Recently, the closest I’d come to Grandma and Grampa was one spotty video call a week or so ago. I sent them my well wishes and then snuck off with Bentley to take tequila shots out of the navel of a consenting and well-paid underwear model, which, if you can believe it, wasn’t even the highlight of our night. It was the perfect way to ignore my blown-out-of-proportion financial faux pas.

As I stand here, I take stock of what’s changed since the last time. The house smells of cinnamon, clove, and something cooking in the oven. Christmas has thrown up all over every windowsill and doorknob-from stuffed snowmen figurines with false smiles to a reindeer wall clock whose nose lights up on the hour. It’s overkill, and it’s killing me already.

What happens when The Grinch and Schidt’s Creek meet? They have Matthew Prince, who you will hate, love and end up cheering for in Timothy Janosky’s You’re a Mean One, Matthew Prince.

Matthew Prince is young, rich, and thoroughly spoiled. So what if his parents barely remember he exists and the press is totally obsessed with him? He’s on top of the world. But one major PR misstep later, and Matthew is cut off and shipped away to spend the holidays in his grandparents’ charming small town hellscape. Population: who cares?

It’s bad enough he’s stuck in some festive winter wonderland-it’s even worse that he has to share space with Hector Martinez, an obnoxiously attractive local who’s unimpressed with anything and everything Matthew does. 

Just when it looks like the holiday season is bringing nothing but heated squabbles, the charity gala loses its coordinator and Matthew steps in as a saintly act to get home early on good behavior…with Hector as his maddening plus-one. But even a Grinch can’t resist the unexpected joy of found family, and in the end, the forced proximity and infectious holiday cheer might be enough to make a lonely Prince’s heart grow three sizes this year.

Not only is this one of the best holiday books I’ve read this year, but this may be one of my favourite books of 2022. It’s so so so good. You’re a Mean One, Matthew Prince blends themes from The Grinch and A Christmas Carol together in a lovely coming of age romance.  

What happens when a rich spoiled 21 year old is banished from NYC with his bank accounts frozen and sent to live with his grandparents for a few weeks? Well, for Matthew Prince, he ends up having to share a room and a bathroom with a hunky hard working college student who doesn’t like him. Hijinks, of course, ensue. Matthew is one of the most insufferable main characters I’ve read in a while. Timothy has created a masterpiece with Matthew, because I guarantee you that you will suddenly be cheering for him by mid-point in the story. Matthew’s character arc is flawless. My heart really went out for him – we see the story completely from his perspective and I think Timothy really nails that youthful, selfish stage many of us go through that is then amplified by the unlimited money and attention that Matthew receives because of his parent’s fame. All Matthew wants, however, is to be recognized for his own skills, to have love and security, and to be around people who like him for more than his name. In the small town of Wind River (which his mother left as soon as she could to follow her dreams and become a bestselling author), living with his mom’s parents who definitely are not in his tax bracket, Matthew is forced into helping plan the annual Christmas gala that unites the town. Hector, the college student who’s renting out a room that Matthew ends up having to share with him, is voluntold by Matthew’s Grandma and Gramps to help out. Their relationship develops from instant enemies, to be grudging friends to lovers as they learn about each other. Watching Matthew drop his attitude and privilege and open up about his hopes, dreams and anxiety is a lovely part of the story. 

This is one of the few books where the miscommunication trope really works. I can’t give away too many details without spoiling the book, but let me tell you that when it happens I instantly went “yes, this works! Of COURSE they can’t talk this out.” Timothy nails it and the climax is one of my favourite parts of the story. 

Throughout his banishment, Matthew meets people in the small town who guide him through his personal growth. These are not, however, the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future, but rather funny and snarky secondary characters who at first love to hate the poor little rich boy. Noelle is easily one of the funniest and grounded friends that I’d love to have in my court when the going gets tough. As Matthew works to bring the Christmas gala to life, he ends up bringing so many people of the town together and connecting them through his own trials and challenges. Two characters that are more tertiary on page are Matthew’s parents who are developed beyond the selfish people they seem to be at the beginning of the story. Their mistakes and wrongdoings are a reminder that even our parents don’t always get it right. 

I loved visiting Wind River and bouncing between the small charming college town and Manhattan. The juxtaposition of the two cities is a bit jarring as it’s intended too. This book, however, lets you experience a small town Christmas and the festive season in the Big Apple as well. Readers will volley between Christmas cookie baking and tree trimming in Wind River, and five star dining and Christmas spectaculars in New York City. I don’t know about you, but I’ll always pick the small town and my family for Christmas. 

You’re a Mean One, Matthew Prince is the perfect Christmas read for lovers of classic Christmas stories and young love.