Major motion picture in the works!
A Christmas Eve snowstorm transforms one small town into a romantic haven, the kind you see only in movies. Well, kinda. After all, a cold and wet hike from a stranded train through the middle of nowhere would not normally end with a delicious kiss from a charming stranger. And no one would think that a trip to the Waffle House through four feet of snow would lead to love with an old friend. Or that the way back to true love begins with a painfully early morning shift at Starbucks. Thanks to three of today’s bestselling teen authors—John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle—the magic of the holidays shines on these hilarious and charming interconnected tales of love, romance, and breathtaking kisses.
A New York Times Bestseller!
"Tender without being mushy, these carefully crafted stories of believable teen love will leave readers warm inside for the holidays."—School Library Journal
"Contemporary culture, humorous romantic developments and strong characters enhance this collaborative effort."—Kirkus Reviews
|Publisher:||Penguin Young Readers Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.10(d)|
|Age Range:||12 - 17 Years|
About the Author
Maureen Johnson is the author of 13 Little Blue Envelopes, Devilish, Girl at Sea, The Name of the Star and Suite Scarlett. Visit her online at maureenjohnsonbooks.com
Lauren Myracle is the author of many popular books for teens and tweens, including Shine, Kissing Kate, Peace,Love and Baby Ducks, The Winne Years series and New York Times bestsellers ttyl and ttfn (Abrams). She lives with her family in Fort Collins, Colorado. Visit her online at www.laurenmyracle.com
Read an Excerpt
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Published by the Penguin Group
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Registered Offices: Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
First published by Speak, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 2008
This edition published by Speak, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 2009
“The Jubilee Express” copyright © Maureen Johnson, 2008
“A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle” copyright © John Green, 2008
“The Patron Saint of Pigs” copyright © Lauren Myracle, 2008
All rights reserved
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the jubilee express
a cheertastic christmas miracle
the patron saint of pigs
For Hamish, who embodied the "go down the hill really fast, and if something gets in your way, turn" school of teaching me how to deal with a snowy slope. And for all who toil behind the facade of a corporate monolith, for every person who has to say grande latte three thousand times a day, for every soul who's ever had to deal with a broken credit card reader in the holiday rush . . . this one is for you.
It was the night before Christmas.
Well, to be more precise, it was the afternoon before Christmas. But before I take you into the beating heart of the action, let’s get one thing out of the way. I know from experience that if it comes up later, it will distract you so much that you won’t be able to concentrate on anything else I tell you.
My name is Jubilee Dougal. Take a moment and let it sink in.
See, when you get it up front, it’s not that bad. Now imagine I was halfway through some long story (like I’m about to be), and I dropped that one on you. “By the way, my name is Jubilee.” You wouldn’t know what to do next.
I realize Jubilee is a bit of a stripper name. You probably think I have heard the call of the pole. But no. If you saw me, you’d get the idea pretty quickly that I’m not a stripper (I think). I have a little black bob. I wear glasses half the time, and contacts the other half. I’m sixteen, I sing in choir, I attend Mathletes events. I play field hockey, which lacks the undulating, baby-oiled grace that is the stripper’s stock and trade. (I have no problem with strippers, in case any strippers are reading this. I’m just not one. My major concern, stripage-wise, is the latex. I think latex is probably bad for your skin because it doesn’t allow it to breathe.)
My objection is that Jubilee isn’t a name—it’s some kind of a party. No one knows what kind. Have you ever heard of someone throwing a jubilee? And if you did, would you go? Because I wouldn’t. It sounds like something where you have to rent a large inflatable object, put up bunting, and make a complicated plan for trash disposal.
Come to think of it, it might be interchangeable with hoedown.
My name has a lot to do with this story, and like I said, it was the afternoon before Christmas. I was having one of those days when you feel that life . . . likes you. Finals were over and school was done until New Year’s. I was alone in our house, which was feeling very cozy and snug. I was dressed for the night in a new outfit I’d saved for—a black skirt, tights, a sparkly red T-shirt, and my new black boots. I was drinking a little eggnog latte that I’d cooked up for myself. All my presents were wrapped and ready to go. It was all leading up to the big event: at six, I was supposed to go to Noah’s house—Noah Price, my boyfriend—for his family’s annual Christmas Eve Smorgasbord.
The Price Family Annual Smorgasbord is a big deal in our personal history. It was how we got together in the first place. Before the Smorgasbord, Noah Price was just a star in my sky . . . constant, familiar, bright, and far above me. I’d known Noah since the fourth grade, but it felt like I knew him in the same way that I know people on television. I knew the name. I watched the show. Sure, Noah was a bit closer than that . . . but somehow when it’s real, when it’s your life . . . that person can feel even farther off and more unobtainable than an actual celebrity. Proximity doesn’t breed familiarity.
I had always liked him, but it never really occurred to me to like him, like him. I never thought that was a reasonable thing to want. He was a year older than me, a foot taller, broad of shoulder, bright of eye, and floppy of hair. Noah was the whole package—athlete, academic, school-government bigwig—the kind of person you think must only date models or spies or people who have laboratories named after them.
So when Noah invited me to come along to El Smorgasbord on Christmas Eve last year, I more or less ruptured an eye in my excitement and confusion. I couldn’t walk straight for three days when I got the invitation. It was so bad that I actually had to consciously practice walking in my room before I went to his house. I had no idea if he had asked me because he liked me, or if his mom made him (our parents know each other), or because he lost a bet. All my friends were just as excited, but they seemed to understand it more than I did. They assured me that he had been eyeing me in Mathletes, laughing at my attempts at trigonometry jokes, bringing me up in conversation.
It was all so crazy . . . as weird as finding out that someone had written a book about my life or something.
When I got there, I spent most of the night safely propped up in a corner talking to his sister, who (though I love her) is not exactly deep. There is only so much you can say about your favorite brands of hoodies before you feel the conversational walls closing in. But she can go like a champion. Elise has some Thoughts on the Subject.
I finally took a break just as Noah’s mom was setting out another plate and I could make the Oh-excuse-me-but-doesn’t-that-look-good excuse. I had no idea what was on it, but it turned out to be pickled fish. I was backing away, but his mom said, “You have to try a piece.”
