Allison's Book Bag

The Santa Claus League by Stephen Miller

Posted on: January 1, 2014

I received The Santa Claus League by Stephen Miller just in time for the holiday season. The young adult selection is the first full-length Christmas novel I’ve reviewed here at Allison’s Book Bag. Unfortunately, my excitement for it began to wane after reading a few chapters. While its concept is an intriguing one, the execution of it could be improved.

The Santa Claus League has a lot of potential going for it. With all of the books out there about wizards, demons, and mystical creatures, one about a boy who can take on the powers of Santa Claus will stand out as different. Naturally, because the entry is for young people, Miller is going to throw in romance. Mason is smitten by Julia, who is in charge of the local charity Christmas party. When the original Santa Claus she hired calls in sick, Julia calls Mason to ask for his help. Why Mason? Because his grandfather has an heirloom Santa Claus suit. Add adventure in the form of bad guys who want to steal the suit, with its priceless ring, and Miller seems to have the perfect combination for a riveting novel. He even adds a few extra perks. For example, whenever Mason puts on his Santa Claus suit, he smells Christmas magic. For him, that means hot chocolate, shortbread cookies, apple cider, cinnamon rolls, and even pine needles and fireplace smoke. Wearing the Santa Claus suit also not only allows Mason to determine who is “naughty and nice,” but to want to adhere to the league’s motto of: “Helping the bad become good, Helping the good become great, Saving the world from evil.”

What exactly then is my issues with The Santa Claus League? First, there are Santa’s powers. While it makes sense that a Santa suit might help the wearer determine the true nature of each person he met, it makes less sense that the suit would allow one to freeze time by touching one’s nose. Nothing in folklore has prepared me for a Santa that can act like a Jeannie. Nor is there any good reason for it, except this is how Miller wanted his characters to overcome the bad guys. Speaking of them, tell me, what is the appeal of a Santa Claus suit to big-time hardened criminals? Even one which bestows the wearer with the ability to select the perfect present. Perhaps, even Miller himself realized the illogical of the idea, because eventually the bad guys end up simply wanting to destroy Christmas itself. Not that this really makes any more sense. My third objection to the Santa Claus League involves the style. It feels too simply written, as in this example: “I don’t remember anything special about the start of the prayer. It was the normal petition of gratitude and requests for divine help, pretty standard stuff. It was the sincerity of it that struck me…. Bartholomew talked to God as a child to his father. I was touched.” There’s also too much reliance on dialog to move the action.  Just as bad, Mason sometimes sounds too much like a contemplative adult rather than a high school boy. Consider this opener: “I’m too young to have a very long past, so my present is especially hard to predict, and as for my future? Well, let’s just say my potential ‘futures’ are spinning out of control.”

The Santa Claus League follows on the heels of a science fiction story which Miller originally wrote for his children as a bedtime story. Although I was slated to review only the first book, the publishers also sent me a copy of Miller’s Captain Justo from the Planet Is. I’m grateful for the double selection, given that I like Miller’s science fiction a whole lot better than The Santa Claus League. Not every book an author writes will rise to the same quality or hold the same interest of its audience. This is a perfect example, because The Santa Claus League is a miss for me despite my liking Miller’s other book.

My rating? Leave it: Don’t even take it off the shelves. Not recommended.

How would you rate this book?

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