Cover Image: Finding My Elf

Finding My Elf

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Member Reviews

Okay, so first of all: this was really stinking cute. It was full of Christmas fun, and I couldn’t help but feel festive when reading it.

I wouldn’t usually mind the flimsy plot, or the narrator so unreliable that it’s just frustrating, or the cheesy cliches, except that they were all. So. Much.

The main character, Cameron, is back from his first semester at college and he’s pretty sure he’s flunking. To save himself from having to confess to his father that he won’t be keeping his scholarship, he starts working for the local mall in their Santa Land, where there is a reality-style contest for the best elf, with a $5,000 prize. The whole thing was completely outrageous, and while on one level I loved it, it began to wear thin quite soon. The story became so much about the competition, which got more and more complicated as the story went on, that everything else sort of faded to the background.

What I would have loved to see is more of Cameron and his dad. While his dad featured quite heavily towards the end of the novel, for the bulk of the first half we barely see him while Cam keeps telling us how much his dad means to him, and how important it is that he makes things right. Their relationship felt quite abstract for a fair chunk of the book, but I would have loved to see a lot more of it.

It’s really hard to write a great contemporary YA novel, because what it’s about and what it’s about are two different things, but one has to be hidden inside the other. This one didn’t quite manage to combine the two, but came frustratingly close.

I received a free copy for an honest review.

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As someone who LOVES holiday romances, I was so excited to get my hands on this one. There was 2SLGBTQ+ rep and they were rival elves in a mall competition?! Yes please! I just knew it was going to be hilarious and I was going to laugh the whole way through it. Unfortunately, I struggled with the main character. He was many things, but none of them likeable. At least to me anyway.

So, I guess I’ll start there. He just wasn’t nice. I get the whole enemies/rivals to lovers thing, but he was just down right mean. I turned the other way he got mad at him for “being too enthusiastic” or too happy. I thought it was just a joke, but he really meant it and it just felt mean spirited and petty and he seemed jealous. And this it got even more messy because WHY did he also have to fat shame him? BECAUSE HE HAD TWO FREAKING CORN DOGS?! BFFR. It was completely unnecessary and didn’t need to be said. Like he could have conveyed that he didn’t like him in another way, there was no need to bring up what he was eating. And yeah he even brought up the fact that it made the other person uncomfortable, but he just said a pitiful like apology adjacent thing and that was it. I was so annoyed by it I almost DNF’ed it, but I knew with the holiday coming up librarians were going to be putting this on displays and I wanted to make sure they knew what they were getting. I just think he should have known better as a freshman in college.

The rest of the book was ok. I thought the plot was unique and I really enjoyed that. I loved the way it challenged them to think outside of the box, and I loved the way that this can be used for librarians and programming. I would have paid to see my old library teens do something like this lol I laughed the whole time the competition was going on. My favorite???? The dark one. I won’t say their name for spoilers, but believe me you’ll know who I’m talking about when you read it.

I said in my initial thoughts on Goodreads that I didn’t really like any of the characters, but you don’t really get to know any of them. His ex is around because he just wanted to feel something but he was terrible. Then his dad was there and he was sweet as pie (well a cookie lol) but also so oblivious that I didn’t put too much emotion into him. His bestie was there only when he was most desperate and it made me not care about her opinion either. He was basically just pushing them all away, but it made me not like any of them. I just didn’t gel with any of them. I think if I had been watching this in real time and didn’t have to be in any of their heads I would have liked this more. But all of these characters were either boring or mean and I didn’t like it.

The romance tho????? I was not a fan. They had no chemistry. Like none. He talked so bad about him but then they ended up together? He didn’t like take any accountability to him about him being a jerk, he and other people just were like oh its so obvious that you like each other. And I was like “Uhhhh no it’s not.” lol It just seemed really weird that that’s where they went with that. Maybe besties, but Idk about romance. Going from talking about about how extra he is to the way he’s acting towards him at the end should have some kind of transition in character right? Yeah no, he just stayed the same and I didn’t like it.

Although the cover screams that it’s going to be fun, it was hardly that. I got a few laughs in from the competition and I loved the social media aspect of it, but overall, it was just not what I wanted out of this one. But if this is your jam, I say go for it. As for me, I like a little more “Nice” in my holiday romances.

