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Can’t Make It Out Alone; I’ve Built My Dreams Around You

Forever Young Adult Presents: A Review of Winter Town by Stephen Emond

Can’t Make It Out Alone; I’ve Built My Dreams Around You

BOOK REPORT for Winter Town by Stephen Emond

Cover Story: Marry Me!
BFF Charm: Yay!
Swoonworthy Scale: 8
Talky Talk: He Said, She Said
Bonus Factors: Christmas Villages, Cliff Huxtable Award For Awesome Dadhood, Picture Pages!
Relationship Status: All I Want For Christmas Is You

Cover Story: Marry Me!

Unlike Maeby on Arrested Development, I'm not cheekily asking this book cover to marry me in order to switch focus from the fact that I'm actually a kid. I am not being cheeky at all. I would like to formally propose marriage to this book cover. I will get down on one knee if I have to. This book and I can start looking at wedding venues together, is what I'm saying.

You guys. YOU GUYS.Before I saw this cover at BEA, lined proudly on the shelves of Little, Brown's display, I was lamenting to Faye (our LB contact - hi Faye!) that book covers were worse than usual this year. Until I saw this book. Oh, this book.

As Faye and I gibbered gleefully over the cover (punched out paper holes as snow! Eee!), I knew this book was going to end up being special. I just didn't know how special until I opened it up and dove inside.

The Deal:

Evan, an Ivy League-bound senior with secret RISD aspirations, looks forward to his childhood best friend Lucy's annual visit every winter. Once the very best of friends, Lucy and Evan's relationship shifted after Lucy moved south with her mother. But now, once a year, Lucy makes her way back home to spend Christmas with her sad, schlubby father and to recapture her friendship with Evan.

But this year . . . this year Lucy is different. No longer bright and witty, Lucy is withdrawn, sarcastic, bitter. Half of the time she shows no interest in her and Evan's many winter rituals; the other half of the time she is demanding that they recreate times from the past.

Can Evan break past Lucy's new hard exterior and find the warm, gooey childlike Lucy center that he knows is still there? Can Lucy learn to reconcile her past self with her present self and reach for what she wants? Can Lucy and Evan's dads invite me over to their houses for Christmas?

BFF Charm: Yay and Yay!

Oh boy, did I all-caps IDENTIFY with both Evan and Lucy. At first I was a little worried, because both kids are extremely angsty in ways only teenagers can be, but the reason that adults are usually annoyed with teen angst is because it reminds us of how many years we wasted feeling the same way.

Evan and Lucy, though - what can I say? I understood exactly where they were coming from; from the pressures Evan lives under to get good grades and make his parents proud to Lucy's rejection of her former "good girl" identity to hide the pain she feels.

Not only would I make these kids my BFFs, I'd make sure we stayed friends for like, so that in our thirties we could laugh at how messed up we used to be.

Swoonworthy Scale: 8

YEAH THAT'S WHAT I SAID. EIGHT. Lucy and Evan grow up crushing on each other at different times, so when Lucy is pining after Evan, he's too oblivious to notice, and when Evan finally wakes up and sees Lucy as the soulmate that she clearly is, Lucy has her own issues to deal with. Their relationship is bittersweet and tenuous and plays out exactly how your relationship with your first love should.

Talky Talk: He Said, She Said

Another book with opposing narrations! What I particularly liked about this book is that, instead of going chapter-by-chapter in different voices, we spend the first part of the narrative inside Evan's head, seeing what he sees, feeling what he feels. So that by the time it's Lucy's turn to take us on her journey, we're just as frustrated, just as wary, just as baffled with her as Evan is.

And then Lucy comes around to break our hearts all over the place with her teenage girl rage.

Bonus Factor: Christmas Village!

Okay, so I am not the type to put up Christmas villages, those tiny, hand-crafted, detailed fake towns, where there's always an olde-tymey train station, a skating pond, and lots and lots of miniature white people wearing hats. (So many white people in hats! It's like being in Vermont!)

HOWEVER, in my heart of hearts, I sort of love them. Call it a latent model train adoration manifesting itself in the aisles of the local Hobby Lobby; I don't know. But if I'm at a house with a Christmas village, you bet your pants I'll be dashing off to pore over every detail as soon as the host goes into the kitchen to make me a drink.

Evan's dad has a love/hate relationship with his own Christmas village (named, of course, Wintertown) and needs it to be as perfect and flawless as he wants his son to be.

Bonus Factor: Cliff Huxtable Award For Awesome Dadhood

I'd like to award this to both Evan AND Lucy's dads! Hear me out, people who have already read this book and are wondering what type of crack I'm smoking. But I fucking love these two dads.

Yes, Evan's dad is obsessed with perfection and living his dreams through his son, and Lucy's dad is mostly just a sad British slob, but I think the book does a great job of balancing the portrayal of Evan and Lucy's parents, and their dads in particular. Teenage readers will roll their eyes and see their own parents in the pages of the book, whereas A Bit More A readers will recognize all of the dads' faults as the result of growing up and losing all the dreams we held as children.

Bonus Factor: Picture Pages!

I talk a lot about how I am unable to read comic books (such tiny print! and none of the dialogue bubbles go in any sort of order! And why is everything so tiny?!) and it makes me sad, because I feel like I'm missing out on a lot of Geekdom, you know?

This book features illustrations in comic panels, but because there are only one or two pages of panels for every 30 pages of text, it's easy for me to understand! Thank you, Stephen Emond!

Plus, Drawing Lucy is just about the cutest thing ever.

Casting Call:

For this book, I knew I needed to reach into the vault for some old favorites.

Jesse Eisenberg as Evan

I think of Evan as gangly and a bit unsure of how his limbs should work. I think of Eisenberg the same way.

Rooney Mara as Lucy

I saw The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo last night and Rooney Mara impressed the pants off of me! She was exactly how I pictured Lisbeth to be (moreso than Noomi Rapace, I'm sorry to say) and delivered "Harriet Fucking Vanger" the way italways sounded in my head. But, bonus, in a movie made from this book, I wouldn't have to see her tits so very often.

ALTERNATE CASTING CALL:

Okay, Jesse and Rooney are a bit too old to be still playing teenagers, and since this season of American Horror Story is now over and the Murder House will not be revisited in the coming seasons (which means I will not be watching the show, because I'm certainly not tuning in for the stellar plot), these two have nothing else going on:

Evan Peters as Evan

No gimp suit required.

Taissa Farmiga as Lucy

Relationship Status: All I Want For Christmas Is You

I don't want a lot for Christmas. There is just one thing I need. I don't care about the presents underneath the Christmas tree. (That's kind of a lie.) I just want this book for my own, to lend to everyone I know. Insert some Mariah Carey vocal stylings heeeeeeeere, cause all I want for Christmas . . . is this book.

(And some champagne.)

(And a region-free dvd player because mine broke and now I can't watch any of my dvds anymore.)

(And world peace, I guess.)

(But mostly just this book.)

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my free review copy from Little, Brown. I received neither cocktails nor money for this review (damnit!). Winter Town is available in stores now! (And you should all buy it!)

Erin Callahan's photo About the Author: Erin is loud, foul-mouthed, an unrepentant lover of trashy movies and believes that champagne should be an every day drink. When she isn't drowning in a sea of engineers for whom Dilbert is still uproariously funny, she's writing about books, tv, the cult of VC Andrews and more.
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