4 out of 4 stars
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How great would experiencing Christmas in the 1960s be? As a lover of the holiday, I would do this in a heartbeat. In my opinion, technology has caused disconnections with family and friends during the holidays. James C. Reinhold seems to share this same observation in his book titled Christmas as Before. Mr. Reiller is a substitute teacher who wants to discuss Christmas with his students before they break for the holidays. Unfortunately, the students make fun of his childhood memories of Christmas and tell him how times are better now than before. John, Troy, Alex, and Faye bully him the most and even started calling him names. After they leave class and start hanging out in the hallway, one of the other student’s clothing starts changing right before their eyes! Once outside, Troy stops a boy to ask what year it is. Imagine Troy’s reaction when the kid tells him that it is 1967! How did they get sent back in time? How different will Christmas be without cell phones or TikTok? Is Mr. Reiller really who he says he is? Pick up a copy of this book to find out.
What I liked most about this title was how vivid the descriptions are of the activities the teens did. I can imagine seeing the lighting of the Christmas tree in the town square and the food from the nearby restaurants. I felt great joy when reading how much fun John, Troy, Alex, and Faye had while sledding and having a snowball fight. Even though I haven’t participated in snow activities yet, I appreciated investing my emotional side into the kids’ happiness and excitement.
I also loved learning about how different things were during the 60s. Women did not receive equal treatment; in fact, women did not have jobs then and were the only ones responsible for household duties. This stereotype became obvious when Tory offered to help his mom in the kitchen, which displeased his father. One of the Christmas gifts Faye received is another example of stereotypical ideals that existed in the 60s.
Alas, there are a couple of things that I feel need improvement. The author did not introduce the families of the teens early on in the book. Because of this, I could not connect with them when they were mentioned later because I knew hardly anything about them. There were also some grammatical errors in the title, but there were not enough to deduct a star. However, I am sure that this title could benefit from another round of editing.
Even though I had dislikes about this book, they are not enough to discredit how much I enjoyed reading it. This genre is not one that I typically read, and I am pleased to say that this novel captured my attention completely. Christmas as Before deserves the highest rating of 4 out of 4 stars. Teenagers who aren’t fully appreciative of Christmas should give this book a try. Adult readers who love Christmas will likely enjoy it too; this is especially true for those alive during the 1960s. There was one instance of profanity, but it mimics the language that teenagers use today. A few short romantic scenes are also present within this fictional tale. The book has a centralized theme of Christmas, but it does not use heavy religious ideals. One of the kids briefly attends church, but no Bible verses or anything similar is in the descriptions.
I also want to mention that the book ends on a cliffhanger and heavily implies a sequel is coming. I hope that it is published soon because this story is perfect for a holiday season read. As soon as the author releases the next book, I will be picking up a copy.
Christmas As Before
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