I haven’t seen that many reviews about this book, but it was one of the ones that I most wanted to read this winter. The plot just sounded like the perfect holiday read, and while I was excited for it, a lot of personal things in my life came up, and I forgot about it until recently.
The Afterlife of Holly Chase is such a fun and exciting take on A Christmas Carol. This book is perfect for those who are fans of the original tale – I love it, and I’ve loved all the adaptations of it that I have seen and read over the years (although my absolute favorite is the Mickey Mouse version), and I have to tell you this is probably the most unique and fun take on the classic that I’ve come across yet.
“So that was me. Holly Evangeline Chase. Sixteen – almost seventeen – years old, five foot seven, 115 pounds, brown eyes, blond hair, killer fashion sense, and a perfectly horrible human being.”
The Afterlife of Holly Chase starts by introducing us to the main character of the book. She is a downright mean girl who likes to flirt, hurt others, and deep down is hurting from the passing of her mother and the absence of her father. She doesn’t have friends aside from her best friend Ro, but she friend-dumped her a year ago because she hated the kind of person that Holly had become. All she has now are the boys she kind of dates, the housekeeper she loves to torture, and her famous father, who makes movies that Holly simply doesn’t care about. Her mother, who died years ago, is a memory to Holly now, and her stepmother, who was a famous actress, had recently died as well. Holly is materialistic and cares more about her Instagram followers than anything else. No matter what Holly does, she is hurting on the inside and she tries to make herself feel better by being a not-so-nice person to those around her.
“You can try to keep the worst things down inside you. You can shove them away, not think about them, not deal. But they bubble up to the surface. They always do.”
So when Holly laughs off a weird Christmas Carol style dream she has, and then dies when she is leaving a yoga studio, she is surprised when she wakes up again – and in a strange place. She finds herself inside a company called Project Scrooge, which is located in New York (a place that the California girl hates), and that she has been appointed the new Ghost of Christmas Past. Project Scrooge is a company that targets one particular Scrooge every Christmas and shows them their past, present, and future, and relies on them to make the changes so that they can better their lives and not meet an unfortunate demise – and an employment opportunity at Project Scrooge.
Flash forward five years later, and Holly has been working with Project Scrooge the whole time. Her life has changed a lot – for one, she’s dead. For two, she lives in a grungy little apartment in New York and only receives $100 a month for food (which she technically doesn’t need) and personal belongings. She also has a hoodie that, when she zips it up, makes her invisible, allowing her to go around the city with no one seeing her. As long as she keeps reporting to work at Project Scrooge, that is.
All of her friends and family have kept moving forward in their lives, leaving Holly alone and working at a job she hates. Her afterlife is like nothing she has ever thought possible, and not in a good way.
This particular year at Project Scrooge, Holly gets an intern named Stephanie (whom she doesn’t like, treats pretty badly at first, and makes fun of quite often), and this year’s Scrooge is a seventeen year old guy that Holly can’t help but quickly develop a crush on – she thinks he is gorgeous. When she starts going into his room at night to sift through memories to find things to use when she becomes his Ghost of Christmas Past.
Eventually, she finds herself stalking him and even meeting up with him in secluded places that she knows the others at Project Scrooge aren’t watching. She begins to develop feelings for him, even going so far as to fall in love with him, while she tries her hardest not to get caught. However, she is worried that when the time comes for her to meet up with him as the Ghost of Christmas Past, that he will recognize her – and throw the whole thing off balance.
“‘Love an be an excellent motivator for change. Falling in love can help us see the things in life that are truly important. It can make us want to be better people. It can teach us to sacrifice what is in our own best interest for the sake of someone else.'”
The Afterlife of Holly Chase isn’t just a retelling of A Christmas Carol, it’s so different from any other A Christmas Carol related thing that you’ll have read – it’s fun, it’s romantic, and the character development in this book is by far some of the best that I’ve ever seen.
I have read a review or two with people complaining about the main character, Holly, being a bit…cruel and mean, therefore they didn’t like her or the story. The thing is, you learn right away that Holly isn’t a nice person – otherwise she wouldn’t have been chosen to be a Scrooge. She’s mean, materialistic, and cares only about herself, and to be honest, it was kind of fun, and I really liked her character. The way she changes throughout the book to better herself and to take care of those who are or were important to her is surprising – I LOVE a book with character development so this one definitely won my heart for that one alone.
One thing that confused the heck out of me though was probably how other people could still see and interact with Holly even though she was dead. For whatever reason, I thought those rules would have been a bit different than they were. I know she had the hoodie that she could zip up and become invisible, but the whole thing where she could more or less just walk around New York when she was technically dead was kind of weird. An easy complaint to get over, though, because of how wonderfully written this book was.
I also loved the other characters in this book. There are quite a few of them and they’re all pretty well fleshed out and have interesting personalities.
I think this might be my new favorite Christmas book, to be honest. I loved it so much – the plot is perfectly paced and so freaking unique, at least in terms of being based on a popular story the way that this one was. The characters are great, the story is amazing, and the character growth is the greatest I’ve seen in such a long time.
This is the kind of book that touched my heart so much I actually went back and read it again because it was so enjoyable (and I also bought myself a pretty copy of it, too!).
Whether or not you’ve read anything else by Cynthia Hand (I haven’t until now!), this is such a great book to read during the holidays (or really at any time). It’s an amazingly fun read that combines a big of paranormal, a hint of contemporary, and a whole lot of love.