Being a bit of a lemming, I did. But this time, it worked out, because that’s when I noticed that Noah was watching me. He said, “I’m so glad you took some.” I asked him why, because I really think I suspected it was all a bet. (“Okay, I’ll ask her to come, but you guys have to give me twenty bucks if I can make her eat pickled fish.”)
And he said, “Because I’ve been eating it.”
I was still standing there with what I assume was a very enchanting expression of total stupidity etched on my face, so he added, “And I couldn’t kiss you unless you’d had some, too.”
Which is both gross and breathtakingly romantic. He could always have just gone upstairs and brushed his teeth, but he stayed and lurked by the fish for me. We snuck off to the garage, where we made out under the shelf of power tools. That was the start of it all.
So, the particular Christmas Eve I’m about to tell you about wasn’t just any Christmas Eve: this was our one-year anniversary. It was almost impossible to believe it had been a year. It had all gone by so fast. . . .
See, Noah is always really busy. When he emerged into the world, tiny and wriggling and pink, he probably had to get footprinted and out of the hospital as quickly as possible to get to a meeting. As a senior, a member of the soccer team, and president of the student council, his time had been whittled away to almost nothing. I think in the year that we had been dating we had had about a dozen proper dates with just Noah and me going somewhere by ourselves. About once a month. We’d had plenty of joint appearances. Noah and Jubilee at the student-council bake sale! Noah and Jubilee at the soccer-team raffle table! Noah and Jubilee at the food drive, in the tutoring room, at the homecoming-organizational meeting . . .
Noah was aware of this. And though tonight was a family event with many people in attendance, he promised me there would be time just for us. He had made sure of it by helping out in advance. If we put in two hours at the party, he promised, we could escape to the back room and exchange our gifts and watch The Grinch Who Stole Christmas together. He would drive me home, and we would stop for a while. . . .
And then, of course, my parents got arrested, and all of that went to hell.
Do you know the Flobie Santa Village? The Flobie Santa Village is such a big part of my life that I just assume everyone knows what it is, but I’ve been told recently that I make way too many assumptions, so I’ll explain.
The Flobie Santa Village is a series of collectable ceramic pieces that you can put together to form a town. My parents have been collecting them since the time I was born. I’ve been staring down those tiny plastic cobblestone streets since I was big enough to stand on my own. We have it all—the candy-cane bridge, Lake Snowbegone, the gumdrop shop, the gingerbread bakery, Sugarplum Alley. It’s not small, either. My parents bought a special table to put it up on, and it takes up the center of our living room from Thanksgiving until New Year’s. It requires seven power strips to make it all work. In order to diminish the environmental impact, I got them to turn it off at night, but it was a struggle.
I was named after Flobie Santa Village building #4, Jubilee Hall. Jubilee Hall is the biggest building in the collection. It’s the main place that presents are made and wrapped. It has colored lights, a working conveyor belt with gifts stuck to it, and little elves that turn as if they’re loading and unloading them. The elves of Jubilee Hall each have a present glued to their hands—so what it really looks like are a bunch of tortured beings doomed to pick up and set down the same gift over and over again until the end of time or until the motor breaks. I remember pointing this out to my mom when I was little; she said I was missing the point. Maybe so. We were clearly coming from different directions on this subject, considering she felt those little buildings were important enough to name her only offspring after.
People who collect the Flobie Village tend to get a little obsessed with it. There are conventions, about a dozen serious Web sites, and four magazines. Some of them try to play it off by saying that Flobie pieces are an investment. And they are worth a lot of money, it’s true. Especially the numbered ones. You can only buy those pieces at the Flobie showroom on Christmas Eve. We live in Richmond, Virginia, which is only about fifty miles away—so every year on the night of the twenty-third, my parents leave with a car full of blankets, chairs, and provisions and sit in line all night and wait.
Flobie used to make a hundred numbered pieces, but last year they reduced it to ten. This is when things got bad. One hundred pieces wasn’t nearly enough, so when the number went down to just one-tenth of that, the claws came out and the fur started to fly. There was a problem last year when people tried to hold places in line—a problem that quickly turned into people smacking each other with rolled-up Flobie catalogs, throwing cookie tins, stomping on each other’s lawn chairs, and dumping lukewarm cocoa on each other’s Santa Claus–hatted heads. The fight was big enough and ridiculous enough to make the local news. Flobie said that they were “taking measures” to make sure it didn’t happen again, but I never believed that. You can’t buy that kind of publicity.
But I wasn’t thinking about that when my parents drove off to get in line for piece #68, the Elf Hotel. And I still wasn’t thinking about it when I was drinking my eggnog latte and whiling away the time until I got to go to Noah’s. I did notice that my parents were later arriving home than usual. They usually got back from Flobie around lunchtime on Christmas Eve, and here it was, almost four o’clock. I started doing some of the general holiday duties to keep myself busy. I couldn’t call Noah . . . I knew he was busy getting ready for the Smorgasbord. So I added some extra ribbon and holly to his presents. I switched on all the power strips that power the Flobie Santa Village, setting all the enslaved elves to work. I turned on Christmas carols. I was just stepping outside to turn on the lights on the front of the house when I saw Sam advancing toward our house with his storm-trooper stride.
Sam is our lawyer—and when I say “our lawyer,” I mean “our neighbor who happens to be an extremely high-powered lawyer in Washington, D.C.” Sam is exactly the person you want to take on a huge corporation or to represent you when you’re being sued for a billion dollars. He is not, however, Mr. Cuddles. I was about to invite him in to try one of my delicious eggnog lattes, but he cut me off.
“I have some bad news,” he said, ushering me into my own house. “There’s been another incident at the Flobie showroom. Inside. Come on.”
I thought he was going to say that my parents had been killed. He had that kind of tone. I envisioned huge piles of the Elf Hotel flying off the belt, taking down everyone in sight. I had seen pictures of the Elf Hotel—it had sharp candy-cane spires that could easily impale someone. And if anyone was ever going to be killed by an Elf Hotel, it would be my parents.
