The Parent Trap with fewer hijinks and more teen angst, You Have a Match is ultimately a sweet, feel-good book about sisterhood and friendship. When a mail-in DNA test reveals that avid photographer Abby Day and Instagram influencer Savvy Tully are sisters, both teens are understandably upset that their families have lied to them all their lives. Family photos reveal that Savvy’s mom used to be friends with Abby’s parents, and the girls decide to go to the same summer camp to get to know each other better and try to suss out the truth.
I love the relationship between Abby and Savvy, and the way their sisterly bond developed over the novel. Abby’s 17 and Savvy’s 18, which means both girls have almost two decades of trying (and failing) to live up to parental expectations to fuel a sibling rivalry. The novel is told through Abby’s perspective, so we get a strong sense of how much pressure she feels from her parents to improve her failing grades, and how little she feels they care about her photography. Her jealousy over Savvy — by all appearances the rule-abiding, academically inclined daughter her parents have always wanted — is relatable, and it isn’t until later in the book that we learn Savvy has her own insecurities about living up to her parents’ expectations for her.
One of my favourite passages is from when Abby realizes she no longer feels weird hearing Savvy refer to her as ‘sister’:
Maybe it’s hearing it like this, mid-rant with a tinge of annoyance, that finally makes it fit — she throws out the word sister like I throw out the word brother, with the carelessness of someone who’s allowed to be careless because they know that sister or brother isn’t going anywhere. [79%]
I love this, because it encapsulates so perfectly the secret ingredient that signifies the deepest relationship: the ability to be careless because you know the other person is always going to be there. What better way to sum up sisterhood?
The novel also has a couple of best friend / mutual pining type romances that were sweet, but not as prominent a feature of the story as I’d expected them to be. There was also a couple random attempts at love triangles that, to me, felt shoehorned in, and weren’t really necessary. And there’s a rather selfish act done by one of the side characters to their two best friends, which I thought should have been dealt with a bit more than it was. (We see this character apologize to one of the friends, and that friend accept the apology, but given what was done, I feel like bringing all three friends together to hash it out would have been more fitting, and a more meaningful apology.)
Beyond that, I love the characters of Leo and Mickey, who are both Filipino, and both avid chefs. Leo and his bio-sister Carla are adopted, and it’s Leo’s search for his birth family that sends Abby to doing the DNA test in the first place. Leo’s DNA test is a bust, but he manages to find family anyway with Mickey and her parents and cousins, which was just really sweet. I love how Leo and Mickey bond over food, and particularly Mickey’s skill at cooking Filipino dishes (her parents own a restaurant). There’s a fun scene where Mickey’s cousins teach Leo Tagalog and trick him into saying “eat shit” instead of “good morning”. It threw me off at first, because the Tagalog phrase used was a literal translation of “eat shit” instead of an actual Tagalog colloquialism. But on the other hand, I can also imagine kids doing it as a prank, since the joke isn’t to get Leo to actually curse but to say something silly.
I also love the Filipino food featured! Leo and Mickey cook up dishes like turon, pochero, and mechado, which I absolutely love, because these aren’t dishes I see often in North American media. The few times I’ve seen Filipino food onscreen or on the page, it’s typically lumpia or adobo, so the fact that Leo and Mickey make other dishes got me excited. That being said, Leo put crushed Hot Cheetos into the mechado, which okay, gives it a nice kick, and I appreciate that the author did put thought into the flavour and colour of the dish. But also: as big a fan I am of Leo himself, I’m less keen on his cooking. 🙂
Thank you to Raincoast Books for an egalley of this book in exchange for an honest review.