Jubilee Dougal is looking forward to celebrating Christmas with her parents and her boyfriend, but all her plans are upended when her parents, who are avid collectors of Flobie Santa Village figurines, get thrown in jail for being involved in a fight over one of the pieces at a shopping mall. Through their attorney, they insists that Jubilee take the train to go spend the holiday with her grandparents in Florida. She's disappointed but resigned to her fate. But then the train gets stuck in a snowbank during a blizzard and she suddenly finds herself stranded in a little town in the middle of nowhere. The Waffle House across the highway looks very inviting, so she heads there to warm up, and chances to meet Stuart Weintraub, a boy about her age whose car broke down nearby. He invites her to spend the holiday with his family. In doing so, Jubilee discovers a new outlook on life and realizes everything that's been missing in her relationship with her boyfriend, when Stuart genuinely pays attention to her in a way that her boyfriend never has.
"The Jubliee Express" kicks off the Let It Snow anthology of interconnected YA romance novellas with the story of Jubilee, a sixteen-year-old girl whose parents are obsessive collectors of Flobie Santa Village figurines. When they go to buy the latest release on Christmas Eve, a fight breaks out and they land in jail, leaving Jubilee alone for the holiday. They insist that she take the train to visit her grandparents in Florida, but due to a blizzard, the train gets stuck in snow on the tracks only halfway there. Through the window, she sees a Waffle House just across the highway. With no heat or food left on the train and annoyed with a noisy group of cheerleaders who've invaded her solitude, the restaurant looks inviting, so she disembarks and makes her way there. As she's warming up, Stuart, a guy about her age, also comes in to get warm after his car breaks down nearby and makes Jubilee's acquaintance. When the cheerleaders once again show up, Stuart invites Jubilee to his house to spend the holiday with his family, and in doing so, she finally realizes how much is missing in her relationship with her boyfriend back home.
"The Jubliee Express" was a really cute story that is told entirely from Jubilee's first-person POV. I related well to this intelligent, independent girl who has a vibrant voice. While she does have a few emotional moments, rather than wallowing in the typical angst of YA romance, she has a rather pragmatic attitude and a good sense of humor that occasionally made me laugh. Her parents seem good-hearted but a little on the wacky side, while her boyfriend, Noah, is perfect in every way except one: he never seems to have time for her. Getting stuck in a little town in the middle of nowhere and spending the holiday with strangers brings her a new perspective, especially after meeting Stuart, who shows her what it might be like to have a guy really look out for her and pay attention to her. I thought the story expressed the true spirit of Christmas in the willingness of Stuart and his family to welcome a stranger into their midst. I also enjoyed the diversity that's represented in the characters. There are a few interesting characters introduced early on that we don't see again after Jubilee leaves the restaurant with Stuart. I was happy to discover in leafing through the remainder of the book that it looks like they'll show up again in the other two stories, so I'll hopefully get to find out more about them. Overall, this was a really fun, engaging story that I enjoyed. Jubilee and Stuart seem like they'd be a well-matched couple, so my only small complaint is that we presumably won't get to see what happens for them in the future given that they live a fair distance from each other.
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