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The Code for Love and Heartbreak

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A new take on Jane Austen's classic Emma.

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.

304 pages, Hardcover

First published October 6, 2020

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About the author

Jillian Cantor

12 books1,331 followers
Jillian Cantor is the USA Today and internationally bestselling author of eleven novels for teens and adults, which have been chosen for LibraryReads, Indie Next, Amazon Best of the Month, and have been translated into 13 languages. Jillian’s next historical novel for adults, BEAUTIFUL LITTLE FOOLS, will be published in February 2022. Born and raised in a suburb of Philadelphia, Cantor currently lives in Arizona with her husband and two sons.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 464 reviews
Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,129 reviews39.2k followers
September 28, 2020
This is sweet, smart and creative new look of Jane Austen’s Beloved classic. I enjoyed the premise and quirky, socially awkward characterization but some elements of the story, approach to the abuse and bullying between young adults and negative effects of cyber dating weren’t reflected powerfully. I respected to the effort and visionary mind behind story-progression and but conclusion is predictable and flat. So here comes another 3 starred –let’s meet in the middle and stay in Switzerland kind of I didn’t adore it but I didn’t unlike it kind of reading.

I don’t know how many retelling of Jane Austen I’ve read lately and I only gave one book to 4 stars (it was actually rounded up to four) I think when you read passionately the original classics several times, you become tough grader and you start to expect too much from your retellings. So I try to keep my objectivity intact when I start any of those books and consider them as independent stories not to overshadow my judgment and write unfair reviews.

I hooked from the first pages of the novel: we’re introduced Emma Woodhouse, math prodigy, living, breathing and eating numbers! She teams with dear best friend George Knightley (names are same) for special coding task. And they create something fresh, unique, a brand new dating app called: “Code for Love”: filled with algorithms to calculate and find out your match made in heaven.

George doesn’t approve Emma’s emotionless and direct approach, acting like puppet master who pulls the strings and control the people’s love lives. But according to Emma, maths never goes wrong! The proof stands before their eyes! Her app works so well and everyone in the school starts to find their matches. But why people start to break up and why incompatible people start falling in love with each other. Sorry Emma but emotions and feelings cannot be calculated!
In the middle of the story I started to lose my interest but I resume my reading with great patience and I can easily guess the outcome.

Overall: It was mostly enjoyable, light, sweet reading with promising plot. Predictability and its approach to the delicate matters made me lose my interest. But I still want to give a try to new projects of the author.

Special thanks to NetGalley and Inkyard Press for sharing this ARC with me in exchange my honest review.
Profile Image for Melanie (mells_view).
1,697 reviews322 followers
October 6, 2020
”Everything can’t be solved with an equation, Em. If you feel something…just let yourself feel it, okay?”

The Code for Love and Heartbreak was so stinking cute. It takes a bit to really find its pace, but once you really dive in with Emma, her family, and her friends, you will not want to stop reading. This is described as a retelling of the classic, Emma, but I’ve never read that, so I’m going to say for myself and others who also haven’t read it, that TCFLAH is like the socially awkward and brainy version of the movie Clueless. (Also a retelling of Emma)

Emma is socially awkward and openly admits to missing some social cues. She relates to things better when they involved numbers, and people are nowhere near as reliable as numbers. I think it might be hard for some to connect to Emma at the start,but my advice is to keep going. This story is about her journey, and while it is a bit rocky, it is worth it to see her blossom.

This book focuses on Emma’s senior year and what she’s looking forward to most, which is winning the team coding competition at the state level. To do that she comes up with a sort of love match app that calculates compatibility based on data, formulas, and code. She has to work hard to convince her team that it’s a winner. That an equation and some code is all it takes to find someone a love match. Along the way she uses the app to set people up, and she finds that maybe love isn’t actually quantifiable.

All in all this was a great YA read. It was sweet and while our lead character was not perfect, she was relatable in so many ways. The feeling of young love. The confusion of being ready to leave home and start your adult life, but also not wanting to leave everything behind. It’s just, good. Recommend for anyone looking for a sweet YA.

