Fiona’s senior year of high school is off to an interesting start. After a brief (but thrilling) encounter with her massive crush Gabe, the senior class is shuffled together and given a year-long assignment: to participate in a marriage education program in which one girl will be partnered with one boy in their “relationship.” These marriages include the works: establishing an income, choosing a “home,” organizing budgets.
And trying not to kill each other.
Much to her dismay, Fiona’s partner is none other than Todd Harding, a goofball bully whose girlfriend Amanda has been torturing Fiona since grade school. Fiona’s best friend Marcie is buddied up with Johnny Mercer, a music-obsessed loner, in an arrangement that seems to be working out far better than Fiona’s match with Todd.
Because, you know, the guy’s a jerk. Fiona thinks being a male cheerleader would instill the guy with a little humility and sensitivity to others’ feelings, but not so much. Todd goes out of his way to make his faux relationship with Fiona, a sassy and honest teen, a nightmare. Once the constant pranks and barbs have gotten to be too much, Fiona must finally stand up to Todd and end the feud once and for all. For the sake of obtaining her high school diploma and keeping her sanity.
Kristin Walker’s A Match Made In High School is a funny, erudite look at high school and the drama and angst that accompanies teen relationships. When the novel could have derailed and become another campy young adult novel, Walker’s sharp writing kept it on track. Narrator Fiona is smart-mouthed and quick-witted and was, from start to finish, distinctly her own character. And a realistic one at that! Even when I wished Fiona would end her obsessing over Gabe, it was with a measure of chagrin that I realized I probably acted the exact same way about my crushes at seventeen. (OK, I know I did. It’s just a phase, I promise.)
The novel’s overall premise felt both unique and familiar to me at the same time — the classic trope of students paired up against their will, forced to work together on a project in which neither of them have much interest. I’ll cite Bella Swan matched as Edward Cullen’s lab partner, say. But it really didn’t bother me — mostly because the marriage education program? Pretty creative. The idea of kids having to examine what makes a “real,” healthy adult relationship function was pretty interesting, though we all know you can’t really teach someone about a partnership. And there is that whole pesky “love” angle to consider.
But Walker’s not making a case for the program; if anything, she might have been making a case against it. You can’t predict who or what will appeal to you, and love comes in very unique forms. A Match Made In High School didn’t take me in the classic, predictable route I expected, and I won’t ruin anything for you . . . but I was very surprised and pleased with the ultimate pair-ups. Because you know this has to have a happy ending, right? And I’m so glad it did. An entertaining, smart debut novel I’ll be happy to pass on to a friend!
4 out of 5!