If you’re looking for the perfect Christmas novel to curl up with over the festive period, look no further than critically acclaimed author Juno Dawson’s latest release – Stay Another Day.
Set in an old Edinburgh house that has seen over 100 Christmases since its completion, Stay Another Day follows the lives of the three McAllister siblings as they return home to celebrate the holiday together. Oldest sister Fern wants everything to be perfect, especially as she is bringing her boyfriend home for the first time, but drama begins to break out one secret at a time.
In a time where many of us were not able to visit our families for Christmas last year, and may not be able to this year either, the McAllisters’ story perfectly encapsulates the chaos of a large family Christmas.
Similarly to Dawson’s previous titles, Stay Another Day includes a diverse range of characters and tackles heavy topics with honesty, avoiding sugar-coating the grittier parts of life.
In particular, the youngest sibling Willow is suffering with anorexia. The 17-year-old was admitted to a mental health facility the previous year, meaning the family could not celebrate Christmas in their usual way.
The combination of Willow’s first-person perspective and her siblings’ thoughts about her illness bring a well-rounded and real representation of anorexia and mental illness that is only recently starting to be explored in the media – especially in young adult fiction. As someone who has suffered with disordered eating in the past, it felt really good to be seen in this novel.
Dawson’s work frequently features characters and themes from the LGBTQ+ community, and this book continued that trend. Not only is Rowan, Fern’s twin brother, a gay man, but his best friend Syd is non-binary and another character (who shall remain unnamed – spoilers!) is bisexual. As a bisexual, non-binary person myself, I really appreciated seeing these stories get told as part of a larger narrative, and the impact of seeing Syd consistently referred to using they/them pronouns was quite profound.
Biphobia and doubt towards non-binary identities are both prevalent issues in and out of the LGBTQ+ community. Stay Another Day addresses this with care, showing some of the internalised biphobia of the bisexual character, and the thoughts of both Rowan and Fern.
Rowan and Syd’s friendship in particular is extremely powerful. They don’t always see eye to eye, but they have each others’ backs. In a story so deeply rooted in blood family, it’s nice to see the strength of queer found family alongside it, and even mixing the two.
This novel had me gasping, laughing and crying, and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a fast-paced, heartfelt family drama to while away the days between Christmas and New Years Eve.
Stay Another Day is available here. (£7.99)