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