Review: How to Hack a Heartbreak – Kristin Rockaway

Review: How to Hack a Heartbreak – Kristin RockawayHow to Hack a Heartbreak
by Kristin Rockaway
Publication Date: July 30, 2019
Genres: Romance
Pages: 384
Source: NetGalley

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

My rating: One StarOne StarOne Star

Swipe right for love. Swipe left for disaster.

By day, Mel Strickland is an underemployed helpdesk tech at a startup incubator, Hatch, where she helps entitled brogrammers--"Hatchlings"--who can't even fix their own laptops, but are apparently the next wave of startup geniuses. And by night, she goes on bad dates with misbehaving dudes she's matched with on the ubiquitous dating app, Fluttr.

But after one dick pic too many, Mel has had it. Using her brilliant coding skills, she designs an app of her own, one that allows users to log harrassers and abusers in online dating space. It's called JerkAlert, and it goes viral overnight.

Mel is suddenly in way over her head. Worse still, her almost-boyfriend, the dreamy Alex Hernandez--the only non-douchey guy at Hatch--has no idea she's the brains behind the app. Soon, Mel is faced with a terrible choice: one that could destroy her career, love life, and friendships, or change her life forever.

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3 stars icon contemporary icon m/f

First off, I’ll admit that part of my rating is that I went into this expecting a romance. While there is a romantic relationship with an HEA, this is more women’s fiction. It’s the perfect sort of light beach read, though, if you’re looking for a book about how taking charge of her online dating life led to one woman reinventing her entire life.

“Sometimes I thought it’d be nice to be the person with the vision, as opposed to the person who fixed the broken laptops of the visionaries.”

Four years out of college, Mel works at Hatch, a startup incubator, as the frontline helpdesk support for the app developers. Mel can code, too, but is stuck removing viruses from the start-up hopefuls’ laptops and fixing printer jams. After yet another bad date, she impulsively comes up with JerkAlert, a website to record the bad deeds of all the men on the dating app of the moment, Fluttr. But is it a reprieve from endless dick pics or just another unintended source of negativity? While JerkAlert’s taking off, Mel also struggles with a new relationship with a coworker. Can she trust that he’s the person he seems to be, or is he just better at hiding his jerkiness?

My main issue with the book was that everything was painted with a broad brush, from the dudebros at Hatch to the bad dating experiences to the message. If they were mean or dismissive of Mel, they were obviously a bad guy, while everyone who was nice to her was obviously a good guy – there was very little room for anyone other than Mel to have complicated feelings. For instance, all of the men at Mel’s workplace were misogynistic, crass and verbally abusive, except for Mel’s love interest, Alex. He’s sweet, thoughtful, and handy in the kitchen – basically Prince Charming, minus a few minor imperfections that Mel, stewing in her own mess of insecurities, latched on to. He was just as much a caricature of “the perfect man” as Mel’s coworkers were caricatures of the opposite, and he honestly seemed too good to be true. Mel spent a good portion of the book waiting for the other shoe to drop, and I did as well, so I never really felt invested in their relationship. He did have his issues – he’s a workaholic (again, startup life) and he’s completely clueless about women’s struggles in tech. For instance, when his cofounder makes sexist remarks about Mel, he kept quiet, and it’s only after Mel takes him to task for it that he admits that he should’ve said something. Honestly, the only reason Mel seemed to like about him was that he wasn’t awful and he’s cute, which OK, I get it, but that wasn’t quite enough for a relationship for me. Alex himself had no character arc – I mean, I think he resolved to say sorry less? – he’s just a tool to show Mel’s growth.

And oh boy, does Mel need to do a lot of growing. Look, I’ve worked in tech, I know how it is, but staying in the same deadend job getting verbally harassed every day with no relief? Especially when she can code well enough to come up with a usable app in an evening? I couldn’t understand why she simply didn’t find something else. It’s no surprise that, surrounded by work negativity and dating negativity, she struck back in the only way possible by creating JerkAlert. Because, at the heart of it, Mel’s smart and hardworking but passive and seemingly unable to advocate for herself. As the book went on, Mel toned the negativity down and started taking control of her life, and that was the part I really enjoyed. Yes, she made some mistakes once she actually started, you know, making choices, but at least she was participating in her own life, and she owned up to her mistakes by the end fo the book.

“The problem was, I’d encountered so many terrible men, suffered through so much disappointment and humiliation, that I’d stopped looking forward to dating. It had become a chore, a burdensome task I had to check off my to-do list: Don’t wanna die alone? Better go have a drink with this random guy from the internet!”

I haven’t dated in a very, very long time, but Mel’s experiences with online dating – and the fear of missing out on “the one” if she didn’t keep swiping – were entertaining and had the right mix of hilarious and depressing. It felt like “real” NYC – complete with the small apartment, commuting delays, and diverse group of friends. I especially loved all the women in Mel’s life, from her close crew of friends to her Pinterest-obsessed roommate. I also loved all the little tidbits of the women’s strengths, and how the plot deftly knotted them all together in the end. It made a nice contract to JerkAlert – rather than finding her success by sharing the lows, she does it by utilizing her friends’ strengths. I also liked the message, even if, again, it felt heavy-handed. I thought the writing style was good, and the pacing moved along well, especially once JerkAlert started taking off.

Overall, I did like it, even if it wasn’t quite what I was expecting. It’s a quick read, so I think it’d be perfect as a beach read for someone looking for  something light, enjoyable and funny. If you’re looking for an actual romance about online dating, I’d recommend Stefanie London’s Bad Bachelor series, which also involves a website for rating online dates, or Alisha Rai’s forthcoming The Right Swipe, which stars the CEO of a women-centric dating app.

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