Fun, G-rated, YA, “enemies to lovers,” Christmas romance
Reading Level: Young Adult
Release Date: October 10, 2019
Pages: 153 pages
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry
High school senior, Trevor Salvatore, recently disappointed in love, is already not feeling the Christmas spirit when he finds out that he is required by his school district to put in 60 mandatory public service hours in his community, the fictional, small, beachside community of Ocean Grove, California. Unfortunately, Trevor has family obligations helping his mother care for his autistic brother, as well as his schoolwork, a part-time job, and he is a member of the high school wrestling team. But if he wants to graduate, he has no choice. The school counselor suggests taking care of volunteering now, during the holiday season, because he can no longer viably postpone it. The least-worst choice available to him at present is helping with decorations and playing Santa for the Ocean Grove Community Center’s holiday project for underprivileged children, its Christmas Village.
High school junior, Sabrina Hallford, is shocked to discover that her father’s money and influence can’t prevent her having to appear in court for a traffic violation. It’s Thanksgiving week, for goodness sake, and the whole issue is nonsense as far as she is concerned. It’s not her fault that on a day she and her two best girlfriends skipped their most boring class at their exclusive, private high school, Ocean Grove Academy, her friends opted to get high, and she had to drive them home. Yes, she only has a learner’s permit, and even if she had a license, she could not legally drive her teenage friends. But she had no choice. She couldn’t be expected to have allowed either of the other girls to drive. Unfortunately, the hard-nosed judge has no interest in Sabrina’s side of the story and takes offense that she, her father, and his high-priced attorney clearly assume that Sabrina will get special treatment because of her father’s wealth. She scolds all three of them equally, before ordering Sabrina to complete 50 hours of community service at the Ocean Grove Community Center’s Christmas Village before December 31. Or else.
When Trevor shows up at the community center to begin his volunteer stint, he is directed to the basement. But before he makes his presence known, he overhears one of the most beautiful teenage girls he’s ever seen attempting to bribe the center’s director with a fat check from her moneybags father in exchange for signing her volunteer form, confirming that she’s completed her community service hours without actually doing them. The girl is dressed in an Academy uniform and insists that she simply can’t volunteer because she has too many plans already in place for the holiday season. The director, naturally enough, refuses the bribe. Though Academy kids have a reputation for being spoiled, Trevor decides this snobby girl completely takes the cake. Given all his responsibilities, Trevor himself has definitely been feeling reluctant to put in his required hours. But with Little Miss Academy taking up all the available emotional space for self-pity, he suddenly steps forward with previously unavailable vigor and purpose, to demonstrate to this clueless girl, whose name seems to be Sabrina, what responsibility looks like.
Trevor is an amazing hero, a thoroughly decent and compassionate guy who is kind and loving to his special-needs brother and so amazingly supportive to his beleaguered single mother, he is every overloaded mom’s dream of an ideal son.
Though Sabrina starts out the story as an entitled snob, a gradual and subtle revealing across the length of the story of her home life as the child of a single-father who is a workaholic, and her social circle of narcissistic, über-privileged teenagers, shows without telling the forces which have shaped Sabrina’s obnoxious attitude toward life. Though this is a relatively short novel, Sabrina has a well-motivated growth arc which is strongly inspired by the quality time she spends with Trevor, his mother and, most especially, his autistic brother. In the process, this terrific teen romance ably portrays two classic, ever-green themes of adult, romance novels: the “enemies to lovers” plot and the “redemption” plot.
This novel is also employs several other classic romance tropes: alternating point of view of the hero and heroine, no cheating or romantic triangles, and a guaranteed HEA.
This story is G-rated, in that there is no foul language, no sex, and the protagonists do not drink or do drugs. As such, it is suitable for all ages.
Note that this book is part of a series, all set in the same seaside town. Each novel is standalone, and there are no cliffhangers in any of the books, including this one. Both Trevor and Sabrina, however, are subcharacters in previous books in this series, and it enriches one’s enjoyment of this book if one has read those books. Sabrina appears as a romantic antagonist in Bea and the Bad Boy, Book 3 of this series, and the protagonists of that book have cameo appearances in this book. Trevor appears as a romantic antagonist in Norah and The Nerd, Book 4 of this series, and the protagonists of that book appear briefly in this book as well.
This holiday romance can be enjoyed at any time of the year, but it is an especially fun read during the holiday season.
I rate this book as follows:
Romance Plot: 5
Coming of Age Subplot: 5
Autistic Brother Subplot: 5
Social Drama Subplot: 5