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“𝙸 𝚍𝚒𝚍𝚗’𝚝 𝚏𝚒𝚝 𝚒𝚗—𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝙸 𝚍𝚒𝚍𝚗’𝚝 𝚎𝚟𝚎𝚗 𝚔𝚗𝚘𝚠 𝚠𝚑𝚢. 𝙴𝚟𝚎𝚛𝚢𝚋𝚘𝚍𝚢 𝚎𝚕𝚜𝚎 𝚓𝚞𝚜𝚝 𝚜𝚎𝚎𝚖𝚎𝚍 𝚝𝚘 𝚔𝚗𝚘𝚠 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚐𝚜 𝚝𝚘 𝚜𝚊𝚢 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚠𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚝𝚘 𝚍𝚘, 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚢 𝚊𝚕𝚕 𝚐𝚘𝚝 𝚒𝚝. 𝙱𝚞𝚝 𝚒𝚝 𝚠𝚊𝚜 𝚗𝚘𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚕𝚒𝚔𝚎 𝚠𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝙸 𝚒𝚖𝚊𝚐𝚒𝚗𝚎𝚍. 𝙾𝚛 . . .”

🍷🍷🍷🍷 / 5


Finding my Elf is a queer, Christmasy romcom; what more could one possibly want from a book? I love that it’s on the upper end of YA and deals with complicated topics like the loss of a parent and how hard Christmas can be. I think a lot of stereotypes are broken around Christmas time, and peoples cracks begin to surface, it’s nice to read a realistic (ish) interpretation of how hard Christmas can be.

This is not the cute Christmasy romcom quote I planned to use, but I read it and it really stuck with me. I like that it was really and raw and relatable, Cams at that age where he’s figuring out how he wants to live his life and, it’s hard and scary and I like that his struggles with fitting in and trying to figure out who he was at university where included, it made the emotions I had at uni feel heard and validated.

I loved the element of the competition to be the top elf! It’s so fun and brings out my competitive nature! Was Cam a bit whiny? Yes, but he felt relatable and his character arc was so good! I’m glad he became less self centred and he started looking out for and understanding others. It definitely showed the growth of most teenagers😅

For lovers of:
- Christmas
- Queer YA coming of age stories MM
- Competitions
- Different cultural traditions
- Elves
- Small town romance
- Enemies to Lovers
- Forces Proximity

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Cameron is home for Christmas in his small hometown of Lindell, Massachusetts, after his freshman semester at NYU–and he might be home for good. Cameron expected to wow the drama department with his fab acting skills, but he felt like a podunk wanna-be compared to the standouts in his classes. He’s sure he didn’t earn high enough grades to maintain his scholarship, and his single dad, who’s working two jobs to support them, can’t pay any more in tuition. While home, Cameron decides to get a job to help defray school costs and–more importantly–to avoid spending time with his dad. Cam adores his self-sacrificing father; he’s just mortified about his (expected) grades and afraid to disappoint dad.

Cam gets hired to be an elf at the newly built mega mall in his hometown. While most elves would just be helping kiddos make their way to Santa for photos, this job is more a Survivor-style competition where five Elves are vying for votes to be the Best Elf–with the winner of the 12-day competition winning a $5000 prize. That kind of cash would help replace the scholarship Cam is on the verge of losing.

Cam is really a fun character to explore. He’s a terrible snob and his internal monologue is utterly scathing–about others and himself. However, the reality check at NYU has Cam truly floundering with his sense of self-worth. His winter break journey is one of owning up to his mistakes and making choices to be a nicer person, to both himself and others. I found Cam very relatable as an 18-year old who had big plans and bigger dreams and is now barely able to imagine moving forward. The other elves are completely different; they are not trained in theater, dance, or music, but they have a lot of heart and are in it to win it. They really challenge Cam to be his best self, and muster his creativity in ways he couldn’t at NYU.

I loved the pacing, with chapters counting down the days to Elf-mas, the end of the competition. Though Cam initially saw his competitor elves as rubes, he’s quickly revising that assumption and battling for his opportunity with all the skills he possesses. In the meantime, he’s building a rapport with Marco, the nicest elf to ever elf. While Cam might entertain the idea to rekindle a fling with his high school ex-boyfriend who also works at the mall, Marco is the boy he’s really catching feelings for. And, learning about Marco’s reasons to win the money really gives Cam perspective. Plus, Marco is darn cute and he seems interested in Cam in that way, too.