Profile Image for Berit Talks Books.
2,011 reviews15.7k followers
October 7, 2020
Coding + Romance = A cute story. Emma doesn’t know anything about love, but she does know all about numbers. When her older sister Izzy goes off to college she makes an offhand comment telling Emma to “code herself a boyfriend”. Emma decides to take her sister‘s advice literally deciding to create a dating app for the coding club competition. Things start out with a bang there’s lots of interest and people finally know who Emma is. Even better these couples seem to be working out. But as time goes on things start to fall apart not only between these couples set up by the app, but in Emma‘s personal life as well. But how can it be when the numbers don’t lie?

This was fun, although somewhat predictable. It is an Emma retelling. But I have to admit having not read the first Emma I would have no idea if this holds true or not? Emma was a likable character although somewhat stereotypical. I liked how she formed new friendships with the members of the coding club. The romance was sweet, and I was glad she ended up with who she did. My only complaint is I wish there was more character development and character growth in Emma. I think she saw the error of her ways, or did she?

This book in emojis 💻 👨‍👧‍👧 📱 🎓 🎒

*** Big thank you to Ink Yard Press for my gifted copy of this book. All opinions are my own. ***
Profile Image for Larry H.
2,481 reviews29.4k followers
November 12, 2020
3.5 stars.

In Jillian Cantor's new YA novel, The Code for Love and Heartbreak , math is one thing. Love is another.

It’s senior year of high school for overachiever Emma Woodhouse. She’s at the top of her class, she’s co-president of the Coding Club, and with her perfect SATs, she hopes to go to Stanford next year.

But while she has the academics down pat, she’s not particularly social. She doesn’t really have many (or any) friends save George, her co-president, and she has no desire to find a boyfriend.

In an effort to win a national coding competition, she comes up with a great idea: an app which will match her fellow students up based on mutual interests, using an algorithm. George and some other club members think she’s lost her mind—love isn’t something you can code.

But “The Love Code” seems to be working, and all of her classmates are interested in getting matches. What does it mean, though, when the matches don’t work?

The more focused on the app and the competition Emma becomes, the more blind she is to what’s going on around her. Why are people breaking up if the algorithm predicts matches? And how can an algorithm consider the intangible qualities that make people fall in love?

This was a cute and enjoyable retelling of Jane Austen’s Emma . (It’s been a while since I read that one, so while I know the names of the characters are the same, I don't remember how much of the plot of this book resembles that one.) Sure, it’s predictable, but that didn’t really matter to me.

I love a good rom-com, even when math is involved!

Check out my list of the best books I read in 2019 at https://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com/2020/01/the-best-books-i-read-in-2019.html.

Check out my list of the best books of the decade at https://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com/2020/01/my-favorite-books-of-decade.html.

See all of my reviews at itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com.

Follow me on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/the.bookishworld.of.yrralh/.
Profile Image for Claude's Bookzone.
1,485 reviews190 followers
November 27, 2020
CW: Mother died when Emma was young,

Well, I love Jane Austen and I love reimaginings so I had high hopes.

Sadly this didn't quite deliver for me. I think the story itself was somewhat engaging and I didn't hate the characters themselves. Unfortunately, I thought that the writing was verging on middle school reader level and was overly explainy. The dialogue felt very unnatural for teenagers too. It is a very wholesome romance so I do think it will have a place in a high school library but more for NZ Year 9 Readers. A light romance with some satisfying character development and undoubtedly this is another case of 'just not for me'.
Profile Image for Syndi.
2,835 reviews624 followers
March 8, 2022
I am liking this very much. The Code for Love and Heartbreak is a YA romance done right. Miss Cantor certainly knows how to make her story interesting.

The writing style is effortless and yet very entrrtaining. I love Emma. She is a smart and loving heroine. Her banter with George is hilarious. There is an enemy to lover vibes in their chemistry.

Such an entertaining YA romance.

4 stars
Profile Image for Avani ✨.
1,528 reviews302 followers
August 11, 2022
It was cute and lovely.

Feel good story with twist of Emma by Jane Austen
Profile Image for Althea ☾.
623 reviews1,925 followers
October 9, 2020
ARC received from -Inkyard Press- in exchange of an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

“I’m just trying to figure out what’s the most important thing to make you fall in love.”

