Frannie Hudson, an anxiety-ridden 12-year-old white girl, is about to have the strangest Christmas of her life.
First, her parents fly off to Jamaica for some surprise alone time on Christmas Eve, providing the perfect opportunity for Frannie’s older brother and sister to throw the party of the century. Nobody seems to care that all Frannie wants is to have her family, horrifyingly insensitive and selfish as they may be, together for the holidays. But greater forces are at work here, and Frannie soon finds herself “bouncing,” à la Scrooge without a ghost, from Christmas present to Christmas present. The difference is, she isn’t invisible. At every stop along the way, Frannie becomes whoever belongs to the shoes she is filling—a farm girl, a pop star, a girl sailing with her father and brother in Tahiti, a girl whose brother has just died, and a homeless girl—and experiences their Christmases, their ways. (Just one, the pop star, is a person of color.) Unfortunately, just like many holidays, Frannie’s story feels overdone. There is no middle ground here, no subtleties. Characters are either unfailingly kind or painfully cruel, though their circumstances vary. Predictably, Frannie learns important lessons about herself during each new homestay, lessons that are painstakingly, even insultingly spelled out.
An over-the-top Christmas confection. (Fantasy. 10-13)