The fun and festivities of Christmas are a little lost for Cam, as he wallows in his own issues. And, there’s a person out there who’s determined to ruin Cam’s chances by posting all sorts of bad takes. But connecting with Marco and his bestie Jazz, and coming clean with his insecurities with his father all guide Cam onto a better path, one that is going to lead him into eventual happiness.

I think if you like competition shows, lighthearted YA romance, or holiday books with a touch of swoon, this one is a good pick. I found myself turning the pages quickly and was engaged throughout.

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I picked up Finding my Elf because I was very intrigued by the idea of a romcom set in a mall Santaland and the Elfmas competition truly is very fun! I loved the idea of a community coming together to vote on something like this!

I Finding my Elf is less focused on the romance than I expected and more about figuring out who you are once you leave home. Cam has just come back from his first semester at NYU and he is struggling to fit in. The theater program isn't what he expected.

I felt like I should really have connected to this storyline as I also went to college in the northeast to study theater and ended up realizing I missed things about my home I had looked down on but I didn't. I think it was because Cam was a pretty self-centered character. Now I know most 18-year-olds are self-centered and I did feel like he made progress but I felt so bad for his Dad who was already working so hard to pay for his college.

I also didn't find the romance in this book particularly compelling. I liked Marco but I felt like even once Cam realized he liked him we didn't get to know him very well. I didn't understand why he would like Cam who had spent most of the book being annoying.

This story is really fun and if you are looking for a holiday read about finding yourself this one is a good choice. However, if you want something more focused on romance or are picky about the likeability of characters I'd give this one a pass.

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*Thanks to NetGalley and Harper Teen for the ARC I received in exchange for an honest review*

This was a delightful Christmas rom-com. Reminiscent of an ABC Family teen movie. This was a fast, fun read, and I was glad it merges some of my favorite troupes (Grumpy/Sunshine, Scrooge, etc) into this story about Cam figuring out the value of being true to himself while holding space for others. The side characters were interesting; I loved the other elves and wished we'd spent a little more time with each of them since the author took the time to give them such distinct personalities. Marco was a good love interest for our snobby Cam, and Cam's dad was such a gem. I honestly wish the author had made the book a little longer to deepen some of these interactions. Otherwise, what a fun Christmas romp in Santaland!

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3.25/5 stars! This works as a cheesy holiday comedy but didn't really work as a contemporary romance for me. I liked Marco but Cam was a bit annoying at times. Overall, it was cute, if a bit cliche. It was a decent quick holiday read.

I received a free copy of this book via NetGalley and am voluntarily leaving a review

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Rounded up to 3⭐. Unfortunately Finding My Elf just wasn't for me. The mmc irritated me so much up until the last minute. Dad and Marco however were great, I found myself perking up quite a bit whenever they had a moment. It was festive but not overly so or more realistically, overshadowed by the self absorbed Cam. The ending whilst sweet felt a bit like it was trying to please everybody and a tad unrealistic. There were definitely moments I enjoyed and moments where I felt really really old, this book kept throwing me into 'parent mode'. I can see the appeal and love that others have had a great time with this.
Thanks to Netgalley and Harper360 for the opportunity to read an advanced copy, this review is left voluntarily.

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"Finding My Elf" by David Valdes is a holiday-themed rom-com that's set in a mall and absolutely packed with Christmas cheer. The story follows a young man named Javier, who takes a job as an elf at the mall's Christmas display, and finds himself falling for one of his fellow elves, the enigmatic and beautiful Marisol. The characters are well-developed and likeable, and the setting of the mall provides a fun and festive backdrop for the story. Valdes's writing is witty and fast-paced, and the romantic tension between Javier and Marisol is palpable. Overall, this is a fun and light-hearted read that's perfect for the holiday season, or for anyone who loves a good romantic comedy. 🎄

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Loved loved loved! It was so sweet and cute and these characters just jumped off the page to me, not to mention their chemistry! That said, I wish that we would stop marketing YA books as YA when the MC's are legal adults. Even if they are in college, it is no longer YA and I sincerely wish we would allow the genre of YA to remain suitable for 13 year olds, which, respectfully, this book is not made for.

