Monday, January 19, 2015

Matchmaker, Matchmaker: Playing with Matches by Suri Rosen

Here's some advice if you plan on taking the Number 7 bus down Bathurst Street at 7:36 a.m. Do not sit downwind from the woman eating the industrial grade tuna fish.

I took a deep breath and squeezed myself through the maze of human heat machines to the rear of the bus. Craning my neck, I caught sight of the ginger-haired woman reading in a seat next to the sealed window. I plopped into the empty seat beside her.

Gingie-Locks eyes were trained on the book resting in her lap. I glanced over her shoulder and noticed the word "love" sprinkled across the page. The title was written in a tiny font at the top of the page. I leaned over and pretended to adjust the bow on my right shoe so I could make out the name of the book. Hope and Inspiration for the Single Soul.

Sixteen-year-old Raina has just be expelled for an cruel email prank from the New York High School where she had tons of popular friends and shipped off to her Aunt Bernstein in Toronto. With no friends, Aunt Mira's terrible cooking, her Grandma Bubby, who sleeps through reruns of 1970s sitcoms, and "family friend" Jeremy, a lonely bachelor lawyer dorky and desperate enough to show up nightly for one of Mira's drab dinners, her exile in Toronto is bad enough, but when her older sister Leah shows up with the news that her wedding is off because her fiance finds Rain's prank proof of poor family values, Rain feels permanently trapped in the role of Resnick family pariah.

Rain is lonely enough to make friends with Tamara, the ginger-haired woman on her bus, who confesses that she is twenty-seven and has no marriage prospects, practically a hopeless spinster for a Jewish girl who is supposed to be married with children by age 25.

Suddenly Rain has an inspiration. What if she fixes up the pretty and perfectly nice Tamara with the annoyingly needy Jeremy? Two problems solved, perhaps.

And the match works. A whirlwind courtship begins. Tamara begs Rain to email her advice as the romance proceeds, and Rain, buoyed with her success, sets up an anonymous email under the name of, (safe from Aunt Mira's prying eyes) and soon after, Rain gets an unexpected email:

Dear Matchmaven,I'm hoping you can help me. I've had such an awful time getting dates. I'm twenty-nine, attended the University of Toronto and work as an occupational therapist. I got your email address from Tamara, and I understand you work anonymously. Will you please, please help me?

Thanks, Deb Cohen

On the same day Matchmaven gets another pleading email, from the desperate Daniel Sharfstein, age 30, and Rain thinks, Why not?

And before she realizes what she's doing, Rain is beset with lovelorn single souls, begging to be fixed up by the marvelous Matchmaven. Soon she has so many clients that she asks Dahlia, the nerdy classmate assigned to help her "integrate socially" at school, to design a spreadsheet to keep track of her matches. The job begins to take over her life, and even with her new assistant, she's up half the night coaching her clients and, unfortunately, failing most of her classes.

And the match that she wants most to make, finding the jilted Leah the perfect husband, is still to be made.

Suri Rosen's Playing With Matches (ECW Press, 2014) develops a novel premise for a high school heroine, involved not with her own romances, but the unwed twenty- and thirty-somethings of Toronto. In a nice twist, Rain even pulls off a soul-mate match between a seventy-something widower professor and her nemesis, Mrs. Levine, the dragon-lady principal of Maimonides High School, and it is only at their wedding that Matchmaven at last makes the match she is seeking for Leah.

Loosely but deliciously plotted and unflaggingly entertaining, the narration of Rain's double-life adventures is frantic, funny, and finally heart-warming, even promising, perhaps, a sequel, a catch readers won't want to miss. "Fizzy, funny and ultimately redemptive!" quoth Kirkus Reviews.

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  • Sounds like a female version of Gordon Korman (Bugs Potter etc.). Which is actually pretty darn good.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:35 PM  

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