Hello everybody! For today’s blogmas- day 15, so that’s basically halfway through, sob sob- we have Gina Blaxill, who has written about the Christmas after the events of her (amazing) YA thriller You Can Trust Me. As such, here is your official SPOILER WARNING if you have not read it. Go do that then come back and read this, okay? Onto the post!
The events of You Can Trust Me end in March, so there’s a fair bit of the year before Christmas rolls around: summer, exams, some characters leaving school entirely for university or gap year. Warning, spoilers ahead!
For Alana, Christmas is a mixed bag. She’s not massively into the festive vibe and Christmas for her family has never been the big thing, in part because her mum (an ICU nurse) is often working on Christmas Day itself. And, thanks to her parents’ recent divorce, Christmas is now very much a marker of changing times and people who aren’t there, as these kinds of celebration days often can be – not everyone is in love with festive food, presents and naff films.
Last year, Alana, Mum and her brother Seb had just moved to Suffolk, so Christmas was a very improv affair, with scatty decorations and food that probably came pre-prepared. This year, things are more relaxed. Mum is working, so Alana and Seb bum about the house by themselves, watching films, playing board games and eating non-Christmas treat food (a lunch made up of typical buffet snacks, like little pies, cheeses, olives, pakoras and crisps? Yes please!). At some point, they’ll have a video call with their dad, who’s celebrating with his girlfriend’s family including Alana’s new little half-sibling.
Luckily, however, Alana has her go to guy for chatting about messy families, though she has to wait until afternoon to FaceTime Liam, who’s started med school in LA (Alana can’t get over how non-wintery the weather is compared to the typical grey December sludge outside her window).
Liam finds Christmas very difficult (too strong a reminder of people who aren’t there) and – as it always has – Alana finds chatting helps. The vibe switches when Xander messages them both and demands to be admitted onto the call. He is out walking the dog on the Stillwater grounds, having reached the end of his tolerance for being interrogated by elderly relatives on what his gap year actually entails. He also complains bitterly about having to wear a ridiculous number of layers because Tudor manor houses may look picturesque but are exceptionally cold even with an old-school log fire.
The Stillwater Estate looks picture-perfect over Alana’s phone screen, with swirling mist giving it a dreamlike sheen. All December the health club has been serving mince pieces, fruitcake and fancy spiced lattes, which seemed a great idea at the start of the month but by now Alana and everyone she knows are sick of them. Still, if she’s honest, it helped her get into the festive spirit, as did the Christmas market held on the grounds, with local traders setting up tents and selling hand-crafted decorations and mulled drinks and fancy food items. The joint choir of St Julian’s College and Fairfield sang carols, and collected money for their newly established activist society, whose big aim this year has been systematically dismantling damaging cultures in their respective schools. Cloves and cinnamon filled the air, and a huge evergreen tree nearby was strung up with lights, which Alana knows all about because she and the other teenagers helped hang them (the temptation to accidentally on purpose upset Xander’s ladder when he mused out loud about hanging stealth mistletoe around the estate was immense, even though it turned out that he was joking).
Alana, Liam and Xander laugh and poke fun at their very different Christmasses, and agree to check in again before the end of the day. Alana rings off with a smile. She muses that although people she knows may enjoy a whole variety of Christmas Days, there’s quite nothing like a celebration day for uniting people… and making the world feel that little bit brighter.
Thank you so much for reading! Have you read You Can Trust Me, or anything else by Gina? Which book would you most like an update on the characters from? I’d love to chat in the comments!
Speak very soon,