“They’ve been taken into custody,” he said. “They’re in jail.”
“Who’s in jail?” I asked, because I’m not super-quick on the uptake, and because it was much easier for me to envision my parents being taken down by a flying Elf Hotel than it was to think of them being taken off in handcuffs.
Sam just looked at me and waited for me to catch up on my own.
“There was another fight when the pieces came out this morning,” he explained, after a pause. “An argument about who was holding spots in line. Your parents weren’t part of it, but they didn’t disperse when the police told them to. They got hauled in with the others. Five people have been booked. It’s all over the news.”
I felt my legs starting to wobble, so I sat down on the sofa.
“Why didn’t they call?” I asked.
“One phone call,” he said. “They called me, because they thought I could get them out. Which I can’t.”
“What do you mean, you can’t?”
The idea that Sam couldn’t bust my parents out of the county clink was ridiculous. It was like hearing a pilot come over the intercom and say, “Hey, everyone. I just remembered I’m no good at landing. So I’m just going to keep flying around until someone has a better idea.”
“I did my best,” Sam went on, “but the judge isn’t budging. He’s sick of these Flobie problems, so he’s making an example of them all. Your parents instructed me to take you to the train station. I only have one hour, then I have to be back for hot cookies and a sing-along at five. How quickly can you pack?”
This was delivered in the same gravelly tone of voice that Sam probably used when pounding people on the stand about why they were seen running from the scene covered in blood. He didn’t look happy that this task had been foisted on him on Christmas Eve. Still, a little touch of Oprah would have helped.
“Pack? Train station? What?”
“You’re going to Florida to stay with your grandparents,” he said. “Couldn’t get a flight—they’re being canceled all over the place because of the storm.”
“Jubilee,” Sam said very slowly, having concluded that I was the least-aware person on the planet, “we’re about to have the biggest storm in fifty years!”
My brain wasn’t working right—none of this was going in.
“I can’t go,” I said. “I’m supposed to see Noah tonight. And Christmas. What about Christmas?”
Sam shrugged, as if to say that Christmas was beyond his control, and there was nothing the legal system could do about it.
“But . . . why can’t I just stay here? This is crazy!”
“Your parents don’t want you alone for two days over the holiday.”
“I can go to Noah’s! I have to go to Noah’s!”
“Look,” he said, “it’s all arranged. We can’t reach your parents now. They’re being processed. I bought your ticket, and I don’t have a lot of time. You’re going to have to pack now, Jubilee.”
I turned and looked at the twinkling little cityscape next to me. I could see the shadows of the doomed elves as they worked away in Jubilee Hall, the warm glow of Mrs. Muggin’s Cake Shop, the slow but merry process of the Elf Express around the little expanse of track.
The only thing I could think to ask was, “But . . . what about the village?”
I’d never actually been on a train before. It was taller than I imagined, with second-“story” windows that I guessed were the sleeping cars. Inside, it was dimly lit, and most of the people stuffed in there looked catatonic. I expected the train to steam and chug and shoot off like a rocket, because I watched a lot of cartoons in my misspent youth and that’s how cartoon trains work. This train glided off indifferently, as if it had gotten bored with standing around.
Naturally, I called Noah the moment we set off. This was a slight violation of the I’m-going-to-be-slammed-until-six-so-I’ll-just-see-you-at-the-party no-call policy, but never have circumstances been more understandable. When he answered, there was a cheerful clamor in the background. I could hear carols and the clanking of dishes, which was a depressing contrast to the claustrophobic muffle of the train.
“Lee!” he said. “Kind of a bad time. See you in an hour?”
He made a little grunt. It sounded like he was lifting something heavy, probably one of the freakishly large hams his mother always managed to get her hands on for the Smorgasbord. I presume she gets them from some kind of experimental farm where the pigs are treated with lasers and superdrugs until they are thirty feet long.
“Um . . . that’s the thing,” I said. “I’m not coming.”
“What do you mean, you’re not coming? What’s wrong?”
I explained the parents-in-jail/me-on-train-in-storm/life-not-really-going-as-planned situation as best I could. I tried to keep it light, like I found it funny, mostly to keep myself from sobbing on a dark train of stupefied strangers.
Another grunt. It sounded like he was shifting something around.
“It’ll be fine,” he said after a moment. “Sam’s taking care of it, right?”
“Well, if you mean not getting them out of jail, then yes. He doesn’t even seem worried.”
“It’s probably just some little county jail,” he replied. “It won’t be bad. And if Sam’s not worried, it’ll be okay. I’m sorry this happened, but I’ll see you in a day or two.”
“Yes, but it’s Christmas,” I said. My voice got thick, and I choked back a tear. He gave me a moment.
“I know this is hard, Lee,” he said after a pause, “but it will be fine. It will. This is just one of those things.”
I knew he was trying to calm me down and generally console me, but still. One of those things? This was not one of those things. One of those things is your car breaking down or getting stomach flu or your faulty holiday lights sending out a spark and burning down your hedge. I said as much, and he sighed, realizing I was right. Then he grunted again.
“What’s the matter?” I asked, through a sniff.
“I’m holding a huge ham,” he said. “I’m going to have to go in a minute. Look, we’ll do another Christmas when you get back. I promise. We’ll find some time. Don’t worry. Call me when you get there, okay?”
I promised I would, and he hung up and went off with his ham. I stared at the now-silent phone.
Sometimes, because I dated Noah, I empathized with people who are married to politicians. You can tell they have their own lives, but because they love the person they are with, they end up pulled into the juggernaut—and pretty soon, they’re waving and smiling blankly for the camera, with balloons falling on their heads and staff members knocking them out of the way to get to the All-Important Significant Other, who is Perfect.
I know no one is perfect, that behind every façade of perfection is a writhing mess of subterfuge and secret sorrows . . . but even taking that into account, Noah was pretty much perfect. I’d never heard anyone say a bad word about him. His status was as unquestioned as gravity. By making me his girlfriend, he demonstrated his belief in me, and I had picked up on his conviction. I stood straighter. I felt more confident, more consistently positive, more important. He liked being seen with me; therefore, I liked being seen with me, if that makes any sense.
