All The Books I Can Read

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Review: The Afterlife Of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand

on January 26, 2018

The Afterlife Of Holly Chase
Cynthia Hand
Harper Collins AUS
2017, 390p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Holly Chase has the job of saving souls, but it is her own that she realizes needs examining.
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…

Confession: I’ve never read A Christmas Carol. In fact I’ve never read a Dickens novel. However it’s ingrained enough in popular culture that I know the basics of the story but I’m afraid that some of the references etc in this book might be lost on me.

Holly Chase was a rich, privileged, selfish and unlikable teenager when she was visited by three ghosts – that of Past, Present and Future. They beseeched her to change her ways, or she would die. She dismissed it, she died and now five years later she works as the Ghost of Christmas Past, helping to save others. The company she works for picks one person each year – they spend months watching them, researching their lives, picking through their memories to isolate key moments, things that changed them and made them into what they are today. They identify important people (who are given names for specific reasons that relate to the original story) and have one chance to try to convince them to mend their ways and embrace a new future.

Five years has passed since Holly ‘died’ and started working for Project Scrooge. She still appears as she did the day she died, so as a 16yo girl (with great hair, thanks to a blow out). I get the feeling Holly continues to work for Project Scrooge because she fears the alternative and she doesn’t seem to be that reformed. She has an inner voice she attributes to her stepmother, a judgemental fashion director who was Holly’s own Jacob Marley. She’s not exactly friendly to someone that is introduced as her new assistant but her biggest issue is that she’s drawn to this year’s Scrooge, a teenager named Ethan. All of a sudden Holly is breaking a lot of rules.

I was rather surprised how much I enjoyed this. One morning I woke up just after 5 and couldn’t get back to sleep so I decided to read and picked this on a whim on my iPad. I ended up reading it all in one sitting until 8am when I had to get up and get my kids their breakfast. I enjoy Christmas but I’m not what you’d call a big Christmas person. I don’t care about decorating everything and Christmas activities. I’m more just about spending the day with family but in a casual way, rather than the whole ‘Christmas spirit’ type thing so I wasn’t sure if it was going to be a bit hard hitting for me on the morals and spirit and all that sort of stuff. But I think telling it from Holly’s point of view, a 16yo self-absorbed girl, helps soften that. And yet despite that, there were plenty of really quite emotional moments in this book. Holly’s father is a movie producer and although they’d drifted apart in the years before Holly’s visit from the spirits, there are some touching moments in this book where Holly goes to see his movies, often many times and understands the significance of the plot. But it’s not something she can discuss with anyone.

I liked the various characters that work at Project Scrooge and their quirks and the jobs that they do and the way they feel about their Scrooges. Generally the people are older so Holly has never really had an issue before but when they choose a young, hot, rich teenager, Holly starts wanting to know more. When she’s sifting through his memories she’s looking for things she wants to know, rather than things she should be looking for as ammunition. I liked the way this played out – I especially like that it was surprising for me and that the whole thing didn’t end in the way in which I thought it would. It was well played.

This was a fun read. I really should read more of Cynthia Hand’s books. And actually, I should probably get around to reading A Christmas Carol too.

7/10

Book #16 of 2018

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