Review: Playing with Matches by Suri Rosen

Review: Playing with Matches by Suri RosenPlaying with Matches by Suri Rosen
Published by ECW Press on September 30, 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 248
Format: eBook
Source: Library
AmazonThe Book Depository
Goodreads
four-stars

A cross between Jane Austen’s Emma, Dear Abby, and Yenta the matchmaker!

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 “MatchMaven,” 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.

Playing with Matches wouldn’t have been on my radar without Dahlia Adler, reccing ball and author extraordinaire. She recommended this book highly for the authentic voice and being a fabulous contemporary on top of that. Obviously, when Dahlia recommends a book to me and the description mentions Jane Austen, I’m sold. Though not quite what I was expecting, I’m very glad that I gave Playing with Matches a chance, because it’s a sweet, heartwarming book.

Raina Resnick takes some getting used to. She’s likable but also unlikable, which really is code for realistic. She’s smart but makes endless bad decisions. Despite having a lot of potential, she doesn’t apply herself, at least not to her studies, even though low grades will get her sent to live with her parents and home school, a fate she doesn’t want. Raina’s easily distracted, and she gets very caught up in matchmaking after she accidentally makes a good match.

The Emma comparison definitely fits because, after that one successful match, Raina thinks maybe she has what it takes to be a matchmaker. High on that success, she wants another for her sister. Emma, too, was well-intentioned, but she couldn’t make good matches without dealing with her own biases. Raina’s initial attempts are full of mistakes, as she tries to match people based on superficial qualifications. Over time, she obviously gets better at what she’s doing.

I expected Playing with Matches to be a romance for Raina, a YA romance. It’s not. She parallels Emma, sure, but she doesn’t have a Knightley, at least not at this point in time. However, there is romance for the other characters in the book, the ones she sets up (well, some of them). Normally, the lack of romance would bother me, especially when Goodreads listed romance as a genre and got my hopes up, but the very excellent family feels made up for that loss. Raina’s relationship with her Bubby was probably my favorite part of the book.

Through the course of her anonymous matchmaking as Matchmaven, Raina learns a great deal about others. To tie in to another Austen novel, she comes to realize that first impressions (and even subsequent ones) don’t necessarily reveal the truth of a person. People have depths, and the shallow judgments we make all the time can be completely wrong (as in the case of Mrs. Levine) or not all there is to the person (as with Dahlia—not to be confused with Dahlia Adler).

By being someone else, Raina also learns about herself. She knows her family is upset with her, and she sort of knows why, but, when they speak to her, they mostly lash out and lecture her. By talking with Leah as Matchmaven, she hears opinions of herself she wouldn’t otherwise have. People don’t tend to be completely honest to your face, which actually goes for the good and the bad. Finding out how others truly view her gives Raina the opportunity to see herself from outside and consider whether that’s who she wants to be. When I was in college, I overheard girls on my hall gossiping about me and it hurt, but it was also one of the most transformative experiences I had; that’s what Matchmaven is for Raina. Not only does a moment like this offer a different view on yourself, but it’s also one that you know is honest.

Initially, I wasn’t sure how I would feel about the Jewish matchmaking. My knowledge was limited to Fiddler on the Roof, which is not exactly a textbook. Playing with Matches gave me a view into how that works now. While I wouldn’t call it my ideal courting method personally, Playing with Matches shows how well it can work and that such a quick marriage meeting can be sweet and romantic. So yeah, I feel like this book really made something unfamiliar relatable and I love that.

Thanks as always to Dahlia for the recommendation. Playing with Matches is a great book for those who love character arcs, family feels, matchmaking, and want to read a book with excellent Jewish representation. Give this small press title some love, because it’s way too good to have so little attention!

Favorite Quote:

Leah and Mrs. Levine had told Matchmaven insights about me that I couldn’t have learned, because people just don’t say these things to your face.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

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3 responses to “Review: Playing with Matches by Suri Rosen”

  1. Joanne Levy says:

    I’m ashamed that as a Jew, a Canadian, AND as someone who has met Suri, I haven’t read this book. Soon to be rectified.
    Joanne Levy recently posted…How to Show Love to an AuthorMy Profile

  2. Pamela says:

    Dahlia always has fantastic recs–I don’t know how I missed this one either! It sounds great, and the fact that Raina doesn’t have her Knightley makes me even more intrigued! That’s pretty rare in YA. I’m off to find this.

  3. Oooh this sounds so interesting, and I’d never heard of it before! I am like 99% tempted, but I’m just a tiny bit hesitant because… she doesn’t get a romance for herself? That makes me so sad 🙁 Like, okay, obviously the book stands up regardless of that, but… shippity ship.

    Still… *adds to TBR list*
    Debby (Snuggly Oranges) recently posted…ARC Book Review: Vicarious by Paula StokesMy Profile

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