So, yes, his overcommittedness was a pain sometimes. But I understood. When you have to take a big ham to your mom, for instance, because sixty people are about to descend on your house for a Smorgasbord. It just has to be done. The rough must be taken with the smooth. I took out my iPod and used the remaining power to flick through some photos of him. Then the power died.
I felt so alone on that train . . . a weird, unnatural kind of alone that bore into me. It was feeling just beyond fear and somewhere to the left of sadness. Tired, but not the kind of tired that sleep fixes. It was dark and gloomy, and yet, it didn’t seem that things would get any better if the lights were turned up. If anything, I would be able to get a much better look at my unpleasant situation.
I thought about calling my grandparents. They already knew I was coming. Sam told me he had called them. They would have been happy to talk to me, but I wasn’t feeling up to it. My grandparents are great people, but they are easily rattled. Like, if the grocery store sells out of some frozen pizza or soup they advertise in the circular, and they’ve gone to the store just for that, they’ll stand there debating their next move for a half an hour. If I called them, every aspect of my visit would have to be discussed to the smallest detail. What blanket would I need? Did I still eat crackers? Should Grandpa get more shampoo? It was always sweet, but a little too much for my mind at the moment.
I like to think I am a problem solver. I would distract myself out of this funk. I dug into my bag to see what I had managed to collect as I was rushed out of the house. I discovered that I was woefully unprepared for the trip ahead of me. I had grabbed the bare essentials—some underwear, jeans, two sweaters, a few shirts, my glasses. My iPod was out of power. I had just one book with me. It was Northanger Abbey, part of my winter break reading list for English. It was good, but not exactly what you want when you’re feeling the creeping hand of doom.
So, for about two hours, I just looked out the window as the sun set, the candy-color pink sky turned to silver, and the first snow began to fall. I knew it was beautiful, but knowing something is beautiful and caring about it are two very different things, and I didn’t care. The snow got harder and faster, until it filled the view and there was nothing left but white. It came from all directions at once, even blowing up from underneath. Watching it made me dizzy and a little ill.
People were coming down the aisle with boxes of food—chips and sodas and prewrapped sandwiches. Clearly, there was a food source somewhere on this train. Sam had shoved fifty bucks in my hand back at the station, all fifty of which would be extracted from my parents once they were breathing free air again. There was nothing else to do, so I got up and made my way down to the snack car, where I was promptly informed that they were out of everything except some floppy microwaved pizza discs, two muffins, a few candy bars, a bag of nuts, and some sad-looking fruit. I wanted to compliment them on being so well prepared for the holiday rush, but the guy working the counter looked really beaten. He didn’t need my sarcasm. I bought a pizza disc, two candy bars, the muffins, the nuts, and a hot chocolate. It seemed smart to stock up a bit for the rest of the trip if things were going that fast. I stuffed a five-dollar bill into his cup, and he nodded his thanks.
I took one of the empty seats at the tables braced to the wall. The train was shaking a lot now, even as we slowed. The wind was smacking us from either side. I left the pizza untouched and burned my lips on the chocolate. It was the most action they were going to get, after all.
“Mind if I sit here?” a voice asked.
I looked up to find an exceptionally beautiful guy standing over me. Again, I noticed, and again, I didn’t really care. But he did make more of an impact than the snow. His hair was as dark as mine, meaning it was black. It was longer than mine, though. Mine only goes just past my chin. His was pulled back in a ponytail. He looked Native American, with high cheekbones. The thin denim jacket he was wearing wasn’t nearly enough protection against the weather. There was something in his eyes, though, that really struck a chord—he looked troubled, like he was having a hard time keeping them open. He had just gotten himself a cup of coffee, which he was clutching kind of intently.
“Sure,” I said.
He kept his head down when he sat, but I noticed him glancing at all the food I had in the box. Something told me that he was a lot hungrier than me.
“Have some,” I said. “I was just getting stuff before they sold out. I’m not even that hungry. I haven’t touched this pizza at all.”
There was a moment of resistance, but I pushed it forward.
“I realize it looks like a pizza coaster,” I added. “It was all they had. Really. Take it.”
He smiled a little. “I’m Jeb,” he said.
“I’m Julie,” I answered. I wasn’t in the mood to go through the “Jubilee? Your name is Jubilee? Tell me, what do you use for your routine—baby oil or some kind of nut oil? And does someone wipe down the pole after each use?” conversation. Everything I explained to you in the beginning. Most people call me Julie. Noah called me Lee.
“Where are you headed?” he asked.
I had no cover story for my parents or why I was here. The full truth was a little too much to throw at a stranger.
“Going to see my grandparents,” I said. “Kind of last-minute change of plan.”
“Where do they live?” he asked, looking at the swirling snow that was beating at the window of the train. It was impossible to tell where the sky ended and the ground began. The snow cloud had crash-landed on top of us.
“Florida,” I said.
“Long way. I’m just going to Gracetown, next stop.”
I nodded. I’d heard of Gracetown but had no idea where it was. Somewhere on this long, snowy path between me and nowhere. I offered the box of food to him again, but he shook his head.
“That’s okay,” he said. “But thanks for the pizza. I was kind of starving. We picked a bad day to travel. Guess there’s not a lot of choice, though. Sometimes you just have to do stuff you aren’t sure about. . . . ”
“Who are you going to see?” I asked.
He turned his gaze back down and folded up the plate the pizza disc had come on.
“I’m going to see my girlfriend. Well, kind of girlfriend. I’ve been trying to call her, but I can’t get a signal.”
“I have one,” I said, pulling out my phone. “Use mine. I’m not even close to using my minutes this month.”
Jeb took the phone with a wide smile. As he got up, I noticed just how tall and broad-shouldered he was. If I wasn’t so completely devoted to Noah, I would have been deeply smitten. He crossed the few feet, just to a spot by the other side. I watched him try the number, but he clicked the phone shut without ever speaking.
“I couldn’t get her,” he said, sitting back down and returning my phone.
