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Literature / Secret Santa (2007)

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A 2007-teen romance novel by Sabrina James, Secret Santa follows various students from different cliques trying to use the secret Santas they draw to pursue various crushes and goals. There is also a slight mystery element about who some of the secret Santas are. It is the first book in the North Ridge High seriesnote .

The book shares the same title as the Steve Hockensmith mystery-comedy short story.


  • A Gift for Themselves: It's eventually revealed that Amber had been buying and sending herself expensive gifts so she could brag to her friends and schoolmates about how her Secret Santa apparently thinks that she's worth better gifts than what most people would get.
    Shawna: Amber always has to be better than everyone else. Even when it comes to Christmas.
  • Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder: Lily's boyfriend dumps her via email for a girl he met at camp.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Popular girl Celia has a big crush on motorcycle-riding troublemaker Jake Morrissey.
  • Alliterative Title
  • Alpha Bitch: Amber's a Spoiled Brat whose mother (a writer for a fashion magazine) buys her anything she wants. She relishes flaunting what she has and insulting her classmates. Even her followers Celia and Shawna secretly dislike her for the most part.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: In Be Mine, Alpha Bitch Claudia wants to spend St. Valentine's Day wearing something pink. She ends up covered in pink calamine lotion after getting chicken pox.
  • Beautiful All Along: Shawna describes her sister, Chloe, as looking like "the BEFORE girl in makeover ads," but after she does get a makeover for the winter dance, she's described as "very pretty."
  • Bridezilla: In Be Mine, Alpha Bitch Claudia's sister Pam drops by the boutique where Jennifer works to shop for dresses. She dismisses the best gowns in the store because they don't cost as much Vera Wang gowns, openly admits she doesn't want her bridesmaids to look too good, is reluctant to listen to anything a shop assistant like Jennifer has to say, and leaves without thanking Jennifer for her time.
  • Bully Hunter: When Charlie and Noelle were in elementary school, he stood up to a boy who hit her for using the monkey bars because she was a girl. This caused Noelle to fall madly in love with Charlie, even though she Cannot Spit It Out and he only dates older girls.
  • Cat Fight: When Amber reveals herself as Charlie's Secret Santa at the dance, Liz Carmichael (the school's head cheerleader and Charlie's current girlfriend) is not happy. As Charlie had been receiving romantic gifts and notes from his Secret Santanote , Liz accuses Amber of trying to steal her boyfriend. The two girls get into a massive catfight with each other—and when the fight continued with no signs of letting up, it ultimately ended when a guy from the wrestling team tossed a bowl of punch on them to make them stop fighting.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: Compared to most of the characters, Shawna and Connor have a happy, caring and stable relationship. Nonetheless, Shawna feels paranoid about their relationship when Connor starts spending far less time with her (he has a secret job). When she realizes that a girl is giving him secret Santa presents, she spies on the delivery area to find out who it is. Their classmate Lily (Connor's Secret Santa) thinks to herself that Connor probably has the words "personal property of Shawna Westin" tattooed somewhere on his body.
  • Cruel Cheerleader: It's briefly mentioned that insufferable Alpha Bitch Amber and her reluctant sidekick friend Shawna are on the cheerleading squad—and Charlie's current girlfriend, Liz Carmichael, is stated to be the head cheerleader.
  • Darker and Edgier: After a series of fairly upbeat romantic comedies, the seventh book, "Killer Cruise," has a girl being menaced by a murderous stalker on a cruise she's taking for her sweet sixteen party.
  • Formerly Fat: In the second book, Be Mine, Natalie was a bullied fat girl until she started eating healtheir foods, exercising more and had a growth spurt.
  • Girl Posse: Each book features a beautiful but insufferable Alpha Bitch with a couple of more likable sidekicks. Typically, the posse breaks up near the end of the book when the sidekicks assert themselves (due to Character Development in the first two books and Backstabbing the Alpha Bitch for her boyfriend in book 3), leaving a vacuum open for a new girl posse to show up in the next book.
  • Gossipy Hens: Mindy Yee is constantly inquiring about new drama and spreading it across the school, although the third book reveals that this is mainly because she's lonely and wants people to like her.
  • Got Volunteered: Celia got dragged into the local Girl Posse because Amber and Shawna were at a welcome party for her parents after they moved. The two thought Celia had the right fashion and popular culture tastes to join their group. By the time she realizes that she'd rather be friends with other people who Amber and Shawna look down on, she also realizes that leaving the group would make Amber see her as an enemy to crush.
  • High Heel Hurt: Shawna notes that while high-heeled boots "made her legs look great," they "weren't made for walking for hours."
