This one is from the archives, first posted in December 2013. It's that good!
Publication Date: 21st November 2012
Published by: Independent Author
Genre: Contemporary (Christmas Novella)
Length: 78 pages
This is the story of an eight year old boy who begins to question the nature of Santa Claus as he watches the adults around him grow worried and secretive during the happiest season of all. His curiosity leads him to an unsettling discovery that will change his world forever.
Spirit of Christmas is an excellent read. For me it's like a 21st century A Christmas Carol in that it contains all the elements one would expect of a traditional Christmas story, while acknowledging and incorporating 21st century challenges. It is about a family experiencing major changes in their lives (as a result of said challenges), as seen through the eyes of an 8 year old boy, Aiden. That said, this is not a story aimed at children.
Aiden can tell that something is wrong. He can sense that his parents are trying to keep something from him and his younger sister, Madison; something major is worrying them. He is a very perceptive boy who is able to read his parents' moods, so even when his mother tries to put on a brave face he can tell she is unhappy. His 8 year old mind makes it difficult for him to understand adult problems, as they often speak using words he does not understand. Whatever is going on has something to do with Santa Claus and Aiden is determined to find out what it is. He does some detective work and attempts to put the clues together. In doing so, he becomes increasingly suspicious and fearful of Santa.
The best thing about this story for me was the use of dramatic irony: the way we the readers come to learn what is really going on while Aiden comes up with his own interpretation. As Christmas Day approaches, he is less concerned about what presents he will get and more concerned about who is Santa Clause and what is troubling his parents. He may not understand what is going on with them but he carries the weight of their troubles on his little shoulders and he keeps this burden to himself. The climax is poignant and it had me in tears. (Yes, I was crying while travelling on public transport.) All this is done with a complete lack of sentimentality.
I was also impressed by the way Kyle Andrews realistically portrayed 8 year old Aiden, especially his thought process as he tries to reason things out. Also, the way he would come up with stuff that probably sounded random to the adults - but made sense to us because we are inside his head (like when he asks his grandmother about Cinderella's fairy godmother and the stagecoach). After all, children do sometimes come out with statements that seem random and nuts to us adults.
Andrews' portrayal of Madison is also perceptive, as is the way she appears from Aiden's point of view. She is a bit hyper - one of those children sometimes seen screaming in supermarkets when they don't get what they want, when they want it. Aiden is very good at pacifying her, which is a great help to the adults who sometimes struggle to control the situation when she is having one of her screaming sessions.
As I read I thought it was going to be about a boy discovering there is no Santa, but that's not quite it. It is about the loss of innocence, however. If I am honest, it has somewhat tainted my own positive image of Santa Claus as a Christmas icon. As you probably guessed, this story has a melancholic undertone but ends on an uplifting note that is fitting for the occasion.