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This is such a cute holiday story! I loved the characters and their growth. They were all so wonderful!

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This was such a cute, YA Christmas small-town romance. It made me feel super festive and I loved reading it!

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Finding My Elf is a delightful YA rom-com that captures the magic of the holiday season with its perfect blend of Christmas cheer. The characters are not only cute but also wonderfully relatable, making it easy to root for their heartwarming journey. The chemistry between the protagonists sparkles, adding an extra layer of charm to the story. The romance is nothing short of adorable, unfolding against a backdrop of festive decorations, twinkling lights, and all the cozy elements that make holiday movies so special. With its sweet narrative and festive atmosphere, Finding My Elf is a heartening read that brings a warm glow to the winter season, making it a perfect choice for anyone seeking a feel-good romance during the holidays.

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Finding My Elf is a sweet, young adult Christmas romance novel. It is full of holiday cheer, Christmas cookies, and pop culture references that range from BTS and K-pop to talent hunt reality TV and musical theater.

Cam is a self-involved holiday grinch; Marco is holly jolly sweetheart. Somehow the nice guy gets through to the egocentric scrooge and they have a sweet love story. The happy for now ending was very appropriate and the perfect conclusion to their love story.

I received a digital ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Actual rating = 4.5 stars rounded up

This was a cute holiday romcom, perfect to make the seasonal transition from spooky to Santa!

The MC Cameron or “Cam-Cam” as his dad calls him, doesn’t want to face that he might have failed his first semester at NYU & lost his much-needed scholarship. So he takes a job as an elf at Santaland in the mall to earn money and avoid telling his dad the truth during winter break.

Cam was a bit of an asshat - quick to judge others, selfish as all get out, and would vocalize his opinions so loudly that others felt they couldn’t share their thoughts.
But! He has a bit of a redemption arc thanks to a cute coworker elf named Marco SMILE

I wish the author had included a few recipes for some of the amazing sounding cookies Cam’s dad baked!

I can see this easily getting adapted by Netflix as a cute holiday movie!

LGBTQ+ rep
MM romance
Small town romance

Thank you to @Netgalley and @HarperCollins for an arc of this book in exchange for an honest review

Posted to Instagram @rolandreviews - Nov 7, 2023
Posted to Goodreads @Katie&Roland - Nov 8, 2023

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Having departed from his hometown where he was the theatre prodigy with a scholarship to NYU, Cam has returned for the holidays with his tail between his legs. He's not popular on campus, he's about to fail out of his Very Serious Theatre Program and lose his scholarship, and his dating and social life are nonexistent. But he can't admit any of that to his father, who has sacrificed so much to get Cam where he is in life - so Cam panics and takes a holiday job to avoid spending time at home as, of course, a mall elf. And the good news is, if he can be the most popular of the elves, there's a $5,000 cash prize that could go a very long way toward rescuing his chances of staying at NYU... If he can just beat Marco, his obnoxious, festive, attractive competition.

Billed as a holiday romcom with mall elf rivals-to-lovers, this book is absolutely festive and very cute. The entire thing is set over the week around Christmas, full of elf-themed competitions, Christmas cookie parties, and the nightmarish experience of Santa's Village at the mall. It was all so genuinely ridiculous that I couldn't help but enjoy it, even if I never quite bought into the rivalry and the romance was a bit too instantaneous for me. It was just cute in a way that a good holiday book should be.
Cam is a delightfully complicated character, too. At eighteen-years old, he's discovering for the first time what the wider world is really like in a brutal way compared to the simplicity of hometown life, and that is something I see over and over with my own students. It's frustrating to read, but so true to life, and it's nice to see him develop over the course of the story and figure out what he actually needs to do with his future. Honestly, my biggest frustration with Cam - and with the story - was that for all of the claims that he was a Real Actor, he was a seriously terrible actor when it came to all of the elf competitions. The disconnect was difficult to reconcile.
Marco was precious, too. While he never got the development that I'd hope for to get really attached to him, he was just sweet and fun to read and learn more about.

Overall, this is a quick, festive, cute read for the holiday season.

