Review: Emma Emmets, Playground Matchmaker

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Emma Emmets, Playground MatchmakerEmma Emmets, Playground Matchmaker by Julia DeVillers
Published by Razorbill on June 27, 2013
Genres: Contemporary, Retelling, Romance
Pages: 240
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher

How will Emma make her mark this school year? Will she…
a) Bring love to her fellow classmates
b) Become the most popular girl in school
c) Finally meet her crush, teen singing sensation Jake LaDrake

On the first day of school, Emma Emmets surveys her classmates and sees plenty of shared interests, crushes not being acted upon, and people too afraid of cooties to know what they're missing. Emma tries her hand at uniting lonely Leah and nerdy Otto . . . and a matchmaker is born.

After successfully matching bullies, dorks, athletes, and weirdos, she’s ready for her most high-profile client yet: Isla, a fourth grader so popular she hangs out with the fifth graders. But when Emma's efforts go terribly awry, she finds herself with a powerful new enemy.

Suddenly life on the playground is horribly wrong. With all her classmates blissfully paired off, Emma's left with no one! Is the matchmaker destined to be alone?

First Sentence: “Being a fourth grader definitely felt different, Emma decided as she walked along the sidewalk toward the elementary school.”

One of the most delightful things about middle grade fiction is the focus on friendship and family over romance, which tends to dominate a lot of young adult reads. In this case, though, romance is the name of the game, at least on the surface. I was a little bit skeptical of the premise, but Emma Emmets, Playground Matchmaker turned out to be totally adorable, full of nerdy jokes, cuteness and allusions to some of my favorite books.

Though the blurb doesn’t mention this, probably because kids wouldn’t much care, I am one hundred percent convinced that Emma Emmets, Playground Matchmaker is a retelling of Jane Austen’s Emma. How awesome is that? SUPER AWESOME. Basically, Emma inadvertently matchmakes Annie and Henry at summer camp, and, when Annie credits her skills, Emma decides this could be just what she needs to make something of herself. Em has been pretty unpopular, because of the horrifyingly EMbarrassing nicknames Isla, the most popular girl in their grade, had given her. Now, she plans to tout her matchmaking skills to make people happy (and to boost her own place in elementary school society).

Like Emma Woodhouse, Emma Emmets has mostly good intentions, but doesn’t necessarily have a great grasp on the whole matchmaking thing, because she’s not all that familiar with romance and gets a little too caught up in herself. Still, she’s pretty successful at matchmaking on the whole. All the boyfriends and girlfriends in fourth grade did creep me out a little bit (there weren’t many couples until middle school in my day – most of us still thought the opposite gender was kinda gross), but I like that DeVillers put an emphasis on matchmaking friendships too, not just romantic relationships. The overall message really was about helping kids find kindred spirits, and it really shook up the school’s cliques and brought people together.

Emma has a little romance of her own going, that also follows a sort of Jane Austen line. The new boy, Daniel Dunne, makes fun of Emma on the very first day. Since he’s rude to her, she decides she hates him too and considers him an enemy. Obviously they’re not, and they have a cute little flirtation going, though I love that it’s kept very simple and not overly emotion-y.

The writing didn’t do too much for me though. DeVillers writes in third person, but it really reads like first person. I am just not a fan of when third person narration is full of exclamation points and ellipses. I prefer my narration a bit more staid and for the thoughts of the MC to be delineated separately. I’m sure this won’t bother the intended audience, but it was an annoyance for me.

Emma Emmets, Playground Matchmaker is a funny, sweet story about the trials and tribulations of elementary school friendships and relationships. Though not an ideal read for older readers, the Jane Austen connections were enough to keep me happy!

Favorite Quote:

“‘That’s not a stick, that’s my wizard wand,’ Marshall said, waving it in the air.
‘Oh, my dog knows that,’ Jane smiled. ‘Her name’s Ginny Weasley. She knows it’s a wizard wand. She just thinks it’s hers.'”

8 responses to “Review: Emma Emmets, Playground Matchmaker”

  1. aww I love julia deVillers! I absolutely ADORE her Tuned In series! Anyhow, I really do agree with you about how middle grade books always talk about family/friendship over romance, which is always refreshing! I’m glad you enjoyed this one! Sounds like a great re-telling!
    – Farah @ MajiBookshelf

  2. Lyn Kaye says:

    This one looks SO CUTE!

  3. Amy says:

    This sounds cute, but I can’t get behind the romance in fourth grade. That does seem pretty young. I don’t think I had my first boyfriend until like 7th grade maybe. I’m glad that it really focuses on friendships too though. Great review. I’m glad that you liked it!

  4. Renae M. says:

    Well. Based on the title, I would say heck yes is this Jane Austen related. Cannot be a coincidence. Plus the plot sounds similarish also.

  5. Is it wrong that the grumpy orange cat on the cover alone makes me want to read this novel?

    All joking aside, I would love to read this book! I don’t want to live in a world where Jane Austen isn’t a relevant addition to almost discussion. While Emma wasn’t one of my personal favourites, I love the idea of an author adapting it to fit the premise of a middle grade novel! The plot really does sound similar and I can certainly see why you came to the conclusion you did.

  6. A little MG Emma retelling? How adorable! And yes, the focus on friendship and family in MG is always a treat to read… though I think I’m going to agree with Amy. 4th grade? I don’t even remember boy/girlfriend couples in my middle school. Sorry that the writing didn’t work for you, though it’s awesome that the book was still a solid read for you.

  7. This is such a cute looking story. Thanks for the review 🙂

  8. Kayla Beck says:

    Okay, that quote is so cute, I might just have to squeeze this one in! I need another fantastic MG that is as good as Destiny, Rewritten.

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