Title: Sock it to Me, Santa!
Author: Madison Parker
Other Reviews for This Author: None
This review is going to be short. Why? This is a short story, and I'm not going to give you over a thousand words about a story that is short and deserves to be read on its own merits, as opposed to a novel that said thousand words would only be 1/50th - 1/100th of the total length (whereas said review, if it kept that length, would be like 1/10th of the length of the short story....). You readers may be wondering why I feel the need to push this short story two months after the holiday it features, as many readers are seasonal readers when it comes to holiday stories. Sock it to Me, Santa! was honestly one of the best self-published pieces I've read, and, on top of that, the holiday aspect isn't so twee that it prevents the story from being read post-Christmas. Madison Parker has won me over with this little gem, this fluffy piece of fun that is exactly what LGBTQ YA needs.
Ryan's class is assigned a Secret Santa buddy that they are required to give three gifts to throughout the weeks leading up to the holiday break. It's just Ryan's luck that he gets stuck with Jamie Peterson - the awkward gay kid that knits all of the time. Ryan doesn't hate gay people, but Jamie is just...well...Jamie, and he doesn't want to have to give embarrassing handmade gifts to the kid that seems to be the butt of many jokes. Yet, as Ryan starts working with his mom in her craft store on making weekly gifts for Jamie, he realizes that he might - just might - want to work hard to give Jamie something that he would like. Playing Secret Santa may not be the painful experience Ryan thought it was, though his new fascination with Jamie Peterson could lead him to some unexpected holiday epiphanies.
Madison Parker has done a lot with the short story format. It may not appear to be much at first glance - Sock it to Me, Santa! is a very traditional story in that it's a basic YA romance setup with the two characters coming into their realizations easily without a fatal or overly angsty amount of opposition. One character, the main one, does have to deal with discoverin g his sexuality and "coming out". Yet, Parker has managed to avoid writing a cliche coming out story. She has avoided making a story about romantic discovery feel as though it was fetishizing on the idea that the coming out process is all simple angst on the part of the teen.
Ryan and Jamie are a great pairing. Ryan is insecure and used to his best friend making homophobic comments regarding Jamie (showing a very clear idea of how homophobic speech can realistically be portrayed and dealt with in a story) and is therefore scared of his own feelings towards the boy, but his supportive mother and own good heart lead him to wanting the best for Jamie as a new friend and, later, something more. Readers don't get annoyed with Ryan because his heart and intentions are good; nothing about his story would enrage a gay teenager or make them think, "This kid is dumb." It's a genuine cutesy coming-of-sexuality character arc that focuses more on how Ryan becomes a better person when he accepts himself. This; this I love, because that is a theme that should be in more LGBTQ fiction, that self-acceptance can be joyous and obviously worth it despite the difficulties.
Jamie does a great job offsetting Ryan. He fits some gay stereotypes, but they don't come across as being cliche. Knitting is an unusual trait for him to like, but it fits his character and gives the reader an idea of how tender and kind he is based on the Secret Santa gifts. Jamie has his own wariness from being bullied, and it makes him sympathetic without turning him into a martyr character. Jamie is unabashedly himself at all times. Parker makes it perfectly clear that he and Ryan both love that.
A perfect tie to this is Parker's writing. The story starts off in a way that could be stereotypical, cliche, overdone; it's not. Parker's writing is accessible and fun without feeling like a retread of other authors. Her presented situations, secondary characters, and dialogue overflow with creativity and care. There’s an absolutely darling scene involving retrieving shoes from an electrical pole, and several involving a sock monkey or two. Parker has managed to walk a very fine line between cute and twee without going over it. This short story also proves that authors like Parker are skilled in their ability to write a meaningful story that is fun. This book isn’t just fluff; it isn’t just fun; it isn’t just “chick lit” for the gay set. There’s a fabulous message that Parker weaves through, as each theme is strong and thoughtful, and important one for gay teenagers to learn without it being beaten over their heads. Bonus: Parker doesn’t make the story so saccharine that it could only be read around the winter holidays.
Sock it to Me, Santa! was wonderful. Madison Parker wrote about an adorable couple that I want to revisit again and again – and this story is luckily the perfect one to re-read when you need a positivity boost, or a reminder that things can be great in a relationship. Jamie and Ryan are excellent characters, their romance one that deserves to be read, and the best part – the story is only 99 cents, and worth every penny. Keep an eye out for Madison Parker, folks, as I get the feeling that this is only the beginning of my love for her work.
Cover: It’s cute, mentions the length and the holiday/knitting subjects, but doesn’t look like a crappy attempt at a quick self-publishing job.
Rating: 5.0 Stars (Because I loved it that much!)Copy: Received from author for review (Thank you, Madison!)