THE LOVE CODE

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A year ago, Astrid’s parents lost their jobs, the house, and all their savings, completely upending her life. She had been a carefree teen with a loving girlfriend, Ivy. Now she works every spare moment at a frozen yogurt shop, scrounging tips and saving her meager pay while handling abusive customers, all in the hope of attending university. Unfortunately, when Astrid joins a youth-led robotics team sponsored by the University of British Columbia, she finds that Ivy’s new boyfriend, Karsyn, is already a member. As Astrid struggles with extra work shifts and robotics meetings with the increasingly patronizing Karsyn, she starts to notice a girl named Bernie, their confident team captain. While Astrid’s inner narration is sometimes clunky, her maturation and evolving sense of self are realistic and easy to follow. Similarly, the discussions of stress, money issues, family, and gender roles add important layers to the simple plot. The robotics competition is not fleshed out in detail but provides an entertaining backdrop to Astrid’s growth as well as a parallel between their creations and love interest Bernie, who may be neurodivergent. Their romance is slow and satisfying but would have benefited from further exploration. Astrid is assumed White; Bernie is cued as East Asian, and names signal ethnic diversity in the supporting cast.

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