The Friendship Matchmaker is about Lara, who's her school's Friendship Matchmaker, dispensing words of wisdom to schoolmates about how to get and keep friends, and pairing them up, while writing what's sure to be a best-selling book on the subject. It's obvious that she's far too busy to have a close friend of her own, and that's fine with her - since an Incident, she wouldn't want one. But then she starts a competition against a new girl who disagrees with Lara's overly-prescriptive ways, and it has results she definitely didn't expect!
I picked this up ages ago on a whim and have never gotten around to reading it. I saw it when I was looking for a quick read a few days ago and decided to give it a try and ended up being really impressed. (It's a retelling of Emma, according to Goodreads, although I confess that my knowledge of Austen is poor enough that I didn't pick up on this when reading it!)
For me, this was a sweet, fun read with an interesting main character. Lara is clearly hiding a great deal of hurt behind her front of not needing a friend, and it's this which keeps her sympathetic even when she's doling out some advice which I'd definitely hope kids reading wouldn't take for themselves! The basic idea of the book, that there's a girl who people almost universally go to for advice on their friendships and that they'll follow her rules and instructions quite so ardently, is an implausible one but for me it worked because if you accept that conceit, everything else (in terms of the way the characters behave towards each other) is totally realistic and well-portrayed.
It's a short read which feels perhaps a tiny bit rushed towards the end, but Abdel-Fattah's writing style is a pleasure to read - it definitely has me interested in checking out her YA novels - and her characterisation is strong. Overall, it has a great message about being an individual but also standing up for the people around you, even if Lara herself probably wouldn't have felt that way at the start of the book!
A really enjoyable read that I'd recommend to fans of young MG fiction.