Playing With Matches by Suri Rosen
Genre: YA Contemporary |Diversity: Jewish MC | My Rating: 4/5 stars
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
“When 16-year-old Raina Resnick is expelled from her Manhattan private school, she’s sent to live with her strict aunt. Her sister, Leah, blames her for her broken engagement, and Raina is also a social pariah at her new school. However, in her tight-knit Jewish community, Raina finds she is good at one thing: matchmaking! As she continues to act as a cross between Jane Austen’s Emma, Dear Abby and Yenta – the matchmaker from Fiddler on the Roof – Raina’s double life soon has her falling asleep in class.”
Have you ever screwed up royally and been willing to do anything to make things right? Have you ever tried to repair the damage, only to create more? Have you ever wondered if you’d make it as a matchmaker? Then this book is for you!
Raina’s snarky narration is everything.
Our main character’s voice sucked me in from the very beginning on this one. Raina fits the bill as my favorite type of character: she’s snarky and a little messed up—and we get to find out why. After a childhood spent moving around with her parents, they finally let her settle into a school in Manhattan, where Raina got to really make friends for the first time. Unfortunately, Raina screwed up that opportunity, getting herself kicked out of school, so she’s shipped off to Toronto for her last chance with an even stricter aunt. Now, she’s been labeled a troublemaker by nearly everyone: her aunt, the school officials, her classmates—and even her sister Leah.
Jewish community & family focus
I loved reading this book for the insight into the tight-knit Jewish community. While the plot doesn’t really focus on the religious practice, I got to learn about Jewish culture, particularly their marriage practices. Raina’s world revolves around her family—her strict Aunt Mira, who’s always getting onto Raina no matter what she does, her heart-broken sister Leah, and Mira’s mother-in-law, Bubby, the hilarious trouble-making older woman who throws wild parties and gorges on salty snacks.
Ultimately, this is a story about community and family—about how far you would go to correct your mistakes, how hard you would fight for your sister’s affections, and how hard it can be to change people’s perspective of you.
hilarious match-making mishaps & shenanigans
This is a book about romance, but it’s not a romance. Raina’s main focus is finding matches for her clients, who email her anonymously. At first, matchmaking is an accident, but over the course of the novel Raina really immerses herself in trying to make other people happy—from Tamara, the woman she meets on the bus, to Professer Kellman, the widower she meets by accident, and everyone in between.
Raina’s matchmaking mishaps are absolutely hilarious. I don’t want to spoil any of the fun, but let me just say that I was laughing out loud at various parts. Raina tries so hard to find happiness for others and often finds herself in ridiculous scenarios. I really appreciated that Raina herself isn’t interested in romance, but rather is working tirelessly to help others, almost without realizing how selfless she’s being. This is a story of growing up, but Raina doesn’t even recognize how much growth she’s really doing until the end.
Although the plot sometimes felt forced—in that the situations were so absurd they didn’t seem fully realistic—I ultimately really enjoyed reading this book.
Have you read Playing With Matches? Got any great recs for books with Jewish protagonists? Let me know in the comments! Thanks for reading!