“So,” I said, smiling. “This is, kind of your girlfriend? You still aren’t sure if you’re dating yet?”
I remembered those times well, when Noah and I first got together, and I wasn’t sure if I was his girlfriend. I was so deliciously nervous all the time.
“She cheated on me,” he said plainly.
Oh, I’d misread that. Badly. I felt the pang for him, right in the middle of my chest. I really did.
“It’s not her fault,” he said after a moment. “Not all of it. I . . . ”
I never got to hear what had happened, because the door of the car flew open, and there was a screech, kind of like the sound that Beaker—the horrible, oily cockatoo we had as a fourth-grade pet—used to make. Beaker was the bird Jeremy Rich taught to scream the word ass. Beaker loved to screech and scream the word ass, and he did it really well. You could hear him all the way down the hall in the girls’ room. Beaker eventually got moved to the teachers’ lounge, where I guess you’re allowed to spread your greasy feathers and scream “ass” all you like.
It wasn’t ass-screaming Beaker, though. It was fourteen girls in matching, form-fitting sweats, all of which read RIDGE CHEERLEADING on the butt. (A form of ass-screaming, I suppose.) Each had her name on the back of her sleek warm-up fleece. They clustered around the snack bar, yelling at the top of their lungs. I really hoped and prayed that they wouldn’t all say “Oh my God!” at once, but my prayers were not heard, maybe because God was busy listening to all of them.
“There is no lean protein,” I heard one of them say.
“I told you, Madison. You should have had that lettuce wrap when you had the chance.”
“I thought they’d at least have chicken breast!”
To my enduring dismay, I noticed that both girls having this conversation were named Madison. Worse: three of the others were named Amber. I felt like I was trapped in a social experiment gone wrong—maybe something involving replicants.
A few of the group turned on us. I mean, to us. They turned to me and Jeb. Well, actually they just turned to Jeb.
“Oh my God!” said one of the Ambers. “Is this not the worst trip ever? Did you see the snow?”
She was a sharp one, this Amber. What would she notice next? The train? The moon? The hilarious vagaries of human existence? Her own head?
I didn’t say any of that, because death by cheerleader is not really the way I want to go. Amber wasn’t addressing this to me, anyway. Amber had no idea I was even there. Her eyes were on Jeb. You could almost see the robotic core in her corneas making all the focusing adjustments and lining him in the crosshairs.
“It’s pretty bad,” he said politely.
“We’re going down to Florida?”
She said it like that, like a question.
“Should be nicer there,” he said.
“Yeah. If we make it. We’re all at cheerleading regionals? Which is rough, because it’s the holidays? But we all had Christmas early? We did ours yesterday?”
This is when I noticed that they all seemed to be carrying really new-looking stuff. Shiny phones, conspicuous bracelets and necklaces that they played with, fresh manicures, iPods I’d never even seen before.
Amber One sat down with us—a careful sit, with her knees angled together and her heels turned out. A perky sitting pose of someone used to being the most adorable in the general vicinity.
“This is Julie,” Jeb said, kindly introducing me to our new friend. Amber told me her name was Amber, and then rattled off all the Ambers and Madisons. There were other names, but to me, they were all Ambers and Madisons. Seemed safe to think of it that way. I had at least a chance of being right.
Amber began chatting away, telling us all about the competition. She did this amazing thing where she included me in the conversation and ignored me at the same time. Plus, she was sending me a mental message—deeply subliminal—that she wanted me to get up and give my seat over to her tribe. They filled every available bit of space in the car as it was. Half of them on the phone, the other half depleting the water, coffee, and Diet Coke supply.
I decided that this was not what I needed to make my life complete.
“I’m going to go back to my seat,” I said.
Just as I stood, though, the train slowed dramatically, throwing us all forward in one big splash of hot and cold liquids. The wheels cried out in protest as they dragged down the track for about a minute, and then we stopped, hard. I heard luggage all up and down the train thundering down from racks, and then people falling where they stood. People like me. I landed on a Madison and slammed my chin and cheek on something. I’m not sure what it was, because the lights went out at the same moment, causing a massive yelp of dismay. I felt hands helping me up, and I didn’t need to be able to see to know it was Jeb.
“You all right?” he asked.
“Fine. I think.”
There was a flicker, and then the lights came back up one by one. Several Ambers were clinging to the snack bar for dear life. There was food all over the floor. Jeb reached down and picked up what was once his phone, now a neatly snapped two-piece affair. He cradled it in his hand like an injured baby bird.
The loudspeaker crackled, and the voice that spoke over it sounded genuinely rattled—not the cool, bossy tone they were using to announce stops along the way.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” it said, “please remain calm. A conductor will be checking your cabin to see if anyone has been injured.”
I pressed my face against the cold window to see what was going on. We had come to rest next to what looked like a wide road with lots of lanes, something like an interstate. Across the way was a glowing yellow sign, suspended high over the road. It was hard to see through the snow, but I recognized the color and shape. It was for a Waffle House. Just outside of the train, a crew member was stumbling along through the snow, looking under the carriage with a flashlight.
A female conductor threw open the door to our car and started surveying everyone. She was missing her hat.
“What’s happening?” I asked when she reached us. “We look really stuck.”
She leaned down and had a good look out the window, then gave a low whistle.
“We’re not going anywhere, honey,” she said in a low voice. “We’re just outside of Gracetown. The track dips down below this point, and it’s completely covered. Maybe they can send some emergency vehicles to get us by morning. I don’t know, though. I wouldn’t bet on it. Anyway, you hurt?”
“I’m okay,” I assured her.
Amber One was holding her wrist.
“Amber!” another Amber said. “What happened?”
“I twisted it,” Amber One moaned. “Bad.”
“That’s your support wrist on basket toss!”
Six cheerleaders indicated (not subliminally) that they wanted me to move out of the way so that they could get to their wounded member and sit her down. Jeb was trapped in the throng. The lights went dim, the heater audibly cranked down, and the loudspeaker came back on.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” the voice said, “we’re going to cut a bit of power to conserve energy. If you have blankets or sweaters, you may want to use them now. If any of you require extra warmth, we’ll try to provide whatever we can. If you have extra layering, we ask that you share it.”
