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The warm feeling of a Hallmark movie in a book
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Graham Wallace has loved his next door neighbor, Sarah Clarke, for years. He hasn't told her, because for the last two years (and counting), she's been dating his best friend. Jealous and heartbroken, he makes a wish on a falling star to be with her. When he wakes up the next day, something is drastically different. He's now the one who has been dating Sarah for two years. At first, he is ecstatic, but as the days pass, he starts to realize maybe Sarah isn't right for him, and maybe he isn't right for her either. It doesn't help that he feels a growing connection to the new girl in town, Piper. If he doesn't accept the truth in front of him, happily-ever-afters may be a distant dream for everyone involved.

Going into this story, I was really worried Graham, Sarah, Piper, and Jeremy would fall into negative stock characterizations with the familiar set up of the love triangle/square. I was thrilled to find that, while each character does fit into a familiar label or placement in the story, the author does a wonderful job making each of them go deeper than their labels. For example, with Graham, he lives in a tourist heavy Christmas town (literally called Christmas). It would be so easy for him to be the character who hates Christmas or wants to get out more than anything. Since Graham is local to the town, he does feel understandable exasperation with all the intense Christmas hype with the tourists, further fueling his desire to go to college in a big city, but he also has genuine affection for his family and neighborhood.

While there are several overarching themes, my favorite is about figuring out what you want out of life and pushing away the judgement if what you want isn't as grand or is grander than what people expect. This is particularly demonstrated with Sarah. When she is with Jeremy at the beginning of the book, she wants to go to a local college and then open up her own business with a dance studio in her hometown. When she is with Graham in the alternate universe, she wants to go to Julliard and become a professional ballerina, even if that means making herself unhappy. While her true dream might not seem as ambitious, she learns that what she wants, outside of everyone else, is what is most important.

On the plot side, there aren't many surprises or special twists. However, since this is a Christmas romance, I think it does have the charm and heart-warming feeling of a Hallmark movie, even if it is a little predictable. One element that threw me off was the religious aspect. It seemed like the story was working with the general shooting star magic for most of the story, but then it takes a big turn towards the end to being a sort of religious or divine intervention. While I feel neutral about the general inclusion of this, I think making it clear that's what Graham believed it to be earlier would have helped it not feel as sudden in the end.

ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS THE GIRL NEXT DOOR is a warm, sweet Christmas romance about figuring out what you want in love and in life.

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