Who doesn’t dream of meeting their soulmate for a lifetime together? What if you could predict with a high degree of certainty who that would be before you even go on your first date? This would eliminate the hope and despair cycle with every date you go on; a cycle that grows more desperate as you age. In The Soulmate Equation, Christina Lauren, writing duo Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings, have come up with just such technology that takes the guessing out of the equation.
Jessica “Jess” Davis’ has three people in her life whom she loves with every fiber of her being: her daughter and her grandparents. She is a freelance statistician working constantly to stay afloat as she financially supports her loving grandparents and largely-absent mother every once in a while, runs a house, and struggles to provide her daughter with the comforts, activities, and school involvement she believes every child should have. The authors have portrayed Jess’ arduous life sensitively and authentically. With so many moving parts to manage by herself, she exists in a state of continual exhaustion. She feels old before her time and cannot imagine anyone being interested in her, or her having the ability to put in the emotional effort to get to know people. And yet…life as a single adult is difficult, and as a single parent, even more difficult. And lonely.
When Jess loses a big client because she refuses to compromise her ethics in fudging data, she is forced to become a barista at her favorite coffee shop. For months on end, she was at the front of the counter, now she is behind it. Her humiliation is complete when the person she surreptitiously admires for his gorgeousness but thinks is surly and taciturn comes to order his customary drink and leaves her a big tip.
Dr. River Peña is that grumpy tipper and also a highly regarded biotechnology researcher, who has focused his research on a DNA-based matchmaking app. Along with his mentor, he has founded a company, which he would soon like to take to IPO, based on the research he completely believes in.
Jess and River first notice each other at the coffee shop. But they officially meet when River’s execs invite her to the company’s posh offices to unveil the duo’s astonishing DNA matchup: River and Jess have a compatibility score of 98 percent. Never before in the history of their company have they seen such a high match, and they want River and Jess to date and discover if the number is a correct predictor of future happiness or a statistical anomaly. Their company’s reputation is riding on their relationship, and they offer to pay Jess for her time. This is something that Jess cannot refuse, and also the constant frisson of attraction running between her and River convinces her to take their offer.
For anyone interested in statistics and biotechnology, there is much science to be had between the covers of this book. River’s research identifies certain parts of the DNA that predict a person’s personality and match up people based on that. The app gives every person a score and there are categories of compatibility dependent on the score. I was fascinated by all the details — there are just enough details to tickle your fancy and not so much that your eyes glaze over. All this information adds to the authentic setting of the book and makes the plot completely believable. Of course, science is not the panacea for everything. The protagonists have to date and discover for themselves if their compatibility score is truly reality or purely a numbers game. The authors convinced me beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jess and River belong together.
This is a thoroughly entertaining book that I couldn’t stop reading once I started. If unputdownability is a marker of success, then I would say that this book was highly successful in capturing my interest.
An Aside: The authors have done a wonderful job with Jess’ closest friend, Fizzy. She gets just enough page time to be memorable. Her character is like her nickname and she adds pep, humor, support, and a reality-check to Jess’ life. She is the perfect friend to have in your corner, and I really hope she gets a book of her own.