There is a difference between a book that is sad because it thoughtfully explores a sad topic and a book that feels emotionally manipulative because it just throws a lot sad events in your face and tells you how sad they are. Whether a book comes down to one of or the other is, I think, a matter of personal experience. It comes down to how much the book resonates with you and reflects the ways you've lived those sorts of sad things.
This one, to me, felt like it fell into the second camp. And I don't really know how to discuss that without get too spoilery, but I will try:
Sam gets fired from his job as a software engineer for an online dating company when he creates an algorithm that is able to find the perfect match for its users...meaning they'll no longer need to pay for the services. Silver lining: he meets Meredith using his algorithm and, of course, the two are a perfect match. Then Meredith's grandmother passes away and, wanting to help ameliorate her grief, Sam writes another algorithm. His dating algorithm explored your electronic communications to find out what you really mean when you say you want to meet someone "smart and funny." The RePose algorithm, as it comes to be known, explores the electronic communications of a loved one that's passed away so that it can effectively mimic an email or Skype conversation on behalf of said loved one. Meredith is sort-of able to talk to her grandmother again, and the two eventually decide to turn the algorithm into a company to provide the service to other people.
That's not very spoilery -- that all happens in the first fifty pages, and it's covered in the jacket flap. And I think that would have been all well and good except for the fact that neither the characters nor their love story is particularly well-developed. A whole lot of telling-not-showing, most of the story takes place in dialogue and I never felt I got to know them aside from what they said to each other. Their flirtations were cute but there just wasn't a lot of depth there.
Then there's a sad plot twist that comes almost out of nowhere, except I was sort of expecting it. That's all well and good, too, because that's the way these things happen in real life and I know that as well as anyone. It just felt to me as though Frankel was saying, "You know what would be really
sad?" And everything in the back third of the book is described in such morose terms. But it felt exaggerated, over-the-top in its bleakness. It didn't feel genuine to me, it felt...emotionally manipulative. I'd include some quotes, but I feel like that would be giving too much away here.
There are some interesting implications explored in this book -- does RePose and the ideas behind it aid or impede the normal grieving process? What are the limits of technology when it comes to experiencing human emotions? Ultimately, though, these ideas get drowned out with the trying to be sad.