I looked at the yellow sign again, and then back at the cluster of cheerleaders. I had two choices—I could stay here in the cold, dark, stranded train or I could actually do something. I could take charge of this day that had run away from me too many times. It wouldn’t be hard to get across the road and over to the Waffle House. They probably had heat and lots of food. It was worth a shot, and it was a plan I felt Noah would have approved of. Proactive. I gently pushed my way through the Ambers to get to Jeb.
“There’s a Waffle House across the street,” I told him. “I’m going to go over and see if it’s open.”
“A Waffle House?” Jeb replied. “We must be just outside of town, along I-40.”
“Don’t be crazy,” Amber One said. “What if the train leaves?”
“It’s not,” I said. “The conductor just told me. We’re stuck here all night. Over there, they probably have heat and food and a place for people to move around. What else are we going to do?”
“We could practice our enthusiasm rounds,” one of the Madisons ventured in a tiny voice.
Excerpted from "Let It Snow"
Copyright © 2008 John Green.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Young Readers Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I don't usually go for holiday books but this one is a lot of fun and doesn't feel one-note. It manages to convey the holiday theme without being sappy. I could tell by the first few pages the first story was written by Maureen Johnson; being a follower of her on twitter, the writng had her spastic, observational humor all over it (if you're on twitter and don't follower her, you should: @maureenjohnson). The story starts with a girl named Jubilee, who goes by a variety of nicknames to sidestep her awful namesake which derives from a building in a collectible miniature Christmas village her parents are obsessed with. Her plans to spend Christmas Eve at her boyfriend's family's smorgasbord are thwarted when 1.) her parents are jailed after a scuffle at the Flobie Christmas village convention, where a riot broke out over a limited edition piece 2.) her parents are sending her by train to Florida to be with her grandparents 3.) the train gets snowbanked in a town two hours south and she's stranded, boyfriendless and alone. What follows is a quirky although not entirely unbelievable tale about a Waffle House, a heartbroken teen boy named Stuart who finds her, and his mother's insistence on taking care of a wayward girl alone on Christmas Eve. Jubilee isn't too happy her boyfriend isn't responding to her calls and texts, and she's not sure what to think of this new guy and his creepily obsessive, although genuinely kind, mother. It's filled with a hundred details that make the story enjoyable - specifically how her parent's have attained widespread notoriety as part of "The Flobie Five," who got arrested over the collectible village. The next story is John Green's, and it again features a Waffle House and a snowstorm. And hey, these guys know Stuart from the first story. It's connected! I love stuff like this. Out of boredom, three friends venture into the storm to the Waffle House where they've heard a team of cheerleaders are stranded. This is the same Waffle House Jubilee eagerly vacated with Stuart to get away from the cheerleaders from her train after it got stuck. It's a typical John Green set-up: awkward gu, whip-smart and somehow unattainable girl, hilarious sidekick involved in a caper. It's solid, and ties together aspects of the first story. Lauren Myracle's piece is about Addie, a girl who broke up with Jeb who was on Jubilee's train. I thought it was kind of interesting in the first story how Jeb is featured at first but then he completely drops off. The heartbreak and wallowing feels a little cliche, and I have to admit, I didn't enjoy this one as much as the first two. Characters from the other stories show up at the end to the Starbucks where Addie works, and connect the story further. It's satisfying to see how everyone knows each other
I'm a sucker for romance any time of the year, but something about the holiday season makes me want to curl up in a nice blanket, drink hot chocolate, and read love stories. LET IT SNOW is the perfect holiday read.
Maureen Johnson starts things off with THE JUBILEE EXPRESS, in which Jubliee (no, not a stripper, but named for a piece in her mother's collection of the Flobie Santa Village) finds herself stranded on a train in Gracetown in a huge snowstorm. A trip to the Waffle House introduces her to Stuart and friendship, or maybe something more, starts to form.
In A CHEERTASTIC CHRISTMAS MIRACLE, author John Green hilariously describes the mission of three friends to get to the Waffle House where a group of cheerleaders are stranded and wanting to play Twister.
And Lauren Myracle's THE PATRON SAINT OF PIGS shows that lost love can be found again with the help of Starbucks, angels, and even a pig.
Each story stands well on its own, but it was nice to have a common thread throughout. I loved how the authors found ways to connect all three stories. Characters you meet in the beginning show up later on, and places like Starbucks and the Waffle House are important to all three tales. The only thing I didn't like was that they were all short stories - I could have kept reading about each of the characters!
LET IT SNOW is a great, warm, fuzzy read for the holidays, so grab some hot chocolate and curl up because you won't want to stop reading until you're finished and happily sighing.
As a huge John Green fan I'll jump at the chance to pick up anything with his name on it, despite my general aversion to anything which labels itself as any sort of "romance." So, when I began reading Maureen Johnson's portion of the book "The Jubilee Express" and finding myself smile because it was funny and charming, I was pleasantly surprised. The stories which make up this book stray away from the beaten path of romantic writing in a way that is both unexpected and delightful. Each (with the exception of Lauren Myracle's portion which I could not bring myself to finish)brought its characters to life so effectively I found myself growing attached to them, an impressive feat in the span of about 100 pages. The complexity of the characters, the suspense of the plots, and the general exuberance of the book made it a joy to read. Even without the third story, I still plan to purchase this book for myself so I can read it every holiday season (of course, I may have to adjust my definition of the holiday season so it may include the Fourth of July, Halloween, Easter, and Arbor Day).
I thought that the three short stories in this book were wonderful and worked well together. It is interesting to see the mix of different styles come together, especially since all the stories are intertwined pergectly. My personal favorite was John Green's, but all of them are wonderful. A magical holiday read.
I thought this book was great! The stories are fun to read and the characters are quirky and likeable. I think with the way things are right now, this is a terrific holiday book to get you into the spirit of love and celebration. The stories are written well and weave perfectly into one another. I found myself excited to see where the characters would end up. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves the holidays and love stories.
