"Yen wonderfully mixes the plot of Jane Austen's Emmawith a modern heroine who loves to program. This combination creates an exceptionally blendednovel featuring romance, friendship, and computer programming that young adult readers willenjoy." —Booklist Reviews
- Pages: 320 Pages
- Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
- Imprint: Razorbill
- ISBN: 9780593117552
An Excerpt From
If love is one of life’s greatest mysteries, then you want the best detective on the case.
Okay, so maybe I’m not the Sherlock Holmes of relationships yet, but it’s only a matter of time. After all, there’s something I know that most people don’t:
Love is amazing, frustrating, and often complicated, but what it isn’t . . . is magic.
Love is facial symmetry, body proportions, and hormones. It’s sizing up the person in front of us in seconds, looking for the right combination of physical features and personality traits we want to pass on to our future children. Love is nothing more than our brains doing math, and unsurprisingly, some people need more help than others.
That’s what my great--aunt Rose tells me, anyway, and she’s one of the best—-or, if you ask her,the best—-matchmakers you’ll find outside of Asia. For her, love comes down to the numbers. Height. Weight. Sun and lunar signs. Your family’s lineage. Howmuch money you make. What zip code you live in. Even how many exes you have. All of those things matter when you’re looking foryour soul mate, the one person who is supposed to be your better half and complete your world.
(I’m not so sure about the last part, but that’s a discussion for another day.)
I admit I’m still new to this whole love thing. The closest I’ve come was watching my brother James fall for his girlfriend, Liza, last summer. Auntie Rose said she knew it was a good match because he went through her “Four Stages of Love”—-confusion, denial, fear, and concession. Considering James hasn’t stopped smiling since they met, I suggested happiness be added as thefifth, but Auntie Rose dismissed it, saying I still have a lot tolearn. Nonetheless, I do come from a distinguished line of skilled “mathematicians,” and there’s no doubt I’ve inherited the matchmaking talent. Several of my friends would still be dating Netflix if it wasn’t for me.
Last year, Auntie Rose decided it was time I start training to take my place as the next generation of matchmakers in the family. Infact, she loves recounting that at just six years old, I pointed to a groomsman and a bridesmaid at a wedding and predicted they would get married. How much of this is true is up for debate, but she’s certain it was a sign of things to come. According to her, all I need is a little time to nurture my matchmaking talent. That’s why I’ve been spending my Saturdays at Rose and Jade, the Asian import and souvenir shop Auntie Rose owns in Chinatown.
This weekend, however, I’m at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I need to choose a painting to critique for my art history project. It counts for 40 percent of the final grade, and I need an A if I want to stay in the top 1 percent of our class. I walk into the first room of the old European masters’ wing. Cream--colored walls are lined with oil paintings of all sizes, framed in gold and lit by soft light overhead.
Despite the beauty around me, I’m immediately drawn to the well--dressed pair of visitors standing in front of a painting of a foxhunt. The two must have come together. They’re standing shoulder to shoulder, though there’s always distance betweentheir bodies. The woman stares up at the piece of art, pointing at one of the figures on horseback as she says something to the man. He leans toward her, closing the gap ever so slightly. The woman continues talking, completely oblivious to the fact that the only thing he’s admiring is her.
I wonder if I should say something . . .
Nope. Bad idea. Only Auntie Rose can pull off walking up to random strangers to offer her services so easily. I would say she’s charismatic, but I suspect it’s also the shock of being stared down by a five--foot--one elderly Asian woman wielding a designer bag in one hand and her business card in the other.
“You’re doing it again, G.”
I drag my gaze over to my best friend, Kyle. “Doing what?”
“You know what,” he answers, cocking his brow. “That squinty thing you do with your eyes when you’re playing matchmaker.”
He proceeds to imitate the supposed gesture, pursing his lips while narrowing his eyes like he’s forgotten his glasses. That is, if he needed them. Unlike me, who inherited my family’s tendencyto go nearsighted in high school, Kyle sees perfectly well, especially from his six--foot vantage point.