— overall thoughts: 3.5 —

this was literally so sweet and overall a wholesome read. there was more that i wished could have happened plot wise but it was nice being in the company of characters in the story even though i had a hard time connecting with them on an emotional level.

the app that they produced was actually the most interesting aspect to me especially since it was lgbtq+ friendly and a well executed part of the plot that i loved. which was important to me since the idea of being able to calculate feelings and emotions was what intrigued the most when i first found out about this book. the way that aspect was explored made it automatically a must read to me. it also just makes me wonder what it would be like if it were more in the sci-fi genre.

i havent read Emma by jane austen and i do plan on reading it so i didn't want to search up what the similarities and differences are between the two as this is a retelling. previous readers said that they wished that this wasn't a retelling because of they automatically kept comparing it so perhaps just take that into account.

the characters are quirky and this is another example of contemporary with a female character that does not get on my nerves, which i highly appreciated.

aside from the romance it had friendship elements that i might have enjoyed a little better than the romantic relationship. i also just no longer have the same tolerance for miscommunication problems in ya romance contemporary as i did before when i found it a lot more relatable. it does follows the typical formula of most contemporary romances where they start off not wanting a relationship then they get together then there’s some sort of misunderstanding between them but they still end up getting together in the end. this was what made the outcome predictable for me.

this review was a little more negative than i intended it to be but it was actually still enjoyable and a more unique compared to most contemporary plots. i would still definitely recommend it if you are looking for a light, sweet, and a refresher kind of read.

This looks like a geeky and fun romance AND IM HERE FOR IT !!


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Profile Image for Steff Fox.
1,185 reviews149 followers
September 28, 2020
| Read on Reader Fox |

"You could always code yourself a boyfriend."

I love retellings and in the past I've read a wide variety of them. Usually, when Jane Austen's name comes up, you're looking at a Pride and Prejudice retelling. In the case of Jillian Cantor's The Code for Love and Heartbreak is a modern look at Austen's Emma, the story in which a young matchmaker gets herself in way over her head and proves, in the end, that she really doesn't know all that much about how love works anyway. If you know how Emma goes, you can basically guess pretty much everything about Cantor's novel.

A Hot Take

Okay, so Emma Woodhouse is a socially awkward programmer who has sort of used her elder sister as a safe base over the years. Now, with Izzy going away to college, Emma will have to navigate Senior year of high school on her own. When the idea to use her love of numbers--after all, numbers make sense and people don't--to calculate one's statistically perfect match, Emma sees it as the perfect project for her coding club. But as with any high school rom-com, some drama is about to unfold.

Now, as a fan of the 1995 Emma retelling Clueless, I was pretty excited for an even more modernized version of the story. And, by all accounts, Cantor gives us exactly what we'd expect from a novel like this. Yet, I found myself thoroughly disappointed in it all. In a way, I think it really came down to chemistry. As I said before, if you know Emma you pretty much know this story. And from what I can tell, this really hurt the book as a whole.

Cannon Characters

Yeah, they're basically all here. With the exception of a few odd name changes, everyone is set up to be who they are right off the bat. And, with the exception of Hannah (Harriet) and Robert, most of the stories end the same way. I found it incredibly odd that Cantor disliked the name Frank so much that she kept it but had the character go by the nickname "Sam." Regardless, the characters all match up and so do their arcs.

The problem with this, though, is that none of the characters really have the chemistry they are meant to. It's possible that this is an issue with the writing itself, but it's also partially due to the fact that we spend the majority of our time inside Emma's head and she doesn't see anything going on. Thus, as readers, we are cast out from being able to experience all these important moments with the other characters.

The Couple That Should Have Been

Honestly, I don't really buy most of the pairings that Cantor gives us. For one, there's a serious lack of connection shown between almost all of them. And the connections that we are shown point to an entirely different relationship. This would have been fine, I think, had I felt this way about the minor characters' relationships. I don't really expect to understand on an intimate level how those characters grow to care for each other.

But when it's the main character and her love interest that feels the most unbelievable? That's a problem.

I didn't care about Robert's relationship, or Harriet's, or any of the other side characters. I didn't even care about Sam. And where I think Cantor went horribly wrong with her novel is that Emma and Jane had more chemistry than literally anyone else in the entire book. They spent the most time together, had the best conversations, and just really clicked. Emma's actual love interest hardly got any significant face time in comparison. And the book hurts for this.

So, not only did Cantor miss a brilliant opportunity for a well-written Sapphic novel, but her main pairing was just incredibly lackluster as a result. In my opinion, Emma should have ended up with Jane. The story would have been infinitely better for it.

