High school senior Cameron Bright’s reputation can be summed up in one word: bitch. It’s no surprise she’s queen bee at her private L.A. high school—she’s beautiful, talented, and notorious for her cutting and brutal honesty. So when she puts her foot in her mouth in front of her crush, Andrew, she fears she may have lost him for good.
In an attempt to win him over, Cameron resolves to “tame” herself, much like Katherine in Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. First, she’ll have to make amends with those she’s wronged, which leads her to Brendan, the guy she labelled with an unfortunate nickname back in the sixth grade. At first, Brendan isn’t all that receptive to Cameron’s ploy. But slowly, he warms up to her when they connect over the computer game he’s developing. Now if only Andrew would notice…
But the closer Cameron gets to Brendan, the more she sees he appreciates her personality—honesty and all—and wonders if she’s compromising who she is for the guy she doesn’t even want.
Normally I am very picky when it comes to contemporaries. I enjoy them, they’re my guilty pleasures when I just want a solid read to fall in love with characters and the issues they have to overcome in their own lives, but very rarely do I do so in such a way that it makes me laugh and cry and feel for them the way I have with this book.
If I’m Being Honest features a protagonist I didn’t think I would love that much. Not only is she brutally honest to a fault – like, the word blunt has no meaning in her vocabulary – but she definitely falls under the category of mean girl more than your typical shy girl/people pleasers I find in YA contemporaries as our heroine. Yet, there is something refreshing about her because of this. The authors do not just write her as someone who is “bad” so simply, but is nuanced, especially in the way she becomes “better”.
A new love, a secret sister, and a summer she’ll never forget.
From the beloved author of Tweet Cute comes Emma Lord’s You Have a Match, a hilarious and heartfelt novel of romance, sisterhood, and friendship…
When Abby signs up for a DNA service, it’s mainly to give her friend and secret love interest, Leo, a nudge. After all, she knows who she is already: Avid photographer. Injury-prone tree climber. Best friend to Leo and Connie…although ever since the B.E.I. (Big Embarrassing Incident) with Leo, things have been awkward on that front.
But she didn’t know she’s a younger sister.
When the DNA service reveals Abby has a secret sister, shimmery-haired Instagram star Savannah Tully, it’s hard to believe they’re from the same planet, never mind the same parents — especially considering Savannah, queen of green smoothies, is only a year and a half older than Abby herself.
The logical course of action? Meet up at summer camp (obviously) and figure out why Abby’s parents gave Savvy up for adoption. But there are complications: Savvy is a rigid rule-follower and total narc. Leo is the camp’s co-chef, putting Abby’s growing feelings for him on blast. And her parents have a secret that threatens to unravel everything.
But part of life is showing up, leaning in, and learning to fit all your awkward pieces together. Because sometimes, the hardest things can also be the best ones.
“If you learn to capture a feeling, it’ll always be louder than words.”
A good dive into sisterly bonds and family secrets, it definitely leaned into those elements but took its sweet time building up to a point where we might fully care about the secrets it can unearth.
Abby is the kind of protagonist where I don’t fully understand so it can be hard to find sympathy for her in certain occasions. She has no plans for the future, demeans those who find work through sources she thinks isn’t the most fun (like, she asks, do influencers even love what they do?), and plays jokes that take it a step too far because someone told on her for breaking multiple camp rules.
That someone being her sister, the one she didn’t know she had. I fully love and understand Savvy a lot more, and this book may have been different if I got to see it through her lens instead. She was a rule follower but she also balanced compassion too, not just a cold, robotic figure who doesn’t care about anything else.
But let me backtrack a little and explain my thoughts on this book. I came in with super high expectations (yet again, this is a Reese’s book club choice so it must be halfway decent right? AND it’s Emma Lord). I don’t know why I thought this would be more focused on the romance, or at least half of the book would be about Savvy and half about Leo. It didn’t turn out that way.
I loved the bits of Leo’s characterization we got to see. He unfortunately was more off-page than I had hoped while Savvy took centre stage during most of the book. He kept the peace but still spoke his mind when he wanted to steer Abby away from another harebrained scheme that bordered on reckless. He was a brilliant budding chef (I’ve been watching MasterChef lately and I could just picture Leo in such a competition) and teased his friends good-naturedly.
So the romance is limited, and pretty cliched if you think about it. I like you but am too afraid to tell you. He likes me but just didn’t find the right time to tell me. Timing is always off, but will it ever be right? It almost felt pointless to have the romance aspect of it except to be the excuse for Abby’s perpetual anxiety. I don’t feel it had to be this way. There are plenty of other things she could and was worried about.
