The Code for Love and Heartbreak

The Code for Love and Heartbreak
Age Range
Release Date
October 06, 2020
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In this contemporary romcom retelling of Jane Austen’s Emma by USA TODAY bestselling author Jillian Cantor, there’s nothing more complex—or unpredictable—than love. When math genius Emma and her coding club co-president, George, are tasked with brainstorming a new project, The Code for Love is born. George disapproves of Emma’s idea of creating a matchmaking app, 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 Emma’s own feelings defy any algorithm?

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A Witty, Contemporary Take on an Austen Classic
Overall rating
Writing Style
The Code for Love and Heartbreak by Jillian Cantor is a witty, contemporary take on Jane Austen’s classic Emma. It’s been years since I read the original story, but from what I remember, Cantor hits the mark modernizing the wayward matchmaker. I started reading this one and didn’t stop til I finished. It’s a quick read, made all the better by the author’s writing style and first-person narrative. Following two teens in their senior year of high school, The Code for Love and Heartbreak is sure to leave you smiling.

Emma Woodhouse is a self-proclaimed math wiz. Numbers make sense to her, they never fail her, and they always tell the truth. It’s people Emma doesn’t understand. With her social butterfly of a sister leaving for college, Izzy makes Emma promise that she will be more social during their year apart. Emma has zero intentions of following through on that promise, but after a few weeks being at home alone in the evenings, she decides to give it a try with her fellow classmates in the coding club.

George Knightley is Emma’s only true friend, at least he understands her like even her family doesn’t. They have the same interests, the same classes, the same goals in life really. But where Emma has no social skills, George excels in this. He tempers her remarks, making her come off as kind, even when she doesn’t realize how mean she may sound. Can you tell yet that I like George?

The story begins with a joke from Izzy to Emma: "You could always code yourself a boyfriend." Well, Emma doesn’t code herself a boyfriend, but for the coding club competition she does get a brilliant, at least to her, idea to code a matchmaking program specific to her high school. As you can imagine, this devolves quickly, even if it is a smart idea. George is set against it, and suddenly the boy that has always been by Emma’s side isn’t. The story follows Emma and the club through state competition, from the beginning of the school year to sometime around Valentine’s Day. That’s a lot of time to pack into three hundred or so pages! Despite that, it flows well. I love the relationships Emma develops with her other club members, and how during Izzy’s absence, Emma finds herself doing things she enjoys instead of trying to make her sister happy.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Code for Love and Heartbreak. Emma’s character growth from the beginning to the end is extraordinary. It reminds me a little of that last year of high school, the feelings of this is the end and the beginning, being slightly terrified and unsure but also excited and ready for what life will bring. Cantor invokes all of those feelings in the reader through Emma. If you are in need of a sweet YA rom-com for your reading pleasure, look no further than The Code for Love and Heartbreak.
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