Book Review: The Code for Love and Heartbreak by Jillian Cantor

Posted October 8, 2020 by meezcarrie in contemporary, Jane Austen, Jillian Cantor, romance, YA / 0 Comments

GENRE: YA Romance (clean read)
PUBLISHER: Inkyard Press
RELEASE DATE: October 6, 2020
PAGES: 304

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?

While Emma isn’t my favorite Jane Austen book, it IS my favorite romance and my favorite hero. So even though math & numbers are most definitely not my thing, I couldn’t resist reading this cute new Young Adult retelling of Austen’s classic by Jillian Cantor. And, after all, I am a sucker for best friends who fall in love (married to mine for 20 years now).

Retellings are always a bit tricky because they could go either way. On the one hand, they might be too kitschy in how they incorporate the story elements – and on the other hand, they might not be true enough to the story in this new setting. I am pleased to report that The Code for Love and Heartbreak has neither of these problems. If you are already familiar with Austen’s classic, you will love the creative way Cantor keeps the heart of the story and adds her own flavor as well. And, if you’ve never read Emma, you’ll still be able to appreciate a cute story and a breath-stealing romance.

I love that Emma and her friends are nerdy & socially awkward without being over the top about it (though at the beginning of the story ‘friends’ is probably a generous title to give the other members of the coding club). I mean, don’t get me wrong… Emma especially can’t see past numbers and equations and quantifiable things. She misses a lot of social cues that most of us are comfortable with, and she has some definitely wince-worthy moments that come from not socializing enough. But, unless we were in the super popular crowd (and maybe even if we were) don’t we all have similar memories from high school too? I enjoyed seeing her character growth throughout the novel, and on the flip side I also appreciated that Cantor left Emma with more growing still to do, just as Austen does with her titular character in the original. And of course there’s George – sweet, noble, best friend George. Cantor does a great job of making him his own, layered character while also staying true to the man he’s modeled after and his role in Emma’s life.

Bottom Line: The Code for Love and Heartbreak is a light, sweet, really cute read about friendship, falling in love, and being comfortable in your own skin. Its similarities to Austen’s Emma are noticeable without being overdone, while also retaining its own distinct identity and flair. There’s not a lot of unnecessary-to-the-story drama, which I appreciated given the high level of unnecessary drama in our current world – sometimes it’s nice to just sit down and read a story that makes you smile. And that’s exactly what Cantor’s latest did for me!

Reviewer’s Note: Readers may want to be aware that there are two or three curse words in this book, as well as a few LGBTQ students who are tertiary characters. I would absolutely consider this a clean read.

(I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the publisher. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.)

My Rating: 4 stars / loved it!

KissingBook Level: 3 / May forget to breathe on occasion

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Jillian Cantor is the author of award-winning and bestselling novels for adults and teens, including In Another Time, The Hours Count, Margot, and The Lost Letter, which was a USA Today bestseller. She has a BA in English from Penn State University and an MFA from the University of Arizona. Cantor lives in Arizona with her husband and two sons.

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What about you? What makes you want to read The Code for Love and Heartbreak by Jillian Cantor?

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