Speaking of Emma

Am I the only one who thinks Emma was absolutely awful for a good portion of the novel? I found her rather difficult to connect with largely due to the fact that she regularly let her anger get the better of her. On more occasions than was necessary, Emma often assumed how others around her were feeling, despite regularly admitting to not understanding people in general. She would get so stuck in her own paranoid thoughts and sabotage a plethora of opportunities.

There were so many instances in which Emma was just irritating.

Surface Level

I leave this book feeling as though Cantor really struggled to include any real depth in her novel. Everything is kind of glossed over and rushed through. Emma never really grows, important connections aren't properly built, and serious topics are often brushed off. The entire story felt shallow, missing moments for insightful growth. I just feel very underwhelmed by the book as a whole.

I won't say that it's terrible because it's not. But this book is very surface level in terms of development and insight. If you're looking for that, you won't find it here. At the end of the day, this is literally just a lackluster retelling of Emma.

I was provided a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Profile Image for Israel.
92 reviews20 followers
July 26, 2020
This book was so cute and light. I actually didnt know who the girl would end up with, which was very refreshing! If you're looking for a light, cute read, this is it!

The one thing that held me back from a full 5 stars is that the main girl was a little cliche. If I described "high school girl who codes," this girl would hit all the pins. That being said, this story was still very fun!!

I received a free ebook from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
Profile Image for Lisa (A Life Bound By Books).
1,107 reviews749 followers
May 30, 2020
Not sure if it’s a 2.5 or a 3 star read for me.

Was cute. Was okay. I enjoyed parts and others were eh.

Nothing too exciting. Nothing blah either. Was just ok.

Might write some more about it at another time. Just didn’t “wow”, ya know what I mean? Sometimes that happens.

Thank you to the publisher for providing a copy of this title to review.
Profile Image for Cyndi Becker.
1,345 reviews8 followers
July 28, 2021
I believe that every reader of romance has a favorite Jane Austen read, and mine has long been Emma Emma. I've also read many renditions of the story and The Code for Love and Heartbreak is one of the most unique and endearing. Jillian Cantor keeps it real, using the very names that the reader would be familiar with. But she modernizes the tale by setting it in high school science team with our heroine, Emma Woodhouse, co-leading a coding team with presumptive hero George Knightley. While a re-telling means the basics if the plot remains the same, the setting alone guarantees it's distinct tone, but getting to the beloved outcome is very different.

It's so much fun to see the story played out via a Young Adult viewpoint. Emma and George are working on their college applications and in dire need of a region winning coding project. When their brainstorming stumbles and Emma alone proposes the creation of a "coupledom" matching service at their high school. This will be based on qualities that are measured and matched by a code and app created by the team. When George sides with another idea, a rift is born. Subsequently, the chasm between them is deepened as the project picks up steam and the friendship between them is challenged.

Cantor delivers a story that shows the ups and downs affecting the team, as matches are made and breakups ensue. Emma's confidence falters, especially when she keeps herself off the list to be matched, yet the remaining team members seem to find their "person" and George seems to pair up nicely with teammate Hannah. Indeed, a bit of #nerdangst begins to seep off the pages. It all seems to fall apart when Emma can't wrap her head around the fact that there's math, and there's chemistry, and she's not sure how to bridge the two. When she remembers a question George once asked her: "Haven't you ever felt something that can't be quantified?", it's only when she acknowledges she has feelings that things begin to make sense.

This is truly an enjoyable YA read and one of my favorite "Emma' stories. I recommend this for all geeky high-schoolers, adult lovers of YA romance, and certainly fans of Jane Austen. 5 Stars!!
Profile Image for Kelly.
1,310 reviews502 followers
November 4, 2020
2.5 stars

When I first saw this cover, I thought this was going to be an office hate-to-love romance but this book is actually a YA contemporary romance happening in high school where the main character, Emma, gets the idea of creating an app with a code to match people up. After her sister left for college, telling her that she should get a boyfriend, Emma figures a way to be more social while still being able to code.

I have to say the main romance with her friend George (who was matched to someone else in the app) was very lack-luster. I expected more and by the end, I just didn't really care. Everything felt kind of flat and shallow to be honest. I read in a review that this book would have been a lot better if the author chose to write a sapphic romance between Emma and Jane and I have to agree completely! It would have made this book so much more interesting and perhaps it would have added some much needed chemistry. Also, the main character could be really annoying at times.

