Books & Literature

Book Review: You Have A Match, by Emma Lord

you have a match

YOUNG ADULT: When A DNA service reveals Abby has a secret sister, shimmery-haired Instagram star Savannah Tully, it’s hard to believe they’re from the same planet, never mind the same parents.

An easy-read reminder of awkward teenage years wrapped in questionable maturity levels and a wide variety of subplots.
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There was an incident. A Big Embarrassing Incident or BEI for short. Ever since then, Abby Day and her best friend and secret crush, Leo, have been trekking around in the land of awkward. In the hopes of wiping both of their brains clear of any BEI memories, Abby agrees to go in on purchasing a three-for-one deal on DNA tests with Leo and their other best friend, Connie. When the results swoosh onto Abby’s phone, she is dumbfounded to find that she has a sister. 

Savannah Tully, better known as @HowToStaySavvy, is an 18-year-old smoothie-drinking yoga-doing Instagram influencer and the complete opposite of class-flunking, non-photo-sharer younger sister Abby. There has to be a story behind why the girls have never met nor heard of each other. Together, they concoct a plan to get to the bottom of it at summer camp, but like any well-intended plan, there’s more love, heartbreak, and surprises to the story than what they initially thought. 

There’s a reason You Have A Match was selected as Reese Witherspoon’s Young Adult Book Club’s pick for Winter ’21. It falls easily into the YA genre with all the insecurities and unsteadiness that everyone feels in their teens. The carefree mentality of teenage summers is just so stinking relatable as we follow Abby and the gang to summer camp where they snap photos with bunkmates and quickly make lifelong friends over terrible cafeteria food. Older readers will be flooded with their own cringe-worthy memories of embarrassing things they said to their crushes whenever Abby talks to Leo. Try to restrain yourself from wanting to grab the characters and shake them while screaming, “Stop caring so much about what everyone else thinks! Trust me, I wish I did!”

The fluctuations in Abby’s maturity level are frustrating, though it is unclear if they’re due to the author’s choice or the reader’s cognitive bias. Upon finding out she has a sister, Abby chooses not to confront her lying parents. Instead, she manipulates them into allowing her to attend summer camp where she and Savvy vow to get to the bottom of their family mystery. However, after her first day at camp and a small squabble, she is so crumpled that she pleads to go home because she just can’t bear to stay one more night. A more consistent maturity level would have been more desirable in the novel, or perhaps this reader has simply forgotten what they were like at 16.

If you don’t find awkward teenage love plots intriguing, you’re still in luck. There are plenty of other subplots to get caught up in. Each character has their own complicated circumstances like cooking school dramas, family expectations, and even a darker side of dealing with grief. There is also LGBTIQ+ representation with two of the female characters involved in relationships with women.

Although there are many mini-plots spinning at once, author Emma Lord makes it easy on the reader by leaving bread crumbs in subtle, non-intrusive ways. A prime example of Lord’s stealth is when Abby and Connie go their separate ways for the summer, but Abby’s internal monologue is a steady reminder of Connie and how she is intertwined in a specific subplot. Clues like this make You Have a Match an easy read that you can put down and pick up at any time and not have to think too hard about how the characters fit together.

Based on the online DNA testing and the prominent use of social media, You Have a Match would appear to be set in the present day. Yet the 16-18-year-old characters feel more like Millennials (born from 1981 – 1996) than Gen Zs (born from 1997 – 2012) due to their social media choice. The characters are only portrayed using Instagram as their primary social media platform. It is hard to believe that a summer camp full of Gen Zs today wouldn’t be obsessively filming themselves grooving to the latest trend on TikTok or sending triple-chinned selfies to their friends on Snapchat. The exclusion of these popular social media platforms brings into question the time period of the book and misses the mark on the unique culture of what makes the Gen Z generation. 

It should be a universal rule that if social media is involved in a novel and a specific account name is mentioned, that account must exist in real life. Given Instagram plays such a huge role in You Have a Match, it was a stroke of genius to have Abby and Savvy’s accounts, @SavingTheAbbyDay and @HowToStaySavvy, created in real life. The accounts don’t have many posts, but the few photos they do have are tagged in the locations spoken about in the book. As a reader, we are constantly looking for ways to continue on the magic of a story long after the last page is turned and introducing the real-world visual aspect of Instagram is a beautiful way to do so. Authors and publishers, take note! This is what modern-day readers want.

Reviewed by Alessa Young

Distributed by: Pan Macmillan 
Released: 27 April 2021
RRP: $19.99

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