While the pacing was slow for a lot of it, I did eventually grow curious about Abby and Savvy’s history and how their separation came to be. It had good resolution, even if a little predictable, but it was nice to see how family can work things out together with better communication.
However, if its purpose was to give me the feels, it also fell short on that. The only aspect of this book that gave me any sort of tingle was Abby’s grandfather who had passed away prior to this story.
Usually I’m not sad when people bring up Poppy, because I’m already thinking about him most of the time. He’s in the weight of his old camera strapped to my shoulder, in the periphery of every photo I take, squinting at the same views and humming his approval.
Maybe I’m just sentimental, especially about grandparents due to my own upbringing, but having Poppy there was a good touch to a book that just fell short emotionally for me on every other level. I just couldn’t bring myself to care tremendously unless I put in a lot of effort to.
If you’re looking for a sweet romantic read, there are many out there (including Emma’s debut) that are by far more well-suited to that. This book is about family, and the secrets we keep and the issues we bury until they come exploding out. If you come into knowing that’s what you’ll get, it may be better for you.
But even then, don’t expect the waterworks to come exploding.
You Have a Match sounds like it has the makings of a good romance and heartfelt sister reunion, but the product just fell short from its description. The focus definitely was on Abby and Savvy’s family secrets (how did she become adopted?!), while the crush on Leo was just relegated to the anxious headspace Abby constantly carries around with her. A lot more thinking about him than actually talking to him here. While the family aspect could be entertaining, you have to invest pretty deep into the book to get the answers you’ve come for. This wasn’t the worst book by far, but it definitely didn’t meet my high expectations for being a Reese’s book club pick.
In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned–from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.
Enter Mia Warren–an enigmatic artist and single mother–who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.
When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town–and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs.
Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of secrets, the nature of art and identity, and the ferocious pull of motherhood–and the danger of believing that following the rules can avert disaster.
I don’t know what I was expecting when I picked up this book, but I was honestly blown away by what I read! Immediately after picking it up, my friend told me: it’s slow-paced, but with amazing character development (I totally agree). Well alright, I thought, I can handle slow-paced. But in all honesty, I was fascinated by the story from the get-go, and didn’t look back at all. It was a complete page-turner for me, and this novel truly has a lot to offer.
Little Fires Everywhere follows a couple of protagonists, but it mainly follows the story of teenaged Pearl and her mother Mia moving into Shaker Heights, a peculiar community with tightly controlled rules and regulations to maintain the image of a perfect community. They rent a house from the affluent Richardsons, and slowly but surely, the juxtaposed family lives (think Parasite!) mix together until the point where one cannot tell whose has melted into whose. This idyllic situation gets torn asunder when the community is divided on the custody of an Asian baby – which is better for the baby: a struggling single biological mother who abandoned her or an affluent white family so very desperate for a child?
This novel truly explores all the intricacies of such a situation, and just how complex it can get between the ethics, legalities and human empathy. Meanwhile, trouble stirs between the Richardsons and their tenants when the town conflict arises. Little Fires Everywhere is truly an apt title (and is in fact, mentioned on like, the third page) and fires and flames are a huge theme throughout this whole story. Ng makes great use of imagery and symbolism, and I truly enjoyed how the story was so cleverly woven together. If you keep an eye out, there are so many little tidbits to catch, and what could be more exciting than all these Easter eggs left for you by the author?!
As part of the Asian community myself, I quickly found myself wondering what I myself would have done or thought in that situation, and I was honestly just as stumped as everyone in the book. I can understand both sides, and see the unfortunate situation that has arisen between two equally desperate parties. I thought this issue was well addressed and really explored an issue that is more rare in the literary world, and so in that sense I am glad that Ng brings it to life in such an interesting manner. I think regardless of race and background, you too will find yourself caught in the situation presented, unable to fully decide which side should have the upper hand. Find out for yourself on this exciting adventure!
There’s also a TV series based on this book (I believe only on Hulu) – if any of you have read the book and watched the series, let me know! I am unable to access Hulu here, but I would love to know how the adaptation is. Please comment below if you know!
Another book I would highly recommend! Little Fires Everywhere follows the story of a poor nomadic family renting from an affluent one in a quirky town full of rules, which ends up divided over the custody of an abandoned baby. Full of deep characters that are explored ingeniously, and complicated intertwining relationships, this novel also includes some discussion of racial issues and politics! I would especially recommend this to Asian readers, as I think the conflict at hand would be truly relatable, and is not a topic often explored. But regardless, I found that this was a beautiful and evocative story, truly highlighting the highs and low of humanity.