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FINDING MY ELF by David Valdes is a cute, Christmassy, contemporary young adult story. I like the storyline about Cam trying to find his place at college and figure out what he wants to do, and the way the elf contest helps him rediscover his passions and strengths is nicely done. The romance feels a bit forced, but it's a nice touch for a Christmas story. The relationship between Cam and his dad, though, has depth and sweetness. Overall, it's a cute story but juggles a few too many storylines and requires the reader to suspend a lot of disbelief over how popular a mall elf competition would realistically be.

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I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley and am voluntarily posting a review. All opinions are my own.
Finding My Elf is a cute YA/NA holiday romcom, and I love how it focuses on a younger Scroogey protagonist rediscovering his love of the holiday season. Teens have a lot going on, from graduating high school and going off to college, and I like how the book highlights how hard the change can be, from the new academic challenges, to struggling to make new friends, while also not having that be the central focus of the story.
I really felt for Cam, and how he’s struggling to deal with it all, and finding himself again a little out of his element being a bit of a “bah humbug” mood while working as a Christmas elf during the big “Elfmas” festival, at his overly festive father’s behest.
Marco serves as a great romantic interest, helping to inspire Cam to become more spirited, both due to their initial holiday competition rivalry, and because of the growing attraction between them. While this dynamic is by no means original, I loved seeing these two characters find each other, and seeing them connect made me happy.
This story also radiates holiday cheer in general, even if Cam isn’t into it all at first. I loved how the story revolved so heavily around “Elfmas,” with it starting just prior, and running all through the Twelve Days, and then ending just after. It sets a believable timeline for a holiday romance, with enough potential for a lasting romance to grow from it.
This was a sweet read, and I’d recommend adding it to your holiday reading list, especially if you’re looking for more queer representation in holiday romance.

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Finding My Elf is queer YA holiday joy. Cam finds a job working as an elf at Santaland at the mall during his winter break from his freshman year because he's afraid he's failing out and will lose his scholarship to NYU. To promote the mall, the elves become part of a viral competition to become the best elf and win $5000. Should he work along with the other cute elf Marco or take him out of the competition? When Cam's ex-boyfriend, Leroy, shows up, how can he choose between Leroy and Marco? If you want a cute YA holiday read with a HEA, pick up this book.

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3.5 stars rounded up

This was a cute, queer holiday romcom with a lot of fun and an important message.

At the beginning of the book, the MC is a little unsure of who exactly he is now that he's spent a bit of time out in the world. He's trying to put on a good face for his dad, but he soon discovers that his bit of dishonesty isn't the best route. Watching him figure out what he really wants in life and seeing his resolve once he figured it out was uplifting.

I liked the characters in this story, even if some of them were a little annoying. As someone who was worked in a customer service type job during the holidays, there struggle and interactions with customers were realistic and believable. Some of the characters acted a little immaturely, but that also fit with a realistic expectations of being a teen.

The plot flowed well and the book had pretty good pacing. Once I started, I was drawn in enough that I finished it pretty quickly.

**Minor Spoilers Ahead*

All that said, the book still fell a little short for me. I think the biggest thing was the relationship(s) at the center of the story. The whole relationship with Leroy was an obvious red herring and it was more annoying than anything. And the big "plot twist" with him wasn't all that surprising and I think Cam forgave him waaaaaay too easily. I also felt like the relationship between Marco and Cam happened too quickly and easily. Even though I was more or less rooting for them to get together, there wasn't a decent build up. They needed more cute moments together to actually develop feelings. I mean, when Cam and Marco started dating, Cam knew practically nothing about him and had only just started noticing him. Marco was a decent guy overall and I could see why Cam would fall for him, but I honestly couldn't understand why Marco fell for him, especially as quickly as he did. The whole relationship was flat. And they had only known each other for a couple weeks and had been together for a couple days and suddenly they're both ready to commit to an exclusive long distance relationship? Cam had *just* figured out what he was wanting in life and whether or not he acted want to be with Leroy (who he actually knew as more than a passing acquaintance), so him figuring out things with Marco so quickly just felt off. I just needed a little more, I think.

So, overall I did enjoy the story. If you're looking for a queer RomCom with holiday vibes that falls into the late YA/Early NA category, this may be perfect for you.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for the ARC.

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