Christmas Spirit
Some unlikable characters that change
and remind me of a protag I wrote once
5 well-written platonic relationships
4 feminist quips
3 plot twists
2 romantic ships
and a modern Christmas Carol retelling!

ARC provided by Edelweiss

Other song reviews:
Rebel of the Sands
To All the Boys I've Loved Before
The Last Ever After
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
Profile Image for Zemira Warner.
1,569 reviews1,040 followers
April 27, 2017
I honestly don't know a single person who doesn't speak highly of Cynthia Hand. I've been her fan ever since Unearthly, Tucker is one of my favorite book boyfriends and I've read all of her books.

I'm also really liking her new approach to ya literature. She always comes up with something unique and really out there. Her work still has her signature charm.

Even though The Afterlife of Holly Chase is her shortest book yet, I didn't think it was lacking in any way.
Profile Image for Erin .
1,231 reviews1,142 followers
November 4, 2017
God Bless us, every one!

Confession time: I love Christmas! I love everything about Christmas, the music, the movies, the books, the lights, the food, not to mention the reason for the season Jesus.

I know some people think Christmas doesn't start until after Thanksgiving but....

Fuck them!

I've been listening to Christmas music since the second week of October.

Now on to the review.

The Afterlife of Holly Chase is an irreverent new take on the Charles Dickens story A Christmas Carol. Our main character is Holly Chase a selfish spoiled brat who was visited by three ghosts who tried to get her to change her ways but failed. She then died and instead of burning in hell she was instead taken to work at the top secret company Project Scrooge as the ghost of Christmas past. She hates it and after six years she is still just as selfish and spoiled as ever. That is until this year.

I kinda wanted to hate this book. I mean we've all read or watched a million Christmas Carol retellings and we pretty much know it ends with a happily ever after.

But that's the whole point of Christmas movies and books. I read a lot of dark and twisted shit. At Christmastime I want a happy ending ( wink, wink) and this book did not disappoint. This book is funny and heartwarming. I kept rooting for Holly Chase to get her happily ever after and she does but not in the way you would think.

I recommend this book to all my fellow Christmas/ holiday lovers.

#1 For Read-A-Thin November Challenge.
Profile Image for Heidi.
1,211 reviews133 followers
December 1, 2020
Since it is clear that the middle-aged me is not the target audience here, I rounded up.

A pretty inventive, YA take on the classic Dickens’ Christmas Carol. And if you can get past the slightly “Mean Girls” inspired (anti-) heroine, I promise the charm factor rises and this reader indulged her inner teen girl.

That fourth star was earned by the non-traditional ending which was satisfying to both old me and young me.

Let’s say this Scrooge reviewer forgot to count the implausible plot twists and just enjoyed this festive holiday tale of young love and redemption.
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