I remember Grade Five as being one of the hardest years of my school life. I’d just started at a new school and everyone already had firmly established friendship groups that didn’t seem to be able to make room for me. So The Friendship Matchmaker by Randa Abdel-Fattah was a book that really resonated with me as I’m sure it will with many young readers.
Lara Zany is Potts Court Primary School’s official Friendship Matchmaker. She is certain her Friendship Rules work. She can take the Loneliest Loser (LL) and help make them a best friend.
Lara has built herself a reputation for helping build great friendships, and helping friends get over their differences. She appears to have it ‘together’, but Lara has some friendship scars of her own – and these are what motivate her to help other people.
Although Lara’s methods aren’t always foolproof, her heart is in the right place – and although she does some things that make the reader cringe, she’s a character that endears herself to us very early on.
Lara tackles friendship problems that most readers would have come across in the playground at some time.
She’s writing a manual to help the friendless and shows empathy for fellow students, and understanding of the complexities of friendship.
She says, “If you’re reading this Manual it’s probably because you’re sick and tired of feeling lonely. Or maybe you have a friend but you’re not sure where you stand with them. Or maybe you’re the third wheel in a trio. Or can’t work out how to strike up a conversation with someone in the canteen line. Maybe you’re the one who gets picked last at sports.”
From the first page, Randa Abdel-Fattah has found common ground with her young readers.
Lara has a ‘heart of gold’ like she mentions a number of times in the book, but she runs into trouble when Emily Wong shows up. Emily breaks all the rules and to make matters worse, she has challenged Lara to a ‘Friendship Matchmaker’ contest that’s going to put her rules to the test.
Lara discovers that she has a lot in common with the socially awkward Tanya who she has to find a best buddy for if she’s going to win the challenge with Emily.
Lara has to decide whether to break one of her own rules and become best friends with Tanya. Not only that, she must decide whether she can move on from a bad personal friendship experience and whether she’s ready to take the emotional risk that comes with having a best friend.
The Friendship Matchmaker sensitively handles an important topic in young reader’s lives. Randa Abdel-Fattah uses humour to build the tension and bring the characters closer to the reader.
The Friendship Matchmaker is an entertaining read which tackles important subject matter. It is published by Scholastic.