The Holiday Switch by Tif Marcelo

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Pages: 266

Goodreads: The Holiday Switch

Genres: Christmas; Young Adult; Romance; Contemporary; Romance

Publication date: October 5, 2021

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Lila Castro is ready to take on her last winter break of high school. The snow is plentiful, the mood is full of holiday cheer, and she’s earning extra cash working at the cozy local inn. But her perfect holiday plans crash to a halt when her boss’s frustratingly cute nephew, Teddy Veracruz, becomes her coworker. When they accidentally switch phones one afternoon, they both realize they’ve been hiding things from each other. Will their secrets–and a dash of holiday spirit–bring them closer to love?

Underlined is a line of totally addictive romance, thriller, and horror paperback original titles coming to you fast and furious each month. Enjoy everything you want to read the way you want to read it.

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[L]ast Christmas, while Carm and I were high on candy and good cheer, we decided to complete the Top Ten Things to Do in Holly, New York list from our tourist website by the end of winter break senior year:

1. Kiss on the Bookworm Inn pier

2. Sled down Wonderhill

3. Eat deep-fried marshmallows at Scrooge’s Shack

4. Go ice skating at Prancer’s Ice Rink

5. Try apple cider donuts at Comet’s Cider

6. Make an ornament with Mrs. Claus

7. Decorate cookies at Yule Be Baking

8. Carol while on Holly’s Main Street trolley

9. Hot chocolate and chess at the train depot

10. Take a picture with Holly’s Santa

Chapter Two

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In the most spoiler free way possible, I do want to touch on why I rated this story a 3.5 instead of 4 stars. It’s as simple as this: the description of one of the “secrets” in this story read like someone looked up a list of terms and used them instead of doing research on the subject. For clarification on what I mean here, you’re going to have to read the story yourself, then come back and read the spoiler section of this review. (I know that you could always read ahead and ignore the spoiler warning, but where’s the fun in that?) I was originally going to rate this book a 4 star read, but this one thing has been niggling in the back of my mind since I finished the story and it just won’t let up.

Putting that aside, I liked the cozy romance of this story. I like that there’s a history and reasoning behind the characters’ actions. The fact that these actions had serious consequences – no matter how quickly things might seem to have gotten resolved – added another layer to the romance that a lot of stories I’ve read are lacking.

Being an absolute holiday romcom fiend, I was ready to sit down and devour this story in one sitting. I’m the kind of person that you’ll catch watching Christmas/Hanukkah movies in the middle of the year. In fact, I might have just watched Eight Gifts of Hanukkah this past weekend.

I ended up finishing this story pretty quickly, as was expected – within a 24 hour window. It was cute, and cozy, and oh so Christmas-y. If you’re looking for a cute holiday romance – whether you’re reading this in December or not – then you might enjoy this story.

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*Spoilers ahead*

Let’s start this spoiler section off right – with an explanation of my cryptic half star deduction:

If you have any questions about bouldering terminology I use, feel free to check out a list of bouldering terms here or ask me about it.

Teddy claims to be a novice when it comes to bouldering. He claims that he’s a beginning and he’s not very good at the sport. This cannot possibly be considered true.

Keeping in mind that I’m new to the sport myself, please take everything I say on this subject with a grain of salt. Even still, if Teddy is a novice, then people like Shauna Coxsey and Louis Parkinson are novices. (They’re not. I highly recommend a quick scroll through their Instagram feeds to see some badass bouldering skills.)

It may seem like I’m exaggerating the point – after all, Shauna Coxsey just retired from the GB Olympic team after competing with a severe knee injury yet continues climbing while pregnant. But that makes the way Marcelo uses bouldering terminology emphasize my point here.

In bouldering, the climbs/problems/boulders are rated on a V-scale or a Font Scale (this article is incredibly helpful if you want to learn more about the intricacies in bouldering grading). My own personal experience with bouldering is with the V-scale, and I believe that’s the rating system in this novel as it’s the “American” grading system, so that’s what I’m going to focus on here.

