Author: Z. A. Maxfield
Cover Art: Deanna C. Jamroz
Publisher: MLR Press
Buy Link: Amazon.com A Picture Perfect Holiday (MLR Press Story A Day For the Holidays 2011)
Genre: Contemporary M/M / Holiday
Length: 13,000 words
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 rating stars
A Guest Review by Raine
Summary Review: An unexpected treat for me- a warm hearted first love and high school holiday story that I will actually reread even when the holiday is over.
Blurb: Photography club president Caleb loves football standout Christian Munez. He knows it’s an old high school chestnut, but if being a cliche is wrong, he doesn’t want to be right. They’ve been in school together since the fifth grade but having brothers on the same soccer team provides Caleb with a great opportunity to get to know Christian better. What he finds out – about Christian’s home life and his future plans – could end his hopes forever. Or they might be the beginning of something wonderful.
Caleb throws caution to the wind in A Picture Perfect Holiday.
Holiday books……..as Wave will testify…….are not one of my favourite things, for me they often take the form of uneasy epilogues; cosy re-vists with familiar characters and I inevitably find them unnecessary.This is a lovely exception to my rule.
I had thought- and now I don’t know why because it isn’t labeled as such by the publisher- A Picture Perfect Holiday was a Y/A book. It certainly could be a great read for that age group and not just because the main characters are in their final year of high school. There is no explicit sex in this story, but the writer still manages to cleverly evoke all the energy of Caleb’s sexual hopes. The inconvenience of sharing a room with a brother when having a wet dream is a patented ZAM moment.
Caleb’s long fascination with football player Christian is described with fun and relish via a conversation with his self proclaimed, ‘ gay man’s gal pal ‘ the sharply intelligent Erin.
“Why’d you go and have to have a straight boy crush?”
“We all do.That’s how fairies get their wings.”
Their southern California hothouse high school with all it’s attendant specialities; viral gossip, peer group pressure, bullying, and social networks is the acutely observed background to Caleb’s crush. He is a truly enjoyable character, insightful and self aware with a nicely humorous inner voice. The underlying confidence of his personality is revealed in his sweet but cunning idea to make a connection with Christian. His nicely age consistent plan is a satisfying update on the ubiquitous music mix CD.
It is harder getting to know Christian who is forced into the awkward position of responding to Caleb’s rather unexpected actions and spends a fair amount of his time on stage- as it were -apologising. However he completely establishes himself with his holiday- spirited bravery in the end. While I understand the need for the seasonal choir and that they and Erin’s family are witness to Christian’s actions, I also felt they interrupted the moment a little too much. I guess I just wanted more Caleb and Christian.
Within the format of a short novella the tightly controlled writing still delivers intimacy with a subtle depth of detail about Caleb, Erin and especially Christian. The emphasis on family support in this story reveal the everyday problems Christian has been quietly coping with. Caleb’s new appreciation of the realities of Christian’s home life propel his hopes into the real world.This warm and funny story manages to display the past, enjoy the present and suggest the future.