As for this book being a retelling of "Emma" by Jane Austen, I can't really comment as I never read the book and forgot many things from the movie. Maybe I should remedy that...

(Thank you for letting me read and review an ARC via Netgalley)
Profile Image for Darla.
3,248 reviews487 followers
September 26, 2020
Jillian Cantor + Jane Austen = a book I looked forward to reading so much. The story of Emma has always amused me. Austen's presentation of Emma is so engaging. We see the missteps that she is making and love being one step ahead of her. Unfortunately in Cantor's version I felt like I was a much in the dark as Emma much of the time. Making Emma a math nerd and puttin her in a coding club made for an entertaining read and was a creative way to modernize this classic tale. My favorite character, by far, was George McKnight. Now that I think about it -- he is my favorite in the original as well. A few years back I attempted to read through the books in The Austen Project. Andrew McCall Smith wrote a retelling of Emma making her into a spoiled brat. I like this version of Emma better than the AMS one, but I have to say that I still prefer the original. This retelling gets a 3.5 from me for effort and creativity. Since Jillian Cantor is one of my go-tos I am awarding an additional half star.

Thank you to Inkyard Press and Edelweiss+ for a DRC in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Yna from Books and Boybands.
747 reviews348 followers
January 22, 2021
"Everything can’t be solved with an equation, Em. If you feel something…just let yourself feel it, okay?"

📚 Series? No.
📚 Genre? YA Romance.
📚 Read for?
💬 Popsugar Prompt #36. Fewer than 1,000 reviews
💬 Alphabet Soup Letter C
💬 Nerd Daily Prompt #43. A Retelling
📚 Cliffhanger? No.

⚠ Book Tags :  Emma Retelling. Girls Who Code. Miscommunication problems. *Clueless* MC (pun intended)
⚠ This Book In Emojis: 👩🏽‍💻👫🏻🤔

The Code for Love and Heartbreak is an Emma retelling. But for someone who hasn't read that, I can't tell you how accurate it was and what references I enjoyed.

Putting that aside, this book is a pretty cute YA novel. Of course, it is about Emma, a math genius coding club president. For their senior year, they have to create an app to enter to a coding competition. The app they ended up with is The Code for Love.

Overall, this story was a fun venture to Emma's life, her family, her friends, and (unknowlingly) *crushing* on someone. It is a good pick for days when you're looking for something light and sweet.


🌼 Blurb:⭐⭐⭐⭐☆
🌼 Main Character:⭐⭐⭐☆☆
🌼 Significant Other: ⭐⭐⭐☆☆
🌼 Support Characters:⭐⭐⭐☆☆
🌼 Writing Style:⭐⭐⭐☆☆
🌼 Character Development:⭐⭐⭐☆☆
🌼 Romance: ⭐⭐⭐☆☆
🌼 Pacing: ⭐⭐⭐☆☆
🌼 Ending: ��⭐⭐☆
🌼 Unputdownability: ⭐⭐⭐☆☆
🌼 Book Cover:⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

☁FINAL VERDICT: 3.36/5 ☁

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Profile Image for Elyse (ElyseReadsandSpeaks).
769 reviews43 followers
October 3, 2020
This was so cute!! I'm a sucker for a Jane Austen retelling (especially it's Pride & Prejudice or Emma) so I knew I had to try this one. An Emma retelling featuring a group of coding kids in high school? Yes, please!

Some things didn't translate exactly so I liked that the author tweaked it as necessary. For example, we all know the Mrs. Bates scene with Emma's rude comment. I was going to lose my mind if she had Emma be rude to someone whose husband has dementia. I'm glad that scene was adjusted with Hannah.

And I will say - I still felt the swoon with this depiction of Knightley (George). He was still a stand-up guy in this story and he had the high school version of chivalry. I also really liked that the author changed Emma from a snobby, naive girl with a good heart to a nerdy, stand offish girl who didn't understand people. She was still an Emma that only Knightley could crack and I liked the creative parallel.

