“You better watch out , you better not cry, you better not pout I’m telling you why, Santa Claus is coming to town!”
Now we’ve settled into December I finally feel happy to mention the C word, Christmas. I have mixed feelings on the festive season; I love the warmth of a classic Christmas, remembering the excitement that began to die once you realised (spoilers!) Santa doesn’t exist. Yet, adulthood cynicism seems to sneak up on me lessening the joy year by year. Requesting 8-Bit Christmas, considering my yearning for the comfort of nostalgia, was a no-brainer.
It’s 1980-something and all nine-year-old Jake Doyle wants for Christmas is a Nintendo Entertainment System. No Jose Conseco rookie card, no GI Joe hovercraft, no Teddy friggin’ Ruxpin–just Nintendo. But when a hyperactive Shih Tzu is accidentally crushed to death by a forty-two-inch television set and every parent in town blames Nintendo, it’s up to Jake to take matters into his own hands. The result is a Christmas quest of Super Mario Bros. proportions, filled with flaming wreaths, speeding minivans, lost retainers, fake Santas, hot teachers, snotty sisters, “Super Bowl Shuffles” and one very naked Cabbage Patch Kid. Told from a nostalgic adult perspective, 8-Bit Christmas is a hilarious and heartfelt look back at the kid pop culture of the 1980s.
When I was Jake’s age it was 1995; this was around the age when my sisters and I were gifted with our first Nintendo console, a hand-me-down from our cousins. It inserted into our holiday routine seamlessly, between re-watches of BBC’s Pride and Prejudice and our outside adventures – I was a Sonic master. We played for hours, the days before games could be saved and returned to, each new level discovery was an achievement like no other. So while I will always be a 90s kid, and a few of the 80s references were lost on me, understanding Jake’s youthful despair was effortless.
8-Bit Christmas didn’t keep me consistently engrossed – you can only be entertained by a child’s need for a games console for so long – however, the blanket message the book conveyed made up for any failings here. Unfortunately, characters other than Jake are two-dimensional, Josh’s annoying little sister particularly. As the eldest of three children I know I often felt my younger siblings were treated differently to myself, but Lizzie’s personality outstretched what I expect from a five-year old child.
If you are after a light hearted Christmas read I couldn’t recommend 8-Bit Christmas enough.
8-Bit Christmas by Kevin Jakubowski was published by DB Press and was kindly given to me via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review , thank you!