The Code for Love and Heartbreak | ARC Review

The Code for Love and Heartbreak by Jillian Cantor

Published: October 6, 2020


Format: e-ARC

Tags: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance, High School

| Synopsis from the Publisher |

Emma Woodhouse is a genius at math, but clueless about people. After all, people are unreliable. They let you down—just like Emma’s sister, Izzy, did this year, when she moved to California for college. But numbers…those you can count on. (No pun intended.)

Emma’s senior year is going to be all about numbers, and seeing how far they can take her. When she and George, her Coding Club co-president, are tasked with brainstorming a new project, The Code for Love is born—a matchmaking app that goes far beyond swiping, using algorithms to calculate compatibility. George disapproves of Emma’s idea, accusing her of meddling in people’s lives. But all the happy new couples at school are proof that the app works. At least at first.

Emma’s code is flawless. So why is it that perfectly matched couples start breaking up, the wrong people keep falling for each other and her own feelings defy any algorithm? Emma thought math could solve everything. But there’s nothing more complex—or unpredictable—than love.

| Book Review |

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Inkyard Press through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

– Content –

An Emma retelling!: I guess I had forgotten or didn’t read anywhere about this book basically being an Emma re-telling. I mean. I love Jane Austen! But I didn’t realize that that’s what this book was going to be, so I got very excited once I realized what was going on. And guys, let me tell you, this book was so fun to read because I loved all the little Emma parallels! I also kind of liked knowing how the story would end up, which I know sounds odd, because most people don’t like to be spoiled, but in this case, I just liked knowing that the two people I wanted to end up together would, because this story is based on a story I already know. I kind of like certainties like that.

Original take on classic characters: But, honestly, this book is still very much it’s own story. Cantor takes several key points from Austen, but she’s infused them into an original story that I really enjoyed. It’s a very light, funny high school romance, focusing on a group of students in their coding club. I really liked Emma, though she could be a little dense sometimes. I think half of this was due to her probably having almost no social skills (which she acknowledge herself, anyway). Her utter belief that her code for love is infallible is brought up again and again until you just want to shake her and say “No! Emma! Life is organic and so is love, it can’t be solved with code!” So, yeah, at times Emma annoyed be, but overall I liked Cantor’s interpretation of her. She’s a matchmaker only because she’s created a code as part of a coding competition that her club is participating in. I like watching her go from not really having friends to making new ones and growing as a person.

Some diversity in the romance: I also enjoyed Emma befriending Jane Fairfax, something that does not happen in the original Emma. I enjoyed all the side-characters. They all add an interesting aspect to the story and it feels like a real group of people. And I like how the coding aspect brings them all together. Cantor makes an effort to present a diverse population, too, with several LGBTQ+ characters that have a significant presence in the story. Plus, love in all forms is clearly supported, both by the characters and by the code that Emma and her team create.

Relatable issues: The story is overall just really fun and the tense moments don’t seem far-fetched or forced, so I enjoyed every moment in the book. The mistakes Emma makes, and the way this interrupts her progress, feel real and relatable. You can really track Emma’s progress from beginning to end. It’s just a light-hearted romance, which is something I enjoy reading.

– Literary Value-

Romance, but relatable characters: This book is very much a teen romance story, but I think the progression of the narrative and the character growth really put it up a notch, for me. I really like how Cantor set things up, with the rise and fall of Emma’s foray into making friends and being more social. It felt pretty real, honest, and believable for Emma to not make every right choice or not fall into traps due to her lack of social skills. It all felt really believable and Emma’s trajectory over the course of the novel really makes for some interesting reading.

Good pacing, and not your predictable re-telling: I also just liked the pacing of this story. It take place over the course of Emma’s senior year of high school. It never dragged or felt too rushed. Everything remained pretty even-keel and it moved along. It didn’t feel formulaic, or even like Cantor was following a predictable plot (due to this book being an Emma re-telling). The story is original enough that I felt surprised by things or didn’t get bored because I knew certain outcomes. So, even if you’re a fan of the original Emma, this book will be a delight and a treat, rather than a formulaic re-telling that rehashes the same old things.

– Entertainment Factor –

One of the reasons I’m rating this book higher is because I really enjoyed reading it! It was really entertaining! As much as Emma could annoy me at times, she was an interesting character and she really pulled me into the story and I cared about what was happening to her. I love the light romance of this story, and the fun characters that are familiar, yet new in Cantor’s re-telling. Overall, it’s just an easy romance, but it’s full of interesting quirks, like with the coding, Emma’s lack of social skills, and the humor. It’s definitely a story I wouldn’t mind reading again!

– Cover Art –

I think this cover is pretty good. I like the minimal colors and the illustration of it. It looks like a drawing, and though it does depict characters (which is not something I usually like), at least they are illustrated and not stock photos of teens. I like the artistry of this cover because while you know it’s depicting the two main love-interests, they aren’t super realistic-looking or detailed enough to completely solidify what you might think these characters are supposed to look like. So I can still enjoy this cover despite it depicting the two main characters.

I almost wish there was an incorporation of coding somehow on it, just to give a little nod to the fact that the whole story revolves around a coding club. Maybe some numbers or something drawn on there, but at least they show the two characters using laptops and phones, so that gives you a hint that they’re probably coding.

All in all, not a bad cover.

| My Rating |

Definitely Worth the Read

I really enjoyed this YA romance. It was fun to read, the characters are interesting, and I like the modern take on Emma. I found Emma to be a bit annoying at times, but really she grew on me as the book progressed and I really liked seeing her grow. The cast of characters are all really interesting and it makes me happy to see all the little nods to Jane Austen’s book sprinkled throughout.

Would I Recommend This Book?

Yes! I would recommend it because it’s just a quick, easy read about a socially awkward teen who thinks she’s discovered the perfect code to predict who your perfect love match is. I mean, it’s adorkable and it’s really sweet. This is definitely a lighthearted, sweet romance and I would recommend it to any fans of that genre.

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