You Have a Match

Book review by
Mandie Caroll, Common Sense Media
You Have a Match Book Poster Image
Fun, heartfelt summer camp tale shows love in many forms.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Mentions of DNA testing to discover genetic heritage.

Positive Messages

Sometimes the hardest things can be the best things, too. Forgive friends and family their mistakes when they own up to them, and make sure you own up to yours. Communicate truthfully with the people you love; your needs are more likely to be met if you're honest about them. If there's something you love to do, follow that passion as far as you can.

Positive Role Models

Sixteen-year-old Abby Day struggles to find the support and answers she needs to move forward after loss and the discovery of a huge family secret. She grows in her confidence and ability to speak her truth, even when it's hard. Abby's best friend and love interest, Leo, is a perceptive and loyal friend to Abby, and a great role model of a young man. Everyone learns to bend a bit to connect more deeply. Abby, Savvy, and all four of their parents are White. Leo is Filipino. A major character has same-gender romantic relationships. 

Violence

Quick moments of fear/uncertainty about safety, including when Abby breaks her wrist after falling from a low branch. She and Savvy get trapped after a short fall off a cliff. 

Sex

Same-gender and opposite-gender couples kiss, briefly make out a couple times.

Language

Swear words used regularly, sometimes several times on a single page, including "s--t", "f--k" and variants, "a--hole," "hell," "damn," and "crap."

Consumerism

Brands tweens and teens will be familiar with are mentioned regularly. Instagram, and life on it, is a theme in particular, but also: Best Buy, Flamin' Hot Cheetos, Lululemon, Netflix, Luna Bar, and more.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The fact that some high schoolers drink and get high is referred to, and adults drink wine on occasion.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that You Have a Match, by Emma Lord, is the story of Abby Day, a 16-year-old whose life gets thrown into crisis by a DNA test and the older sister it turns up. The secret sisters meet up at a summer camp, hoping to get to the bottom of why Savvy was put up for adoption. But they do not get along at all, and Abby's ready to give up and go home. There are some very brief scary moments (a fall from a tree and down a cliff) but no violence, and limited kissing between opposite- and same-gender couples. There's lots of swearing, including "s--t" and "f--k" and their variants, and a couple uses of "a--hole". With the drama of huge family secrets coming to light, the relatability of self-exploration and discovery, and a touch of sweet romance, this novel will appeal to many teens.  

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What's the story?

YOU HAVE A MATCH is about outdoorsy Abby Day, a talented but shy nature photographer, struggling student, and big sister. Abby takes a DNA test to encourage her lifelong best friend and secret crush, Leo, to do one as well, since he was adopted. Abby is shocked to learn she has an older sister, Savvy, a semi-famous, yoga-posing, model-gorgeous Instagram star -- basically, Abby's polar opposite. The two plot to be at the same summer camp, Abby as a camper and Savvy as a counselor, to try to figure out why their parents kept them apart. Things do not go well. Savvy is a stickler for rules and is on Abby's case about gum-chewing and tree-climbing, and Leo, of all people, is the camp's co-chef, thwarting her hope to cure herself of her crush. There's also the fact that any day now, Abby's parents will come to drag her back home for lying about flunking a class, so she's in quite a time crunch to figure out at least some of the mess her life has become.

Is it any good?

This novel charms with the snarky wit of teen culture and the central concerns of growing up in the information age. Premised on the phenomenon of DNA services turning up hidden relatives and family secrets, You Have a Match is a sweet coming-of-age tale. It's populated with well-developed and relatable characters, like quirky, resilient Abby, and Leo, the kind of nonstereotypical boy character teen media needs. It's got a lush, beautifully constructed Pacific Northwest setting and a swoon-worthy romance. Its strengths allow readers to forgive the implausible setup of finding a secret sister who lives nearby and ending up at summer camp with her and your best friend/crush.

Unfortunately, the book centers the adoption of Savvy, who is White, and downplays Leo's adoption story. Adopted from the Philippines by White parents, Leo longs to connect with his birth family and culture, but we learn little more than that. Lord doesn't explore his transracial adoption experience with the depth it deserves, and though Leo eventually connects meaningfully with his Filipino identity, it's still a cringeworthy dynamic, given the overall focus on the fallout of Savvy's adoption. It's certainly a topic to discuss with readers. Aside from this, the book is a fast-paced, fun read with lots of teen appeal. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Abby grows over the course of You Have a Match. At the start of the story, what would you say Abby's biggest problems are? How does she learn to confront those problems? Can you relate to anything Abby goes through?

  • Communication in friendships and relationships is a big theme in this book. What makes talking about conflict with others hard, or easier? What skills do you need to learn in order to be a better communicator?

  • There are two adoption stories in this book: Savvy's and Leo's. Which gets more attention? Why do you think it gets more attention? Why might the author have included Leo's adoption story?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love camp stories and adoption tales

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