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Celebrate Valentine’s Day at the Heartbreak Café – Re-release of the 80s series by Janet Quin-Harkin

Heartbreak Café Book cover and coffee cup with hearts

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone – I hope today sees you having time to read a favourite book or three.

Today also marks the re-release of the Heartbreak Cafe series by Janet Quin-Harkin which follows teen Debbie Lesley as she takes on a new job, and a new way of living, after her parent’s divorce.

I was gifted book one – No Experience Required – for review and I’m so glad I was. As a 42 year old – I may now be closer to Debbie’s parents’ age but these books were around when I was nearer Debbie’s age – or perhaps a little bit before because sadly they are not ones I remember reading. I was busy reading Sweet Valley High in the early 90s instead.

About No Experience Required

Deborah Lesley’s comfortable life in Northern California is suddenly turned upside down. Her family is breaking up, there’s no longer the family home she grew up in and she finds herself having to grow up, and find a job at the popular beach hangout Heartbreak Café.

Life is never dull at the Heartbreak Café and the dram for Deborah Lesly only continues once she starts work. Theres Joe Garbarini for start who runs the café when he’s not at school and whose sarcasm is almost enough to make Debbie walk out of a job she very much needs. But she’d ready to prove Joe wrong and stick to the job, she needs the money after all.

About the Author

Janet Quin-Harkin first found success as a picture book writer, winning several awards. She was then asked to write a teenage series and Heartbreak Café was born! The first in the series No Experience Required was an instant success when it was originally published in the eighties. By the time the third book came out she was selling half a million copies. Since then Janet has gone on to become a New York Times bestseller. Writing under the pen name Why Bowen, she is the author of the historical Molly Murphy and Rpyal Spyness mystery series. She has won the Agatha Best Novel Award and was nominated for the Edgar Best Novel. Janet is British and divides her time between California and Arizona.

You can visit her website at www.rhysbowen.com

What I Thought

This at once took me back to my childhood but in an odd way also seems like it could have been written today. Only a few things firmly placed it in the past, the lack of mobile phones, and turns of phrase such as neat. It’s such an easy read and reminded me of a time when I would read multiple books in a day (at a little over 200 pages it is very easily digestible). One thing I wasn’t so keen on was the slight undercurrent of fatphobia and sadly I think that’s something that does still exist today. The mentions were very brief and mild but they were still present.

Main character Debbie was great to follow, her arc from spoilt rich girl to independent teen allowed plenty of room for growth and the dynamic between her and Joe, snarky and fun is what I like to read. She has insight and awareness but is still a teenager who sometimes acts before she thinks.

Debbie has her toes in two worlds – one is a country club, Harvard aspiring one with a Quarterback future lawyer boyfriend, and in the other she lives in an apartment and has a new part time job to pay to keep the car she had in the first world. But which one does she fit in? Can she belong to both?

Her parents are both present and absent in her life but I am glad they don’t disappear altogether and the angst and upset of divorce runs through this book. I couldn’t help but empathise with her mum.

There is lots of humour too – particularly when Debbie is trying to cook burgers for the first time – I definitely would not wanted to have been her first customer.

The secondary characters are intriguing and I hope they come to the fore more in later books because they definitely have their own stories to share. We definitely only scrape the surface with them in this book which centres firmly on Debbie, even Joe has more to him than we see here.

All in all this was a light, fun read and took me back to the polyester uniform of my first job (supermarket rather than café). If you like YA/teen contemporary then I’d definitely recommend picking these up.

The Heartbreak Café series is published by Ellfie Books the YA and Teen Imprint of the publishers Ellingstar Media.

Book 1 – No Experience Required

Book 2 – The Main Attraction

Book 3 – At Your Service

Book 4 – Catch of the Day

Book 5 – Love to Go

Book 6 – Just Desserts

In this hit eighties series about teen life in northern California, themes of friendship, work, family, divorce, and love are ever present. From movie makers coming to town and surprising romances, the Heartbreak Café series will transport you to a retro California, full of sun, surf, and heartbreak.

It’s author says “I always had a special place in my heart for Heartbreak Café. It seems very real to me (actually it was modelled on a real café in Capitola CA) and I saw it as a place that was where paths crossed and people came out changed. In spite of its humour it had serious underpinnings and a message that is timeless. That’s why I’m so thrilled to see it back in print.”

