Whereas Emma Lord’s debut novel Tweet Cute updated You’ve Got Mail for the 21st century, her follow-up You Have A Match is a smart, modern take on The Parent Trap. Sixteen year-old Abby Day only takes one of those Ancestry-DNA-type tests out of solidarity with her best friend Leo, on whom she also happens to have a huge crush. Leo was adopted from the Philippines, and while his parents are supportive of him trying to find out more about his birth family, his sister Carla is far more ambivalent, hence his need for moral support. When testing turns up nothing for him but informs Abby that she actually has an older sister living in the next town over, she’s absolutely flabbergasted. The eldest of four kids herself, she doesn’t understand how it’s possible that 18 year-old Savannah Tully could genetically be her full sibling.
Savvy, as she’s known, is also everything accident-prone, academically-indifferent Abby isn’t. A polished Instagram star with great hair and a wealthy family, she’s just as confused as Abby, and insists that Abby come spend time with her that summer at Camp Reynolds so they can get to know one another better and figure out how all this happened. Abby is desperate for a break from her parents’ strict regime of SAT tutoring, so she accepts the invitation while dodging summer school. Little does she know that Leo is going to be at camp as well, and that this is going to be a summer of revelations and heartbreak that could turn out to be the most important summer of her life.
I had pretty low expectations going into this book, but I was blown away by how delightful it was to follow these fallible, relatable characters as they desperately tried to figure out who they were and who they loved and what it means not only to be family but also to be friends. Abby is constantly saying the wrong thing — forgivable in a 16 year-old — but she’s also extremely conflict-avoidant, and it was fascinating and heart-breaking to read how she reacted when she and Savvy finally confronted their parents, initially blaming herself for “tricking” them but exploding later in an anger born of an entirely understandable vulnerability. It’s so nice how she feels like a real person, and not a zero to sixty stand-in for an author’s grinding plot axe, as is unfortunately common in both the YA and romance genres to which this book belongs. It was also nice how Ms Lord presented Abby and Savvy’s parents as people who’d made awful mistakes but who with time were capable of overcoming the past in order to mend broken relationships.
I really appreciated the side plot regarding Leo’s attempts to learn more of his background and birth culture, as well. It’s nice that he and Mickey, another Asian character, were never exoticized even as they played important romantic roles in the narrative. It was also pretty great how Savvy being lesbian was presented and treated so matter-of-factly. It’s so heartening to think of this generation of kids growing up with one less thing to have to feel unnecessarily bad about — it’s a process, but if we’re lucky, it’ll keep being true for more and more people as time goes on.
Books like this give me hope for the future, that we can find family, make new friends and fix old friendships, while moving forward together with honesty, accountability and compassion. You Have A Match may not be one of the best YA novels I’ve ever read, but it’s certainly a lovely, thoughtful YA romance that I greatly enjoyed. Bonus points for the hilarious callouts to social media and pop culture memes throughout.
You Have A Match by Emma Lord was published today January 12th, 2021 by Wednesday Books and is available from all good booksellers, including
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