Playing with Matches is written by Suri Rosen, published by ECW Press, September 2014, 248 pages
In Playing with Matches I expected to find a typical YA novel. What I received was so much more; a novel deep in mystery, humour, kindness and mysticism. Based in Toronto, via way of New York, Raina Resnick is a 16-year-old who has fallen off her own personal path. Something every teenager can relate to in some way or another. But Rain has a lot of other things going on too. Her parents are in Hong Kong, so she has been sent to live with her strict aunt in Toronto. Her older sister Leah ends up in Toronto too, as her wedding was recently cancelled by the groom. Yet Leah blames a lot of her problems on Raina and is not speaking to her. And if that is not enough, Raina was kicked out of her previous school and is finding it not so easy to forget about her earlier misdeeds.
Playing with Matches has many layers and always kept me guessing throughout the entire story. It is real yet hopeful, cute yet quirky and light yet meaningful. I also learned a lot about the Orthodox Jewish Community, which is something that I honestly did not know that much about. I always find it very interesting to step deep into another culture and learn about something you might not have known about before. Reading something like this opens your mind a little. I learned that the Orthodox Jewish Community still uses matchmakers to set up fulfilling life long marriages and Raina accidentally finds herself in this role. And it might just be the first thing she is good at in a long time! Can she keep it secret and make more successful matches? And most importantly can she make Leah a good match and allow her sister be happy again?
This novel has a wide range of interesting characters, from Bubby, the getting into trouble grandmother, to the kind-hearted professor lonely for companionship. Raina learns about herself and explores these people with kindness. The lesson might be everyone deserves to be happy.
I am surprised to learn that this is Rosen’s first novel, as the depth of the characters is intense and the story is fast moving. I was laughing out loud and I had a hard time putting the book down. I would recommend the book to anyone, young or old, it is a fun paced romp with a lot of heart.