Louise is dreading this Christmas. It’s the first since her daughter was killed by a drunk driver while on the way home from a party. Louise’s family was shattered. She found herself divorced and raising her teenage son, Chris, almost on her own. Chris, to all appearances, is doing much better than his mother. He’s an all-star basketball player, on a fast-track to college scholarships. He’s good looking and popular and a singer in a local band. But underneath the charming façade, he’s floundering. The pain of his sister’s death has led Chris to take up drinking. It’s easy when there’s alcohol at every teen party and in his mother’s liquor cabinet.
But one dark night, after a post-game celebration, Chris receives a sharp wake-up call after he wrecks his friend’s motorcycle driving drunk. He manages to walk away without a scratch and even hide the fact that he’d been drinking. But he still lands in court and everything his lawyer father can do might not be enough to salvage his future scholarships. When Chris’s father brings his girlfriend and her daughter, Regina, to spend Christmas with Louise and Chris, everything changes. Sparks fly between Chris and Regina and she quickly figures out his secret. But will she, and family friend Nick, be able to help Chris get his life straightened out before it’s too late?
Steve Besinger wrote this book first as a screenplay for an upcoming Netflix movie. But for a screenplay to be successful as a book, it needs a lot more fleshing-out and creativity. Readers don’t have the benefit of actors and film to bring the dialogue and story to life. The words on the page have to do that, and in this case, they don’t and the dialogue is mostly flat. It’s always ‘said Chris,’ ‘said Louise’, ‘said Nick’, etc. It feels more like a 1st grade reader than a novel for grown-ups. The characters are generic too–all perfect and beautiful and the multi-culturalism feels forced. The ethnic characters are all described by their race and what they’re wearing. Slapping a hijab on a background character and throwing in generic Spanish phrases just feel like token efforts. These things might work on film but they are much less impressive on paper.
SHE’LL BE HOME FOR CHRISTMAS proves that what makes a good screenplay does not always make a good novel. Hopefully the Netflix movie will be better.
~Heather Stockard for IndieReader