This book is very surprising. It is amazing how the authors connected all the stories together. Characters from one story worm their way through into another. A great way to get in the holiday mood early and ready for your own adventure.
It sounds so good, I absolutely must have it!
I didn't expect each story to interlink as much as they did. It was nice to see the styles of different authors be used together but still showing each authors true writing. I loved each story and how each one took on the blizzard differently. I loved how in the last story at the end it brought together all the characters from each of the stories and showed how they were all interlinked. Overall it was a fun and enjoyable read especially during Christmas and this crazy winter.
This book made me cry of happiness. I am usually not a fan of romances, unless they are John Green romances, but this book is the perfect book for the holidays. And if you are feeling skeptical because it is also written by foreign authors, get over it because this is one of my favorite book I have ever read, and I've read many books. I would highly recommend this book!
Not only as a big John Green and Maureen Johnson fan, I would recommend this book to any one. Absolutely every one. This book is made of Puffy awesome cuteness obviously worth reading. Though I wasn't a fan of Lauren Myracle (or had ever heard of her), I liked her story as well.
Let It Snow: Three Holiday Romances is exactly what I needed this week. It's rough, sometimes, reading all sorts of great but disturbing young adult lit and teaching students who often have disturbing things happening in their lives. Sometimes, I need a break. This book was it.There are very few books that have caused me to laugh out loud. That said, ALL of John Green's books have made me at least chuckle, if not completely bust out and get a little red in the face. Green's novella, "A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle" definitely had me grinning, chuckling, reading parts aloud to my husband, had a couple near-tearworthy moments. He is just so very cool. Love him. I'd read anything that he wrote. He's impossibly talented and witty and just plain good with things like character and plot and dialogue.The other two stories are good, too. The first, by Maureen Johnson, really started the story in a great, catastrophic way. It's about a Christmas Eve night in a Southern town. Unfortunately for all of the busy travelers and all of the characters in this book, a freakishly huge snowstorm causes major upheaval. Thus begins a wild night of chance meetings, break-ups, confessions, parents getting arrested while Christmas shopping, cheerleaders practicing splits in waffle houses, the antics of a man covered in tinfoil, and lots and lots of other anomalies.All of three of the stories are interconnected, but each sounds like the author who wrote it. I definitely loved John Green's the most, but the others were good, too. It was lighthearted and silly and warm and full of hope. Kinda how Christmas Eve should be.
Three of today¿s most popular young adult authors come together to create this teen novel of holiday romance, friendship and adventure. Each author contributes a short story, resulting in a cohesive (albeit somewhat stilted), festive novel of alternating perspectives. The storyline starts with Jubilee, a sixteen-year-old girl who is taking the train down to Florida after her parents land in jail on Christmas Eve. After facing a blizzard, a stalled train ride, and a pack of cheerleaders in a Waffle House, Jubilee begins to discover that while her boyfriend may be perfect, he might not perfect for her. Similar themes of love and identity, set against a backdrop of typical teen activities, are carried throughout the other two stories as well. Each of the three short stories stands on its own, but they are at their best when taken together. While the novel is certainly in touch with its intended audience, there are moments in the book where it feels like the authors are trying too hard to be relevant to young people, resulting in dialogue and situations that feel cliché. Recommended. For ages 13-16.
I LOVED this book. As noted in our class teens want to read about love and intimacy. This book intertwines 3 ramance stories into one book. It speaks to the difficulty of being a teen and in love, it speaks of the trials teens must face, and it speaks of the rewards that can be reaped. And it does it all with humor and quirkiness, in a way that shows that sometimes life should be taken with a grain of salt. I think John Green is a new favorite of mine, and after this book, I also want to check out. Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle!
This collection of stories by award winning young adult writers is a great way to get into the Christmas spirit ¿ especially if Christmas, for you, involves snow storms, Starbucks grande mocha lattes and a good snog. Jubilee Express ~ Maureen JohnsonIt¿s not difficult to love this story because the main character, Jubilee, is such a champion! It¿s Christmas Eve; Jubilee can¿t make it to her über perfect boyfriend¿s Christmas smorgasbord because her parents have just been arrested and she¿s packed off on a train to her Grandparents. Then there¿s a snow storm.This story features not just one but THREE handsome guys (she¿s no floozy ¿ I¿m just saying they¿re all in there as Christmas kiss contenders). It also features 14 cheerleaders whose company she may or may not enjoy. A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle ~ John GreenIf you¿re familiar with John Green¿s Looking for Alaska (brilliant!) or Paper Towns (also good) then the plot of this story will come as no surprise to you; a well adjusted guy and two witty mates have an adventure involving a car and a spirited female. The twist here is one of the witty mates is the spirited female. It¿s a good read. The Patron Saint of Pigs ~ Lauren MyracleThe final story involves one of those girls, Addie, who believes that the world revolves around them. It also involves a teacup piglet (yes; a pig that fits in a teacup ¿ I want one). The piglet is the redeeming feature of the story along with the tenuous links to the Angel Gabriel and the `true spirit¿ of Christmas. The beauty of this collection is that the stories overlap; the stories, their characters and the potential for an epic kiss and a Christmas miracle (occasionally one and the same thing). This book reminded me of Love Actually minus the porn stars and Prime Minister. It¿s a well written, collection of comic romances with a Christmas theme and a Starbucks/Waffle House flavour. written for : kingstonlibraries.net/
Title: Let It Snow: Three Holiday Romances Author: John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle Publisher: Speak Number Of Pages: 352Summary from back of book: Sparkling white snowdrifts... Beautiful presents wrapped in ribbons, and multicolored lights glittering in the night through the falling snow. A Christmas Eve snowstorm transforms one small town into a romantic haven, the kind you only see in movies. Well, kinda. After all, a cold and wet hike from a stranded train through the middle would not normally end with a delicious kiss with a charming stranger. And no one would think a trip to the Waffle House through four feet of snow would lead to love with an old friend. Or that the way back to true love begins with a painfully early morning shift at Starbucks. Thanks to the three of today's best-selling teen authors- John Green,Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle- the magic of the holidays shines on these hilarious and charming interconnected tales of love, romance, and breathtaking kisses.Review: Let It Snow is a three different romances. Maureen Johnson's The Jubilee Express is really funny. John Green's A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle is good but, not my favorite. Lauren Myracle's The Patron Saint Of Pigs is sad at first but gets really good. In all this book was really great! It only took me a couple of hours to read though.I recommend this book if you like romance, the holidays, and young adult novels.
