REVIEW: The Code for Love and Heartbreak by Jillian Cantor

Posted October 9th, 2020 by in Blog, HJ Recommends, Review, YA / 2 comments


The Code for Love and Heartbreak by Jillian Cantor: In our truly relative world of grey, this delightfully sweet read is the epitome of Young Adult Romance; its innocence as light as a summer sun shower and its thematic intent as bright as a full moon.

Emma, our idiosyncratic and socially awkward protagonist, is a Senior Maths super-nerd who relies heavily on numbers and sums to make sense of life. In fact, numbers are calming, and in Emma Woodhouse’s black and white Universalist world, what other equation would she possible ever have to rely on? With her sister Izzy leaving to study in California, who has been something of a social guide, helping Emma navigate the social nuances she can’t fathom, Emma faces her senior year alone, looking forward to winning valedictorian and being co-president of the Coding Club.

Centred predominantly around the trials and tribulations of developing a project for the National Coding Championships, Emma is inspired by her sisters parting words – that she should endeavour to get a boyfriend and if not, code a robot one. And so after some serious debate on what their ultimate project will be, the Coding Club decide on a dating app that uses algorithms to predict a person’s perfect match. After all, for Emma, in matters of love, that’s the only logical thing that makes sense. Her Coding Club co-president, childhood best friend, and closest academic rival George, attempts, somewhat in vain, to warn Emma of the risks in developing her dating app, however, Emma is certain that maths never lies and despite having no real understanding of love herself, convinces the Club that this is the most original project yet and sure to win them the championship.

Increasingly, in our ever-expanding tech reality, algorithms are fine tuned to appeal to our politics, our interests, our tastes and our desires, and so on many levels, it is logical that a dating app can pair us with a ‘perfect match’ based on these things. Except of course, love and attraction often aren’t logical. Thematically, the inexplicable nature of love is explored beautifully and gently, and in many ways highlights that despite tech companies best efforts, there will likely be no code for love and heartbreak.

Irrespective of our social ease or, as is the case with Emma, social ineptitude, humans are ultimately motivated by our inherent aesthetic tastes, and so, in many ways, Cantor introduced a critical lens through which to view the overarching purpose. And whilst the writing is by no means mind-blowingly descriptive or delicate, particularly given this is a modern take on the original Jane Austen classic Emma, it is undeniably suited to the narrative voice. Furthermore, with it’s lack of overt sexual references or sex scenes and absence of nudity and adult themes, beyond love itself, this tame Young Adult Romance is very appropriate for young people and therefore very fit for purpose. Wonderfully innocent characters, clever little action kernels and some philosophically challenging undertones peppered this read to deliver a lovely Happily Ever After that any romance reader will be hard pressed to not smile at, because like love, what makes us smile is simply not code-able.


Book Info:

Publication: 6th October 2020 | Inkyard Press |

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.



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