  • Hired Help as Family: While not stated in so many words, Mindy Yee and her family's housekeeper Carmela have this dynamic in the third book, Spring Fling (which takes place during spring break). Carmela is usually joking, concerned, or encouraging whenever she's talking to Mindy. She doesn't hesitate to caution her about her bad choice in friends to her face, and Mindy never gets angry or indignant when Carmela talks to her that way.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Amber dislikes Mindy Yee, saying she only tolerates her because she throws good parties and her parents are rich. Shawna thinks to herself that Mindy only tolerates Amber for the same reasons. 
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: When Freddy realizes his crush (and gift recipient) Celia likes Jake, he offers to trade Secret Santas with Jake so Celia will think he's the guy leaving her romantic gifts, feeling that will make her happy.
  • Like Brother and Sister: A one-sided version. Charlie, not realizing that she's had a crush on him for the last eight years, sees his next-door neighbor, Noelle, as this. Noelle's been obsessively crushing on Charlie since elementary school, but once she realizes that Charlie is never going to feel the same way about her as she did about him- and just how casual he is about going from one from girlfriend to the next- she gets over it.
  • Lethal Chef: In Be Mine, Jennifer and Violet burn, accidentally salt (when they meant to use sugar), or put too much frosting on multiple batches of cookies.
  • Love Dodecahedron: It's romance novel centered around high school students—this shouldn't be too surprising.
    • Simon's currently dating Amber, who's planning on dumping him for Charlie, The Casanova who's eventually revealed to be dating the school's head cheerleader, Liz Carmichael—but then Simon begins falling for Lily, Noelle's best friend who's also the Secret Santa for Simon's best friend, Connor, based on the gifts that Lily gives to Connor.
    • Noelle's crazy about Charlie, her next-door neighbor, not realizing that Ryan (Charlie's younger brother who's in the same grade as Noelle) has feelings for her. Once Noelle realizes that Charlie will never feel the same way about her as she did about him as well as learning that Ryan's been crushing on her all this time, Noelle begins to reciprocate Ryan's feelings for her.
    • Freddy has a crush on Celia, who has a crush on Jake, the school's rebellious bad boy.
    • David would be happy to date anyone, but finds himself bonding with Shawna after her mom invites him to dinner when he helps her carry some bags home. But Shawna still loves her boyfriend, Connor, even as she worries that they may be drifting apart (and during this time, Shawna's sister, Chloe, is crushing on David).
    • Lily isn't completely over her last boyfriend, Jason, who dumped her for a girl named Sonia, whom he met at summer camp. But Jason and Sonia are having some relationship issues as well, because Sonia keeps receiving a series of romantic gifts from her Secret Santa, who's revealed to be a football player named Dennis.
    • In the end: Ryan and Noelle end up together, Simon and Lily end up together, Freddy and Celia end up together, Connor and Shawna stay together, David ends up with Chloe, and Sonia ends up dumping Jason for Dennis.
  • Nice Mean And In Between: Popular girls Celia, Amber, and Shawna. Celia is a Nice Girl who wants to be friends with kids from other cliques. Amber is an uncomplicated Alpha Bitch. Shawna is vain and entitled, but she isn't malicious and has a Defrosting the Ice Queen arc.
  • Nice to the Waiter: In Be Mine, Alpha Bitch Claudia never tips her pizza guy and, along with her Bridezilla sister, is very rude to the employee at a dress store (granted, said employee is someone she already knows and dislikes).
  • Not What It Looks Like: Simon is caught in the girls' locker room with his cellphone out. Even though he's just answering a call while delivering a Secret Santa present, the girls' gym coach doesn't believe him and gives him detention.
  • Operation: Jealousy: A proxy version occurs in Be Mine, when Dexter's sisters see how he and Eden are struggling to accept their feelings for each other and make Eden think that Dexter is sending gifts to another girl for St. Valentine's Day to make her realize how much she doesn't want to lose him.
  • Put on a Bus: In the second book (which is themed around Valentine's Day), after the whole Secret Santa-fiasco at North Ridge High, Amber (obviously really embarrassed about what happened) ended up transferring to a boarding school over in Massachusetts.
  • Secret Santa: The first book is set around Christmas and follows several students, most of whom draw Secret Santas with some involvement with their crushes.
  • Settle for Sibling:
    • Noelle eventually realizes that Ryan, Charlie's younger who's in the same grade as Noelle, is a much better match for her as a boyfriend than Charlie would ever be.
    • David bonding with Shawna doesn't amount to anything because she and her boyfriend Connor are still in love, but Shawna's sister, Chloe, turns out to like David, and he isn't complaining.
  • Shipper on Deck
    • Charlie tells Noelle that he always thought she and his brother, Ryan, would make a good couple.
    • Jake advises Celia to go out with Freddy.
  • Used to Be a Sweet Kid: Shawna reflects that Amber wasn't always a flat-out Alpha Bitch who had to one-up her own friends.