All I Want For Christmas
by Sheila Rabe, contemporary (2000)
Jove, $6.99, ISBN 0-515-12925-9

If Scrooge of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol encounters Suzi Carpenter AKA Suzi Christmas as the Ghost of Christmas Past, that story would only be two chapters long. By Chapter Two, Scrooge would have slipped into a diabetes-induced coma.

Jeez, if Penguin needs my Christmas donation this early (it's October), they could at least try not to shove pure glucose at my face. All I Want For Christmas is saccharine overdose, overly-generous in its exploitation of festive season for all the cheap sentimentality it can wring out of but surprisingly stingy when it comes to plot. I feel a sugar hemmorhage coming on by Chapter Ten and I think I will have permanent goosebumps after this traumatic experience.

Never mind that she is having financial difficulties (don't all contemporary heroines?), Suzi decides that hey, scrap her employees' bonuses, they would understand if she spend it all on candies and Christmas decoration instead. For every Christmas for nine years, she turns her house into some sort of disco-gone-haywire tacky galactica of a Christmas bauble, attracting visitors from all over the country too cheap to pay for Disneyland. When a neighbor starts filing lawsuits on this woman, she goes to radio and the papers - all the while saying she's only doing this for Christmas, of course - and rally all the overemotional, hysterical fans of Nora Ephron gone glucose overdrive to her cause.

Luke Potter, the Scrooge, however, sees our babelicious airhead and decides to court her. Under the name of "Nicholas Claus" - ha ha ha, that's so-ooo-ooo hilarious! Predictably, our heroine hasn't a clue, falls right away, and our hero has doubts. He wants to confess, but does he? No way. She finds out, goes hysterical, and finally, forgives him because, oh, he has a lousy childhood, of course he can't help being a jerk.

Predictable is one thing. Skin-crawlingly nauseous in the sweet and cute factor is another thing altogether. Suzi Christmas's idea of a foul word is "Grinch! Scrooge!" Her idea of a date with Luke is to go carolling and going Awww over poor lil' kiddies. This walking Christmas card remains an airhead through and through, ironic considering Luke's character is better developed. Luke becomes almost human by the epilogue, while Suzi becomes flatter and flatter like the greeting card she is as the story progresses. By the epilogue, she isn't even human. She's a convenient, unrealistic Christmas Care-bear.

Now, I know some readers will flood me with complains, and a certain guardian of author's morales would even call me to task if Ms Rabe reads this and gives up writing altogether. So I'll be fair - ahem - and say this:

Readers who thinks You've Got Mail is the highlight of all romantic comedies, and Nora Ephron is new screen genius of all time, and you've Sleepless In Seattle on auto-play on your video player, go grab this book. All I Want For Christmas is all you'll want and more. There's even a grand fake Catastrophe at the last chapter to milk the already bleating piteously Christmas cash cow drier than dry.

Readers who think the heinous, ersatz, and plastic You've Got Mail the nadir of romantic movies best stay away. If you think Meg Ryan and her cutesy lil' bookstore and airheaded antics nauseous, All I Want For Christmas may just send you into a sugar shock. Lobotomy will seem more preferable to this Christmas-exploitation horror.

Rating: 03

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