I did like Emma and Jane's friendship in this book, but things fell a bit flat for me with Sam (Frank Churchill). He had the charisma, but the relationship with Laura kind of made things confusing with Jane and Emma. In the original novel, everyone thinks Frank will end up with Emma because he always flirts with her and goes out of his way to be friendly with her, which is why being with Jane was such a shock. In this book, the added layer of Laura kind of took the wind from those sails. Also, who is Ben?! And why is he with Robert?! Yes yes, creative license, but still.

Overall, total fun read. If you're a Jane Austen fan and love retellings, this one is a good time.
Profile Image for Katie.
2,647 reviews143 followers
April 7, 2021
This gets an extra star for JANE FAIRFAX!

Didn't reallllly buy all of Emma's "Math always makes sense! I can figure out love with math!!!" It started to feel kind of forced or at least repetitive.

It was also an interesting Emma retelling. At the beginning, I thought it was going to be a pretty close retelling, but it deviated some. These weren't BAD deviations, but I think the beginning of the book needed to prepare me more for the differences.

I liked

Anyway, I think ultimately this will be forgettable. Jane Fairfax though!
Profile Image for Jenna.
324 reviews328 followers
October 6, 2020
Thank you to Netgalley for an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
This book kept me engaged most of the way through and was a cute YA romance story. However, there were some flaws with it that ultimately made me have to give it a lower rating than I expected. As I read it, I felt like the author had no idea where she was going with it when she wrote it. While it was clear that this was going to be a romance, the main character seemed to bounce around from person to person throughout the story. Until the last 15% or so of the book, I wasn't sure who she was actually interested in. That made the story hard to follow and then the end wrapped up far too quickly considering all of the anguish we went through to get there. I would give Cantor another try, I think, but this book has some room for improvement.
Profile Image for nikita.
139 reviews59 followers
October 25, 2020
i went into this book thinking it was a YA romance but it turned out to be more of a YA contemporary with a dash of romance. the audiobook narration was pretty good and kept me hooked to the book. this was a retelling of Emma by Jane Austen but having not read that book I can't judge how much these two are similar. i enjoyed the book, however, I wish we saw more character development in Emma.
October 13, 2020
Melt my heart. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Such a cute coming of age/finding love in high school. Emma and George have siblings who date, they are kind of thrown together by default. When their siblings go off to college they are kind of forced to now ride to school together and keep eachother company since both sets of parents are always working. They enter a competition and try and figure out if there is really a code to love.
Profile Image for Elliot A.
532 reviews38 followers
October 13, 2020
Thank you to the publisher, Inkyard Press, for providing me with an ARC of The Code for Love and Heartbreak in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

The Gist

So, I have been staring at the computer screen for a good 20 minutes. I checked my Facebook three times. Trust me, I don’t have enough friends to see new content every time I log in. And I have checked my email so many times, I’m starting to feel really sad and lonely.

Still, I have no clue how to write this review without sounding conceited, condescending or arrogant.

What the heck. Here it goes. I know Jane Austen. I know Jane Austen very well. I wrote my graduate thesis on her works.

If you must call me snobbish, I guess this would be a good reason to do so.

I felt equal parts intrigued and hesitant reading about this retelling of Austen’s Emma. Set in modern times, it holds a lot of potential. It can also run the risk of taking a classic and turning it into something that would have snobbish Janeites gasp in disbelief.

The Details

I feel very confused about how to address the finer points of this review, because all of them centre around the characters.

I shall start with Emma. In the original, the character of Emma is a little arrogant, but also charming, social and holds a position of power and influence in her little village. She is well-known and has no problem sticking her nose in other people’s business.

Reading the prologue and first chapter of The Code for Love and Heartbreak, the author made it very clear, repetitively clear that this Emma is anti-social. She hates people. She doesn’t want to talk to people and doesn’t have any friends.

Here comes my question: how can you make a retelling with the main character being the exact opposite of the original?

Especially when every other character is taken directly from the original? They have the same names and same purpose in the story.

Not too long ago I read a sci-fi retelling of another classic British literature novel and in that one the author chose to change the names to put an original spin on the story. It was also kind of fun guessing which character was based on the original one.

In The Code for Love and Heartbreak I didn’t understand the authors decision to change the protagonist into a bitter, egotistical and very unlikeable character. What would motivate me to keep reading her story? Not much.

The writing itself was fine. I noticed a lot of repetition, as I have already mentioned, in order to establish the protagonist’s character.

