DRC: My New Crush Gave to Me by Shani Petroff

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4 stars

Charlie needs a date. Her friend’s aptly named birthday party, “Lover’s Ball,” requires all the attendees to bring a date. Now that her boyfriend has moved away and she’s broken up, Charlie’s now dateless & feeling pressured to bring a +1.

She doesn’t think anyone is of boyfriend material–at least, until she meets overachieving Teo Oritz, football (and baseball!) star, NHS member, and popular golden boy. Charlie has her eye on him, and she’ll do whatever it takes to get him to take her to the ball.

Even if it means rigging the Secret Santa drawings or dealing with his annoying cousin, J.D. Oritz, who grates on her every nerve with his lack of time-keeping skills and argumentative behavior.

But when things don’t turn out the way she expects, Charlie may float or flounder.

Here’s the official summary:

Charlotte “Charlie” Donovan knows what she wants for Christmas: Teo Ortiz. He’s a star athlete, in the National Honor Society, invited to every party, and contributes to the school paper (where Charlie is co-editor). Basically, he’s exactly the type of guy Charlie’s looking for. The only problem—he barely knows she exists.

But Charlie has a plan: Rig the paper’s Secret Santa and win his heart with five perfect gifts. Enter J.D. Ortiz—Teo’s cousin, and possibly the most annoying person on the planet. He’s easy going, laid back, unorganized, and spontaneous—the exact opposite of Charlie (and Teo). But he knows what Teo wants, so she’s stuck with him.

Yet the more time Charlie spends with J.D. the more she starts to wonder: Does she really know what, or rather who, she wants for Christmas?

This was a really cute story. I would compare it to a Hallmark Christmas movie, but for teens. Really, any Hallmark movie would suffice.

My New Crush Gave to Me is a super sweet, albeit trope filled, holiday romance. It’s everything you could want.

I came into reading this novel with an entire plot planned out in my head & a specific set of expectations, and this novel met them all. I spotted the plot from a mile away. It’s one of those warm, feel-good stories that makes everything bubbly like champagne.

Girl likes boy. Girl enlists boy’s cousin to help pick gifts. Girl ends up falling for cousin. Girl realizes her mistake, talks to cousin, and boom shaka laka! We wrap it all together with a neat little bow.

It’s the tropiest, most cliché thing you’ve ever read. It’s a Hallmark movie, but in words. It was absolutely adorable.

I’m quite the sucker for Hallmark movies, and this fulfilled my expectations as a fluffy read. If cute, cliché stories aren’t your cup of tea, this probably won’t be the book for you because it’s the epitome of cute & cliché.

But, if you do like reading predictable, cute romances, then My New Crush Gave to Me might just be your next favorite read.

The holiday spirit penetrated this novel and you could find it lurking in every corner–perfect for the fall and winter months ahead.

The characters are all well-developed and had their own flaws.

Charlie is someone who loves a lot of structure and sticking to a plan, so when things stray from her plan (Operation Secret Santa), things in Charlie’s bubble will get shaken up. She doesn’t deal well with these circumstances, and there are moments when you might not agree with the decision Charlie makes.

Teo is the main love interest, and everything Charlie would want. There’s not much more to him, because this is a novel about Charlie and J.D., not Charlie and Teo (as much as she may want it to be Charlie and Teo).

J.D. is the sidekick/new love interest, and is much more complex than Teo. He’s perpetually late and keeps secrets and is sweet as he does kind things for people, even when they’re rude to him (ahem, Charlie).

Then we have a set of minor characters, ranging from the best friend & her boyfriend to family members and other girls at school.

This novel is fairly short, just shy of 300 pages (basically a breeze compared to those 500 page books), which makes it fast paced and structured, except with a 5 part body instead of a 3 part (because there are 5 gifts = 5 hurdle points = 5 part body).

The change of heart and really dynamic points for Charlie happen in the last 10-15%, and it’s like the fast ending of a Hallmark movie where you’re left wanting more of Charlie & her love interest at the end.

And although Petroff does the entire Hallmark structure down to a T, I was left wanting more that wasn’t the actual Charlie romance.

As much of a hopeless romantic I am, I still like a little deeper meaning that was lacking in this novel. The only message I could interpret was “Don’t judge a book by its cover” and messages about love and significant others.

I was hoping Petroff would break the cliché. Maybe change the ending to Charlie and the love interest being friends for the time or her throwing aside society’s beliefs and proving to those mean girls that she doesn’t need to take a man to the party.

This would have made a much more meaningful message, but the novel was still executed nicely.

There also seemed to be a lack of diversity. I was hoping for some more LGBTQ+ representation, and I would have even taken it if it was a side character. There were subtle mentions on skin tone, but they weren’t the focus. (Luckily this isn’t an actual Hallmark movie and not all of the cast has to be white).

Although My New Crush Gave to Me had some pitfalls in originality and meaning, I still found it an enjoyable read that really got me into the holiday season. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who likes Hallmark movies or cute romances with happy endings.

You can preorder My New Crush Gave to Me from any major booksellers or buy it in stores when it comes out on October 31st!

(Also, isn’t the cover the absolute cutest? One of the editors at Swoon Reads hand knitted the cover, which is so cool!)

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Are you looking forward to My New Crush Gave to Me’s release? Feel free to leave your thoughts below!

Thank you to Netgalley/Swoon Reads/Macmillan for providing me with a digital review copy to honestly review!

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