Floored by The UKYA Super Seven – Book Review

Ever since I got a sampler of this at last year’s YALC (Young Adult Literature Convention) I’ve been desperate to read the whole thing and see if I could work out which author wrote which character. See below for my feeble guessing attempts. YALC 2018 is a mere week away with the Floored 7 speaking/signing on Saturday so I’m looking forward to getting my copy signed by these wonderful women (and also taking part in the Floored quiz on Friday night – I wonder if we can get last year’s #QuizYA winning #TeamBarnard back together).

Synopsis

When they got in the lift, they were strangers.

Sasha, who is desperately trying to deliver a parcel; Hugo, who knows he’s the best-looking guy in the lift and is eyeing up Velvet, who knows what that look means; Dawson, who used to be on TV, used to be handsome, and is sincerely hoping no one recognizes him; Kaitlyn, who’s losing her sight but won’t admit it; and Joe, who shouldn’t be here at all, but wants to be here the most.

And one more person, who will bring them together again on the same day every year.

Every day told seven ways in this unique collaborative novel.

Authors

I have read and loved books by each of these authors. Instead of giving you a bio I’ll link you to their Twitter where they hang around being funny and awesome and tell you which one of their other books is my favourite… so far.

Sara Barnard – @saramegan

A Quiet Kind of Thunder

Holly Bourne – @holly_bourneYA

Am I Normal Yet?

Tanya Byrne – @tanyabyrne

Heart-Shaped Bruise

Non Pratt – @NonPratt

Trouble

Melinda Salisbury – @MESalisbury

The Sin Eater’s Daughter

Lisa Williamson – @lisa_letters

The Art of Being Normal

Eleanor Wood – @eleanor_wood

Gemini Rising

A nod also to the illustrations by Laura Callaghan. I especially loved Kait’s illustration progression.

What I Thought

Back in 1994 Sandra Bullock’s character Annie in Speed told us that “relationships that start under intense circumstances, never last.” That film starts in a lift and so does the action in Floored, and it seems from the book’s dedication that so did the inspiration for this story. Clearly Annie is a master of reverse psychology because it seems intense circumstances can bring people together and indeed here it creates a story that I’ll happily keep with me.

This is a contemporary young adult read with common themes such as teen pregnancy, feminism, growing up, deciding where you fit. There’s also diversity in terms of sexuality and disability as well as young characters facing morbidity and mortality.

Each of the six teen characters gets their own chapters and there is an overarching narrator. I don’t think that was meant to be the seventh person in the lift but I could be wrong.

I liked the comedy in it especially the morbid humour in naming their messaging group. The use of text statuses between the group when they weren’t physically together also worked well to advance the story.

I thought it explored friendships really well in terms of how within groups of friends people pair off or create subgroups based on commonality or connection. The time jump forward to the next year reminded me a little of the film Beaches in terms of tone. The shock incident, and meeting, happens early on and the story is then about how they stay in touch or drift apart. It didn’t feel slow paced though and this structure allowed a range of experiences to be explored over time.

Not all of the characters are likeable but all of them are interesting and hold your attention during their narration. I didn’t find myself wanting to skip ahead to x’s bit but was fully immersed.

I enjoyed the nods to some of the author’s other books. Melinda’s character Luvian Fen from State of Sorrow is mentioned in Dawson’s chapter, as is Rhys Gold from Sara’s A Quiet Kind of Thunder. What other Easter Eggs did people find?

And reverse long bottoming as a concept is genius. Harsh, but also sadly true in some cases.

In short I really loved this and if you love contemporary I have no doubt you will too. I’d love the authors to considered coming back to these characters 10 & 20 years in the future too. More please.

Who wrote who??

Original guesses after the sampler to which Mel replied Interesting?!

Dawson – Non

Kaitlyn – Sara

Sasha – Holly

Hugo – Tanya

Velvet – Eleanor

Joe – Lisa

Narrator – Melinda

Guesses when re- reading first chapters

Dawson – Non

Kaitlyn – Sara

Sasha – Holly

Hugo – Melinda

Velvet – Eleanor

Joe – Lisa

Narrator – Tanya

Guesses after finishing

Dawson – Non

Kaitlyn – Sara

Sasha – Tanya

Hugo – Melinda

Velvet – Holly

Joe – Lisa

Narrator – Eleanor

In other words I have no clue. I can’t even really fully justify why these were my guesses. Feel? I suspect I am totally wrong.

Anyway all of these ladies can write magnificently separately and together they have blended so well and created a group of characters you will be happy to meet up with time and time again. In fact I’d love to hear more from them.

If you’ve read the book who do you think wrote who? What reasoning do you have?

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