There was only so much bitter internal monologue I could take before I stopped caring. Give me at least something to hold on to.

With all the other characters being exactly like in the original, there wasn’t much I didn’t already know about the story.

The Verdict

Overall, I had hoped for something a little more fun. I know I’m acting extremely judgemental and protective of my Jane stories. I can’t help it.

Generally speaking, this isn’t a bad story. I just don’t like that the protagonist was changed so much.

I might suggest it for a quick, contemporary read.

Profile Image for Silvia F..
107 reviews17 followers
October 23, 2020
3.5***This was a cute teen romance that I read at what felt like lightning speed. Jillian Cantor captures the reader right at the beginning and has an easy to read writing style. The story overall was pretty cute. There were a lot of moments where I wanted to scream "just shut up and kiss already", but there were also some other moments where I was like "holy cow- just stop talking. You're so cynical!!" LOL. Clearly this book left me with mixed emotions. It was an easy read which was a plus but at times I just couldn't relate to Emma. I felt like sometimes she was so hard on herself and so negative that she missed all the cues that would make her life a little less stressful. It was frustrating to say the least because overall she was a very quircky and socially awkward character which I enjoyed. Even though it didn't "wow" me... if you're looking for a pretty cute quick read pick it up!

ARC received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Krysti.
355 reviews126 followers
March 8, 2020
In this delightful and tech-savvy retelling of Jane Austen’s EMMA, Emma Woodhouse attempts to lead her school’s coding club to victory at the state championship with the matchmaking app she designed. It seems like Emma has discovered the algorithm for true love as her app matches one happy couple after the next. But when a few of those relationships take a turn for the worse, and the app matches Emma’s best friend George Knightley with another girl from coding club, Emma begins to wonder if she’s written the code for true love or serious heartbreak.
Profile Image for Becca.
631 reviews55 followers
November 19, 2020
Thank you to Netgalley & Inkyard Press for providing me with an e-ARC of The Code for Love and Heartbreak; however, I did my review based on a finished copy of the audiobook!

3.5 Round Up!

Click here for an excerpt of The Code for Love and Heartbreak!

Who loves a good retelling? Me. Who loves a book that centers around technology? Also me.

The Code for Love and Heartbreak is an Emma by Jane Austen retelling; I'm gonna be real with you, I have never read Emma, so I can't necessarily compare the two for you.

Something I have to remind myself often is that when I read YA books, the characters are, of course, young. Did I get upset over really dumb things when I was in high school? Yes, absolutely, I was a Hot Mess. Emma & the Coding Club have some conflict throughout the book & it made me cringe so much. Like? That's what you chose to be angry about? Seriously? But after stepping back & reassessing the situation, maybe I would have been mad too at that age.

There is one thing that irked me though that did lower my opinion on The Code for Love and Heartbreak. And it's that it felt like it was attempting to be a love-triangle story. Emma seems to be pining after two characters & for some reason, it just didn't feel right to me? This may have been just a me thing though.

I was going to give this a 3-star overall, however, the ending had me in my feels & I definitely had to raise it a bit. The Code for Love and Heartbreak is a cute read where our main character learns a lot about herself & develops really meaningful relationships.
Profile Image for TheGeekishBrunette.
1,138 reviews28 followers
October 5, 2020
Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for an earc to review! All opinions are my own.

There was something about the title and premise that drew me in. I mean, who doesn’t love a good love story? I know nothing about Emma which is what this is a retelling of but I was still excited to give this one a try. The thing is, there was just something missing. I did like it for the most part but it just needed more.

Emma has no friends. She would rather deal with numbers than socializing. Although she quickly makes friends in this book so not really sure if that makes sense. I was a shy teen back in high-school but I still had a handful of friends. There wasn’t anything that made me connect to her character but I did like that she cared so much about her dad. Family is important and I like seeing that in books. On the other hand, I literally can’t remember a YA book I have read recently where both parents have been in the picture for the MC. I thought about that while reading so I’m just going to throw it in here.

The other characters in this book are fine but also a bit lackluster. They are there to move along the plot. George was fine but again, no connection for me. I did like the relationship and how it played because at least it wasn’t insta-love and Emma had to work through her feelings to understand that math isn’t the answer for everything and love just happens.

