Playing With Matches by Suri Rosen - When 16-year-old Raina Resnick is expelled from her Manhattan private school, she’s sent to live with her strict aunt-but Raina feels like she’s persona non grata no matter where she goes. Her sister, Leah, blames her for her broken engagement, and she’s a social pariah at her new school. In the tight-knit Jewish community, Raina finds she is good at one thing: matchmaking! As the anonymous “Match Maven,” Raina sets up hopeless singles desperate to find the One.
Can she find the perfect match for her sister and get back on her good side, or will her secret life catch up with her?
In this debut novel, Suri Rosen creates a comic and heartwarming story of one girl trying to find happiness for others, and redemption for herself. From Goodreads.
Playing With Matches by Suri Rosen is a book I've had my eye on for a while, so when it came up in Dahlia Adler's January Book Club, it was the perfect opportunity for me to finally pick it up!
When Raina is expelled from school and has to live with her aunt and uncle, it's the final straw for her older sister Leah's fiancé Ben, and he ends the engagement. Leah is completely heartbroken and cannot bear to talk to Raina. It doesn't help Raina that she is despised at school. When she accidentally matches up a woman she meets on the bus with a colleague of her uncle, she ends up inundated with emails to her anonymous Match Maven email address from people asking her to match them with someone. In her tight knit Jewish community, word travels fast, and people are desperate for her help. But Raina doesn't really know the first thing about matching people, and only really considers trying when she receives an email from her sister. What if amongst all these emails is the perfect man for Leah? What if she can help Leah be happy again? Perhaps their relationship will be repaired.
Unfortunately, I didn't enjoy this book as much as I had hoped. I liked Raina; I found her voice pretty funny, and she genuinely cares about her sister, and those she's trying to set up. She does end up doing a pretty good job, but sometimes things go wrong. It keeps happening, and I just found it really far-fetched. At first it was amusing how ridiculous things would go for Raina and her matches, but after a while, it just became too much for me. There was a lot of eye-rolling, and I ended up getting a little fed up with it all. But that's just me, I'm sure a lot of other people would find it really quite funny how often and how strangely things go up the spout for Raina.
Saying that, I loved the Jewish community Raina lived in, and I found I really enjoyed reading understanding and learning more about Jewish culture and traditions, and in such an accessible way! I've read at least one book before with prominent Jewish characters, but very few of elements of the Jewish culture and traditions were explained for non-Jewish readers. But with Playing With Matches, non-Jewish readers will understand exactly what's going on without there being so much explanation that it would turn off Jewish people being represented in this book because they already know all about it all. It was really balanced, and I found it so fascinating! I would have enjoyed learning more, but I think the balance was right. Playing With Matches doesn't read like a book about exclusive Jewish teenage experience, it's still a really relatable story for teenagers, Jewish or not.
All in all, Playing With Matches was a good book! It was mostly humorous and fascinating, if a little far-fetched at times. I'd definitely recommend it for those who enjoy slap-stick.
Published: 9th September 2014
Publisher: ECW Press
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