“First of all, I don’t ‘play matchmaker.’ I take it very seriously. Second of all, I do notsquint at people. That’s rude,” I retort.
He laughs, his light brown eyes forming crescents. Though he’s half Chinese, many times people assume otherwise. While Kyle shares his mom’s apple cheeks, button nose, and dark hair, he’s also got the angular jaw, prominent eyebrows, and deep--set eyes from the European side of his family tree.
I jab him in the side with my elbow, and he lets out a startledyelp. That gets the attention of the nearby attendant, who shoots a disapproving look our way. Kyle nods slightly in apology before ushering me over to another Rubens painting. When the monitormoves to the other side of the room, he leans down to whisper at me.
“Then what do you call it when you don’t squint at them?”
“I’m paying attention to the details.” I tuck an errant strand of hair behind my ear. “Small gestures add up to a grand love, you know.”
“Is that another Rose rule?” he quips, grinning.
I shrug. “Laugh all you want, but I wouldn’t question her methods. We’re barely a week into January and she’s already booked her matchmaking clients for the next three months.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me. Do that many people need her help?” he answers, incredulous. “We live in New York City. There’re 1.6 million people in Manhattan alone. It should be easy to find a date.”
“They’re not looking for a hookup, Kyle. Her clients want to find their soul mate.”
Kyle shakes his head but concedes. Meanwhile, having decided I have no desire to spend hours expounding the virtues of any of the paintings in this room, I gesture for us to check out the next one. We make our way past multiple displays, but it isn’t until we reach the impressionist painters that I make a beeline for the other end of the gallery.
Without a word, Kyle sits down on the bench in front of a Renoir portrait entitledMadame Georges Charpentier and Her Children. He pats the spot next to him.
“Why are you sitting?” I frown but plop down anyway. “We just got here.”
“Because you’re going to pick this painting,” he answers, the corners of his mouth twitching.
“How could you possibly know that?”
“What? You don’t think I can read minds?”
I scoff. “Not according to your ex--girlfriends.”
“At least I have exes,” he counters, waggling his eyebrows.
“And I have standards.”
He clutches his chest, but I roll my eyes. Kyle heaves a sigh and smiles.
“Okay, okay. I know because it’s one of your favorite paintings. Every time we come to the Met, you insist we stop by to look at it.”
“That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the one I’m going to pick.”
“So you’re telling me you don’t care if people know that the painting actually depicts a boy and a girl, not two girls?”
Kyle grins with the smugness that only comes with ten years of friendship. I cross my arms over my chest and huff.
“I hate you.”
“No, you don’t,” he replies. He nudges me with his shoulder. “You love me. Admit it.”
He keeps bumping against me until I crack a smile. I poke him in the arm.
“You’re lucky that I do love you, because no one else would put up with someone so annoying.”
Kyle blinks for several seconds before shrugging. “It’s not my fault you’re so predictable.”
“Says the guy who likes watching the same zombie movies over and over again.”
“Hey! That’s not true,” he protests. “The only thing those movies have in commonis the zombies. Besides, it’s not like you don’t watch every single one of them with me.”
He’s got a point. One of the reasons we became such good friends is our shared love of science fiction and fantasy. I still remember his shock when I answered a Star Wars question correctly during Trivial Pursuit. It’s been years since our families have gotten together to play board games, but Kyle and I turned movie night into one of our traditions.
Before I can offer a response, an announcement is made overhead. The museum will be closing in fifteen minutes. Kyle stands and offers me his hand. I take it and pull myself up off the bench. We leave the gallery and head toward the museum’s grand entry hall. Our shoes keep a steady rhythm on the stone floor as we pass under giant archways and between Roman columns on our way out the door. As we near the entrance, we pause to zip up our coats.
“Speaking of which, I’m thinking of rewatching The Witcher soon.” Kyle glances over at me. “Want in?”
“Depends. Are you planning to provide more running commentary?”
He halts. “Wait . . . you don’t like it when I do that?”
Do I mind pausing the show every fifteen minutes so he can go off on a tangent about some obscure mythology from the books? I start to tell the truth, but change my mind at the slightly pained look on Kyle’s face.