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A brief explanation of the V-scale:

As far as I’m aware, the V-scale runs from V0 to V17. You may also see “VB” climbs where the VB stands for “V Beginner”, and announces that the climb is easier than the grading system. While the difficulty of the climbs is based on the setter’s opinion (that is to say, the person who creates the problem and puts it on the wall determines its supposed difficulty), this grading scale is a useful tool at understanding the sport and the difficulty of the climbs.

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It sounds impressive when Teddy’s friends talk about a V7 being spicy and requiring a dropknee – especially if you’ve never heard the terminology before. In actuality, it is pretty incredible to successfully complete a V7 and make it look easy. To hear that Teddy managed to send a [V]13 puts him on par with athletes that compete at a world level.

So why has it been bothering me? Because in no way in Teddy a beginner climber. Sure he might be new to competing. And yes, he might be climbing with people that are better than him. But claiming he’s a newb, a novice at the sport, ruins any sense of realism for me. There are beginner competitions for bouldering. But none of them have problems that get up to V13.

I find it incredibly hard to stay in a story when the “facts” getting thrown my way are laughable. I can believe that Teddy got hurt climbing and his parents have forbid him from climbing. I can buy into the fact that he’s so in love with the sport that he’s willing to lie to his parents and hide his true intentions in order to continue doing what he loves. I can relate to walking around with chalk on your person and not realizing it’s there – or simply not caring.

But when little details that are meant to make the story feel more real pull me out of the story and make me scratch my head in confusion, the delivery is off. I was so excited to find out this story talks about a hobby of mine that almost no one I know is interested in. Yet I ended up being pretty let down by this very same plot point.

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If you’ve made it this far into the review, I’m impressed. I promise I’m done talking about bouldering…. for now.

One of the things I wanted to touch on was Lila’s blog posts. It felt a little meta reading another book reviewer’s blog posts while reading a book to review on my own blog. While it could have been weird, I enjoyed these little insights into Lila’s mind. As someone who understands the desire to get your thoughts on a book into the world, I liked seeing the way Lila interpreted stories. Her posts certainly are shorter than mine, but not everyone likes to rumble on about random things (like bouldering) as much as I do. Of course, her posts are also part of an overarching story. It’s not like the posts are going to be long and drawn out, overshadowing the cute romance happening in the story.

And the romance was cute to read about. Lila and Teddy certainly misunderstand each other at the beginning of this story. They come to understand each other better as the story progresses, but things certainly got off to a rocky start. While I often prefer a romance with a fairytale ending type feeling, the realism in this romance was perfect for this story.

Lila and Teddy are together at the end of the story, having made up after their spat. Yet there is so much about their relationship that they haven’t worked through yet. They never really touched on the fact that Teddy was willing to blackmail Lila into doing what he wanted (not that he ended up “needing to” as he put it, but still). They didn’t really talk about the fact that he continued to keep secrets from her even after they started seeing each other. While being Santa with a View isn’t a huge thing to keep from her – and he did use this as a way to bring up a scholarship he thought she’d be great at – it’s only one thing that he kept from her. He also didn’t tell her that he told his Tita Lou about her blog, instead letting that blow up in her face.

Lila wasn’t perfect in their relationship, either. When she finds out that Teddy accidentally announced her secret to his aunt, she decides getting even by sharing his secret is the best course of action. She mentions his concussion in front of his climbing friends casually, even though he made it pretty obvious it was something he didn’t tell others lightly. Sure she didn’t realize she was doing anything wrong in this situation, but still.

The truth of the matter comes down to the fact that both of these characters have some serious growing to do. Lila has a lot to figure out with her future after realizing her carefully laid out plan isn’t what she wants to do anymore. Teddy has a lot of family stuff he needs to figure out, quite a few bridges that need to be mended.

I’m glad that the two of them are going to try and make things work after the end of this novel. I’m just not sure that their relationship would stand the test of time. At least, not unless they’re willing to put a lot of serious work into it.

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