This was probably one of the cutest books I¿ve ever read. It features three different stories, from three fantastic authors, but in it¿s own way- they all seem to intertwine perfectly. A teensy tiny character would be introduced in the first story, and would end up having a big role in the third. It was so easy to see that these three authors really put their heads together to make every piece fit.The first story, The Jubilee Express, written by Maureen Johnson, is about a girl named Jubilee, who gets whisked away from her usual comfortable Christmas routine, and tries to travel to her grandparent¿s house with unexpected trouble along the way. This was my least favorite story out of all of them. It wasn¿t bad, don¿t get me wrong, but everything just flew by way too fast. Even with the short length, I felt there could¿ve been more progress between the characters.The second story is A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle, written by John Green. It involves three best friends, two guys and a girl, who try to journey through the harsh snow after receiving a call from their friend at The Waffle House, informing them of lonely cheerleaders taking shelter there. This was my favorite out of all three. It was so light-hearted and wonderfully written that I think I was smiling the entire time.The third story, The Patron Saint Of Pigs is written by Lauren Myracle. Addie must deal with the aftermath of cheating on her boyfriend, while trying to find a way to convince everybody that she¿s not self-centered. This was the one that really tied everything together, and it was the perfect tale to end the book.Overall, it was really good. It definitely lifted my spirits after reading it, and it just puts you in a happy mood. The ending of the book was perfect, and I was sad that there wasn¿t another story attached. It¿s not heavily Christmas-oriented, it¿s really just a time frame that it takes place, so you could really read it at anytime. I most definitely recommend!
Severely cute fluff, but also darn funny. I liked each story equally actually, and almost cheered when the three stories came together at the end. Do I feel silly admitting this? Nope, you hear some many depressing things at Christmas time, it's just nice to sit down with your hot chocolate and read something like "Let it Snow" and let the hot chocolate, and the book, warm you up.
I really enjoyed this book with its charming little teenage romances. I wish I had read it before Christmas because I think it would have made me feel more Christmas-y. These were typical teen stories but I thought they were well-done. I liked that the three stories interconnected and it was fun to try to guess who was going to make an appearance in which story. I actually laughed out loud a few times while reading this, especially during John Green's story. Glad I read this.
A great collection of teen Christmas romances. I loved the intertwined stories and the vivid, realistic teen characters.
I enjoyed all the writers story in this book. This book is the reason why I decided to start reading Maureen Johnson, John Green, and Lauren Myracle. If you really like kinda cute romances novels you will enjoy this book.
This is such an amazing book. It's actually a collection of three books in one - "The Jubilee Express," by Maureen Johnson, "A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle," by John Green, and "The Patron Saint of Pigs," by Lauren Myracle - but all of the characters and stories overlap. It's a unique way to write a book, and I loved reading about how the events in one story affect the outcome of another. It's a holiday book, and a teen romance, so of course all of the stories have happy endings, but they're all great journeys. The characters themselves are all very real, and remind me of people I was either friends with in high school, or wanted to be friends with. There's also tons of humor - the Flobie Village collection reminded me of Radar's parents' Black Santa collection in Paper Towns, and the idea of cheerleaders snowed in at a Waffle House made me giggle. This is a great book, not just for Christmas time, but for anytime you need a warm-fuzzy pick-me-up.
Rating: A-I originally checked this book out from the library because I wanted to do some holiday reading and figured I'd double up with doing more research about reading other good (i.e., well-received) YA authors. I ended up really liking this book which is three short stories that interweave to tell three different stories of holiday romance. The only drawback was that by the third story you already know what's going to happen, it's set up in the first story, which was a bummer... Myracle got the short-end of the stick on this one. Anyway, I liked the book and ended up buying it for myself for my birthday; I think I'll probably come back to this each Christmas season to get that Christmas-y feeling.
I have never read a book like this one before!A set of teen romances, each author took one portion of the night's events to create three separate but interweaving stories.Apart, all are great stories, and together, it's really fun to see how different characters and events overlap.This was a fun holiday book by three fantastic YA authors.
This is a book of three short stories, all of which happen during a big snowstorm, on Christmas eve, in the small town of Gracetown, Virginia. These stories are all individual romances, that all tie into this one town, one snowstorm, and connected characters. In the first story Jubilee is on a train to Florida, but the train gets stuck in a snowdrift. So she decides to go across the street to a Waffle House. This guy named Jeb along with fourteen cheerleeders follow her. She can't stand them, so she goes to a guy's house to spend the night. The second book starts with three friends snowed into their house watching James Bond, two guys and one girl. Then when they guy's friend informs them that there are fourteen cheerleaders practicing their moves in the Waffle House they brave the four foot snow drifts to make it. In the third book Jeb's (the same guy from the first book) ex-girlfriend is extremely distraught over their breakup. She ends up cutting her hair off and dying it pink.This book was extremely well written--by all the authors. They all have different styles in their other books, but they seemed to work hard to make these stories flow seamlessly. Also there is a character for everyone to relate to.
In Let It Snow, John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle have put together a three-part holiday romance - a la Love, Actually - in which three different stories weave together for sheer paperback brilliance. The story is about three teens, each of which is suffering from a case of the holiday blues. Stuck in a snowstorm in a podunk, nowhereseville town, these teens find romance where they least expected - in a new face, an old friend, and a disappointed ex. But first Jubilee, Tobin, and Addie have a few things to deal with, for example: a broken down train full of cheerleaders, a blizzardous hike to the Wafflehouse, and a painfull early morning shift at Starbucks. Riddled with humor and holiday cheer, you can¿t help but feel all warm and fuzzy after reading this book. And, for those of you who wouldn¿t normally read a romance, Let It Snow is a great way to indulge your mushy side.