“You know I’m kidding. I like it when you tell me about everyone’s backstories.”
Kyle’s shoulders relax as he reaches over to tug the collar of my coat into place.
“Great! How about next weekend? I’ll let you pick the restaurant we order from this time.”
I shake my head. “Sorry. I’m still waiting to find out when our first round of tests will be. I need to have enough time to study for everything.”
“Sure, okay, but you really don’t have to worry, G,” he answers as we walk down to the sidewalk to hail a cab. “You have a lot of the same teachers I had last year. Their tests aren’t that bad.”
“To you, maybe, but you remember everything you read. The rest of us peasants have to work for those A’s.”
“You forget I’ve seen you memorize an entire Shakespeare soliloquy in fifteen minutes before getting a hundred percent on the project.”
I wave my hand dismissively. “It was only ten lines, and it took me thirty minutes, not fifteen.”
His reply is put on pause as a cab pulls up to the curb. Kyle opens the door so I can climb into the car. After he confirms the address, our driver pulls out onto the street.
“My point is, I can’t make any plans to hang out until I know what my schedule’s going to look like,” I say. “Plus, my dad’s still out of the country. I need to stay home in case my mom needs my help.”
As if on cue, my phone pings with a notification that someone’s sent a message in my family’s group chat. I check it in case it’s something important, but I groan when it turns out to be Dad’s “Meme-of-the-Day.” He’s always going on about how we should start our days with a laugh. Of course, since he’s in Asia right now, his morning is our afternoon, so he hasn’t been sending as many memes. I kind of miss them, but there’s no way I’d admit to it.
Rather than answering, I show Kyle the meme. It’s a Twitter post of two cats, each looking out of a different window. The caption reads “romeow and mewliet.” He chuckles.
“That one’s not bad, actually.”
“I’m going to pretend you didn’t say that.”
Kyle’s face turns serious. “Seriously, though, how’s your mom been doing?”
“She’s been better. You know how it is. She agrees to too many events and then ends up getting sick.” I shift my gaze out the window, pushing aside the heaviness that blankets me. “A few days of rest and she’ll be fine.”
“And you? Will you be fine?”
I glance back at him. “Yeah, why?”
He inhales. “Because James has always been there to help, and now that he’s in college . . .”
It’s only been a semester, but the house feels so empty without him. James was supposed to spend Christmas with us, but Dad asked him to stay in Houston to help out at his firm’s satellite branch.
Kyle must sense the shift in my mood, because he slides his hand across the seat and gives mine a squeeze.
“Didn’t James say he was thinking of coming for spring break instead?”
I force a smile. “You’re right. It’s only a couple more months. He’ll be back before I know it.”
Kyle’s grip tightens. “Gigi—-”
Whatever he’s about to say is cut off as a car veers into our lane. While our driver honks and swerves to avoid him, Kyle shifts his hand to steady me by the shoulder. I flash him a smile, and he lets go. The rest of our ride back is silent. Once we get out of the car, he walks me to the front stoop of my house.
“Thanks for coming with me today,” I say, looking up at him.
“Well, it was the only way you could squeeze me into your busy schedule.” He winks. “Besides, you know I never turn down a chance to go to the Met.”
“And you know my schedule is never too busy for you.”
“Then say yes to The Witcher next weekend.”
I sigh as I unlock my door. “Kyle.”
“Say yes,” he repeats. “Say yes or I’ll . . .”
“No,” I answer emphatically when it dawns on me what he’s threatening to do. “Don’t you dare.”
He takes a deep breath. “‘O Valley of Plenty! Toss a coin’—-”
I clap a hand over his mouth. “Fine! I’ll come, I’ll come. Just stop singing before you embarrass us both.”
The truth is, while there’re half a dozen people walking down our street, no one is paying us any attention. Nonetheless, I wait for Kyle to nod before removing my hand. After unlocking my door, I step inside, turning to look at him.
“Good night, Kyle.”
He grins wickedly. “‘Toss a coin to your’—-”
I shut the door in his face.