Christmas Stories: Life and Sylvia

December 14, 2010

Life and Sylvia, by Josephine Balestier, wins the award for Most Condescending Christmas Story Ever. It looks like a children’s book, and it sounds like a children’s book, but I haven’t been able to figure out what the appeal is meant to be for kids. All the jokes are aimed at adults. All of them. And they’re all of the “isn’t it cute that kids don’t know anything” variety.

Also, the punchline is that the main character gets her pocket picked. It’s like, “You want experience? I’ll give you experience!” And it’s funny, sure, but it feels really mean-spirited.

I wondered for a while, after I finished reading it, whether I was just annoyed at having my expectations overturned, and I think probably that’s part of it — there were all these moments where I thought I knew that one of the people Sylvia encountered was going to, you know, not steal from her or attack her, or that Sylvia was going to learn some important lesson, but those things never happen, and it’s disappointing. So there’s that. But as awful as some of the other Christmas stories I’ve read have been, I don’t know that any of them have been this condescending and mean. And a mean-spirited Christmas story is a thing that has no reason to exist.

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