We received this book in exchange for an honest review.
Special thanks to Ellfie Books for having us during the Heartbreak Café blog tour! We’ve included a mini review to start off the post, but we also have some exciting content: a Q&A with author Janet Quin-Harkin! Keep reading to learn more about Janet, her writing process, and our thoughts on No Experience Required.
No Experience Required throws it back to 1989. Deborah “Debbie” Lesley had the perfect life. Her parents were well-off, she belonged to a country club, she had a great boyfriend, and a loving family— that is, until she didn’t anymore. After her parents unexpected split, Debbie is thrust into a life she could never have imagined. Debbie and her mother have moved into a second-rate condo and her mom has abandoned trying to find a job in favor of going back to college at age 39. Unable to pay her car insurance, Debbie takes a job at the Heartbreak Café by the beach. How hard could it be to flip burgers and refill drinks? Wrong. Suddenly, she realizes there is more to life than country clubs and posh cars. She will have to put in the work…all while managing her extensive social life, friends, and school.
Meanwhile, Joe Garbarini is managing the Heartbreak Café for his grandpa (Joe senior) in between school and dates. The last thing he wants is a rich know-it-all like Debbie working for him. He’s convinced she won’t even last a month. But Debbie is determined to prove him wrong. Though they butt heads endlessly, as they come together, both of them realize that the other is not what they seemed.
We really enjoyed this throw back to 1989. This book takes place before we were even born, so it is fun to experience northern California in the late 80’s. No Experience Required gave us major OG Beverley Hills 90210 vibes (one of our fave shows). Though there were times we couldn’t relate to the 1980’s cultural phenomena, we appreciated the book for what it was and had fun reading it.
Debbie definitely had some grit to her and we enjoyed seeing her branch out and remove herself from the sheltered bubble she lived in. Most of her friends, including her boyfriend Grant, were stuck-up rich kids, and we were glad she met the gang at the Heartbreak Café.
Joe was another character we really enjoyed. He is the typical bad-boy-who-drives-a-motorcycle-but-has-hidden-depth that you see in most YA books. And for him, it definitely worked. His chemistry with Debbie was fire and we enjoyed their banter. You all know enemies-to-lovers tropes are our favorite, so we were pleased to see it in this book!
The rest of the Heartbreak Café crew was hilarious and we thoroughly enjoyed getting to know them, especially Ashley, Joe Sr., and Howard. We couldn’t stand Debbie’s parents though. They were so selfish and should have supporter her more.
Overall, if you’re looking for a YA throwback, check out No Experience Required.
Did you always want to be a writer?
I’ve always been a writer. From my earliest childhood I made up stories and lived in fantasy worlds. I wrote short stories and poems as a teen and initially wanted to be a journalist, editing my college newspaper. Then I was accepted by the BBC and became a drama studio manager. That was when I started coming up with my own ideas. I had a play accepted by the BBC and have been a professional writer ever since.
Was it difficult to get into the mind of being a teenager again when you wrote the Heartbreak Café series?
My teenage books have mostly been first person and their voices have come really easily to me. Maybe I’ve never grown up!
How do you think teens will react to the Heartbreak Cafe series when the world has changed so much since they were written?
Obviously parts of the story are dated. It’s annoying she doesn’t have a cell phone. Her world is not very diverse. However I think her life experiences are still identifiable for so many teens today: handling a parent’s divorce, dealing with lack of money, wanting to be popular and fit in—all teens go through this in every generation.
Who was your favorite character when you were writing the series?
I always enjoyed writing Ashley and Howard—it’s fun to create eccentric characters.