‘The Afterlife of Holly Chase’ – Cynthia Hand

There’s very few people that will not be familiar with the story of Scrooge and his shot at redemption. With untold students having to study ‘A Christmas Carol for GCSE I can see this being an interesting companion piece.

Our focus is on seventeen year old Holly Chase, a fashion-obsessed teenager who’s been struggling to come to terms with the death of her mother from cancer. She is, quite frankly, an unpleasant character: rude, self-obsessed, selfish, mean…you get the idea. In true Dickensian style she is visited one Christmas Eve by three spirits, keen to give her a chance to change. Holly ignores the warnings, and dies on Christmas Day.

Only she isn’t actually dead.

Holly is, instead, taken to work on Project Scrooge – a secretive set-up where once a year the crew attempt to save the life of one Scrooge (or the modern equivalent). For the last five years we are told Holly has been acting as the Ghost of Christmas Past. Her afterlife is pretty dull. She goes to work, has no friends and does little in her spare time. This year, though, things are different.

This year the target is, for the first time since Holly, a young boy. From the off we can see Holly has a lot more invested in Ethan’s case than others she’s worked on. Though things aren’t done conventionally here, we root for Holly as she tries to change someone’s future.

As the book progresses there’s hints that things are not quite as we were led to believe. However, it all ties together nicely.

This must be the only book I’ve read where I’m actually happy that the romance I was hoping for all along didn’t quite go to plan. When you read it, you’ll know why. This is not a straightforward retelling, but it was instantly recognisable. Aside from the modern setting and the easily identifiable characters, I loved the way Hand updates the source for a modern reader. And the geeky English teacher in me loved all the Dickens references and quotes.

What’s not to love?

Thank you to edelweiss and publishers Harper Teen for allowing me to read this in advance.