This reading group guide for The Soulmate Equation includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.Introduction
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Single mom Jessica Davis is a data and statistics wizard, but no amount of number crunching can convince her to step back into the dating world. Raised by her grandparents—who now help raise her seven-year-old daughter, Juno—Jess has been left behind too often to feel comfortable letting anyone in. After all, her father was never around, her hard-partying mother disappeared when she was six, and her ex decided he wasn’t “father material” before Juno was even born. Jess holds her loved ones close, but working constantly to stay afloat is hard . . . and lonely.
But then Jess hears about GeneticAlly, a buzzy new DNA-based matchmaking company that’s predicted to change dating forever. Finding a soulmate through DNA? The reliability of numbers: This
At least she thought she did, until her test shows an unheard-of 98 percent compatibility with another subject in the database: one of GeneticAlly’s founders, Dr. River Peña. This is one number she can’t wrap her head around, because she already knows Dr. Peña. The stuck-up, stubborn man is without a doubt not
her soulmate. But GeneticAlly has a proposition: Get to know him and we’ll pay you. Jess—who is barely making ends meet—is in no position to turn it down, despite her skepticism about the project and her dislike for River. As the pair are dragged from one event to the next as the “Diamond Match” that could launch GeneticAlly’s valuation sky-high, Jess begins to realize that there might be more to the scientist—and the science behind a soulmate—than she thought.
Funny, warm, and full of heart, The Soulmate Equation
proves that the delicate balance between fate and choice can never be calculated.Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. When we first meet Jess in Chapter 1, what do we learn about her as a character through her moment of reflection in the restroom? How does Jess’s perception of herself differ from Fizzy’s, Juno’s, and River’s perceptions of her? Does her self-perception change over the course of the novel?
2. In Chapter 3, Lisa asks, “Have you ever wondered what a soulmate truly is? Is love a quality you can quantify?” In the same section, she explains the GeneticAlly method of testing for factors of attraction and long-term emotional compatibility. Do you believe love is scientifically quantifiable? Are there any other factors at play?
3. The DNADuo app is primarily designed for romantic love, with one of the testing criteria being attraction. Do you think there could be a spin-off app that tests and matches people for types of platonic love? Discuss whether matches of platonic love would be classified as soulmates or something else.
4. Many dating apps and sites give users tests to determine compatibility, and there are multiple genetic ancestry and profiling tools currently on the market. Do you think something like DNADuo might become a reality someday?
5. Much of Jess’s identity is wrapped up in her relationship with her mother. Discuss how that relationship affects her decisions throughout the novel. Jess often defines herself by their differences, but do she and her mother share any commonalities?
6. In Chapter 9, Fizzy comments, “I didn’t expect my dates to be life-altering, and they weren’t. Was it because the test is right, or because I didn’t expect them to be soulmates?” Discuss the potential effect of knowing the statistical likelihood of breaking up before you begin dating someone. Do you believe the app creates a self-fulfilling prophecy, or is the algorithm that accurate?
7. Base Matches are the most common, with rarity increasing through each level of compatibility. Why do you think Diamond Matches are so rare?
8. Many of the families shown in the novel are departures from the traditional idea of a nuclear family. Jess, Fizzy, River, and Juno all have unique relationships with their parents, grandparents, and siblings. Discuss the depiction of family dynamics in the novel.
9. In Chapter 10, River says, “I’ll believe the test if it says we are biologically compatible, but I’m not a scientific zealot, Jess. I recognize the element of choice.” Discuss how the element of choice might affect soulmates. Do you think the effect of choice works differently for Base Matches than for Diamond Matches?
10. GeneticAlly’s test is capable of identifying genetic commonalities, not personality traits. However, many of the high-level couples seem to have similar senses of humor, life goals, and dispositions. What do you think this says about nature versus nurture?
11. In Chapter 12, after the interview and photo shoot with the San Diego Union-Tribune
, Jess comments on the mutual attraction she and River have, saying, “I don’t know about soulmate, but I’d admit to lust.” Discuss the relationship of love and lust.
12. River and Jess’s relationship evolves from strangers to adversaries to lovers to loving partners. Can you identify specific points where these changes occurred? For each character, when do you think their feelings began to shift from attraction to love?
13. Throughout the novel, Jess feels concerned and conflicted about dividing her time between her work, her daughter, and her budding relationship with River. Do you think she achieves a balance? Discuss the idea of “having it all” in terms of Jess’s portrayal as a modern working mother.
14. In Chapter 15, one of the cocktail party guests puts forth the question “What happens if you match like this with someone else?” What do you think would happen? Do you believe it’s possible to have more than one soulmate? How does it affect your perspective if a new soulmate match had an even higher compatibility score?
15. By the end of the novel, River has seen the accurate test results for his compatibility with Jess, but Jess decides against reading the results. How do you think their decisions might affect their relationship going forward?Enhance Your Book Club
1. At the end of the novel, River hands Jess an envelope with their DNADuo test data, but she decides not to look. Would you look in the envelope?
2. The idea of different people expressing themselves through distinct expressions of love has become a popular topic when discussing modern relationships. Based on their behavior toward each other, what would you say are Jess’s and River’s languages of love? Do they express love differently with family members than with each other?
3. The Soulmate Equation
is centered around modern dating practices. Compare and contrast modern, app-based dating with more traditional methods. What are some of the similarities and differences between having a potential partner selected by an app versus being set up by mutual friends? What about having a match chosen by parental figures?