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Meet Me Under the Mistletoe by Jenny Bayliss

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This is the third book by Jenny Bayliss that I have read. The first one, I didn't really love. The second one, I liked a whole lot and immediately bought a copy. So, I wasn't sure what I was going to make of this third one. The premise for this book is that there are a group of friends who have known each other since grade school. The book explores their myriad socio-economic differences and how they have evolved over time and what that has done to their friendship. I really like the idea of friends who have this history, and each of them also has their own family situation going on, but also the friends are kind of a found family in their own right. It was an interesting way to set up a story. I enjoyed the book overall, and I liked the ending a lot.


However, I felt that the pacing throughout the book was a bit...off. It was descriptive, and the setting was worth describing. I don't necessarily think the book was too long, per se. It just felt unbalanced somehow. It felt like there was a lot of time spent in this kind of...in between, where you're sort of thinking, where is the story moving toward? I don't mind timing spent on side characters at all - in fact, I really liked that as well as the setting descriptions. We also got to see some closure on some of the friends' behalf which was great. It felt like the beginning happened kind of quickly, then there was this long, descriptiveness and settling in. After that things happened - extremely pivotal moments happened really quickly - and then there was a long stretch of, sort of, either wallowing in it, moving through it, leading up to it, etc. The epilogue was lovely, but it was incredibly short. I wanted to see the ending play out more in-depth and further, as opposed to having a hundred pages of wallowing and then suddenly a three-page-long resolution. Those kinds of moments could have been more emotional, but they went too quickly, and there was no detailed follow-up, for example to see how it went with bringing the family back into it. If you're going to have all the side characters, and you're going to have all the family stuff going on, then the side characters need to play that role. They need to be there the entire time: I need to be there for their reactions. I'm not sure that I necessarily would have cut pieces of the book (I guess what her life was like when she was on her own got to be a bit repetitive, but nothing obvious), but I wanted to see more expansion in some other parts: make me understand those happier moments as well.


At the end, especially the last of the very last part of the book, I kind of got the sense of hammering home that there were these connections to be made throughout the book, but they weren't nuanced throughout the story enough to feel them the whole time. For example, you did not quite feel the absence of Tristan throughout the story in the way that I think he was meant to be there, and you didn't feel the conflict with her brother enough. There were a lot of things going on, which I'm typically a big fan of - when people say, there is too much at once, I'm usually the one who says, I like all the storylines at the same time. However, I wanted those pieces to be more developed, as opposed to spending so much time with just her thinking about things and describing things. I ended up liking the book, and it ended up being one of those books that I noodle on later as well (which is usually what makes a book good for me), but the pacing didn't hit the mark.

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