The plot was entertaining but I think what was missing is the love/heartbreak. Everything was told and not showed. I wanted to know more about the couples. It also felt like the part that could be taken as heartbreak was fine but also not that emotional? It could be just me.

Overall, I liked it but just needed a bit more of something.
Profile Image for Lindsey  Domokur.
1,289 reviews96 followers
October 6, 2020
If there is a Jane Austen modernization, you can bet I will be reading it. I love them. This one was set in high school, so it was a little harder for me to get into, but I still ended up liking it. The names in the book were exactly the same as in Emma and it followed the plot line pretty well, except for a few parts, and those parts bothered me a little bit.
Emma is on a coding team in high school and she comes up with an app that will match you with someone that is compatible with you from their high school. She has some success and some epic failures, but her friends are behind her and want to win the coding contest with their app.
I had to look past the high school situation and remember why I love Emma so much. There was high school drama and I believe that will add to the story for many people, I just like a modernization that follows the story more, only because it makes the love that George has for Emma more profound. I kept waiting for the feels, and I did get them, but it wasn't until the last pages. This book was bumped up to a 3.5 star because of all the feelings I had in the end. If you like high school and you like Jane Austen modernization books, you will enjoy this retelling of Emma.
Profile Image for Sofia S..
166 reviews118 followers
January 14, 2021
Thank you to the publisher and to netgalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own!

I will have to admit my first book of 2021 was a disappointment. The Code for Love and Heartbreak is about Emma, a senior in highschool, coding along with the coding club she is co-president of, a dating app for their schools to present at a coding competition.

Now get this: Emma doesn't understand people, she only understands numbers (something repeated one too many times in the book. we get it). She does not want to date (she's too busy! love sucks!), repeats this fact to every one who is willing to hear, and yet has the audacity to feel angry/betrayed/surprised when her "crush" starts dating someone else. "crush" in quotation marks because oh god the relationships in this book were a mess.

I think the two main things that turned me off in this book were...

1. Emma. You'd think you'd try to make the main character of the book at least somewhat likeable right? I need to be rooting for her at least a LITTLE. But from the very first page of the book, Emma got on my nerves big time. I couldn't put my finger exactly on what made her so annoying right at this moment but the amount of times I just had to roll my eyes while reading is astronomical.

Multiple times in the book (in fact, every time the environment is mentioned) Emma just can't help but think it's stupid and that no one cares. What's up with that? It was done maybe a few too many times for me to just ignore it – is this the author coming out, or just the character having a random vendetta against saving the planet?

Not to mention!!! At the beginning of the book, coding club gets two ideas for the competition. Her dating app, and an app to get people to recycle more. Of course the latter idea is shut down as stupid and unoriginal... compared to a dating app ? Give me a break. I thought from the beginning that the recycling app was such a good idea and could be fun with a little bit of tweaking (adding a few features, etc) but hey since it's recycling it's dumb right?? right???

So Emma is (1) not a supporting friend (2) not very nice (3) actually pretty annoying. lovely.

2. this is a romance, right. Let's keep that in mind, because I almost forgot reading the book. None of the couples, absolutely none, had any chemistry at all. There is George and Sam, and Emma who clearly has a crush on at least one of the two. The other starts dating, but apparently likes Emma. Then there's Jane, who has more chemistry with Emma than any other character in the book, lowkey flirts with her, opens up to her, understands her like no other character in the book, but they're "just friends." Bro. I don't think I have to say this but don't be that author who tries to force a hetero relationship when there's a perfectly good (better) one right there...

So, no chemistry. Not only boring, but when relationships come out of nowhere, it's very frustrating. That whole "oh wait they've liked each other the whole time" except there's no evidence in the book and I don't ship the two characters at all. It even felt like there was somewhat of a love triangle (or even a love mess between all the people in coding club) but it was just... not good. I knew how it was going to end (read the blurb and you know who she'll end up with. If you were going to make me think Emma likes someone else for 70% of the book then what's the point???).

Anyway. I'm going to stop here because this is becoming too much of a rant. Do I recommend this book? Not really, but if you're looking for a short read with some coding fun in it, why not. This book just really, really wasn't for me.

I don't think the story/plot/idea was that bad, which is what frustrates me the most. I just think some particular aspects were done quite poorly (think: how the characters were written, the writing style, no diversity, unlikeable characters, not enough diversity, a predictable plot).

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