No Experience Required by Janet Quin-Harkin, published by Ellingstar Media on 1st July 2014
It s 1989. Life's easy for Deborah Lesley: she's up-market, drives her own flash car to school, and looks pretty good too. She's never had a job, either; but now her parents have split up, and she needs the money. Joe Garbarini is cool. He likes motorbikes, girls, and fun. He doesn't have time for much as he's running the Heartbreak Café when he's not at school. The Heartbreak Café is a noisy hangout on the north Californian coast. Joe's worked there for years, and knows what it takes. He's sure Debbie won't last a month but Debbie's determined to put up with his wisecracks and prove him wrong.
Set in 1989, this series was originally published in the eighties. Janet Quin-Harkin was a huge favourite of mine when I was a teenager and so I was thrilled at the news that the Heartbreak Café series was being republished for a whole new audience of readers. I thought that the story might feel a little dated considering it's over twenty years old but it didn't at all. It deals with so many universal themes which will resonate with teens today, such as trying to become independent and find your own way in life, juggling the demands of school and friends with a part-time job and facing the trauma of parental divorce, that it still feels as fresh and new as when it was first written.
'No Experience Required' centres around Debbie, whose parents have just split up. Finding it hard to cope with a mother who has decided to go back to school, Debbie decides to get a part-time job. When she stumbles across the Heartbreak Café her mind is made-up that this is where she's going to work, even though she has never flipped a burger in her entire life. She begins to work alongside the gorgeous Joe and they develop a bit of a love/hate relationship. But with sparks flying between them, could their wisecracks mean something more?
I adored the Heartbreak Café gang. There's cool Joe who all the girls are head over heels in love with, Ashley and her penchant for chocolate, plus geeky Howard and carefree Art. They are such a great gang that I wanted to scoot over on a stool, with a dish of chocolate madness in front of me and join in with all their fun.
If you're looking for hot and sizzling then you won't find it here but what you do get is a sweet, clean teen series where the romance is innocent and you won't catch the characters using any expletives, not even when things get steamy in the kitchen. It's such a refreshing change that I enjoyed kicking back and delighting in a wonderful slice of nostalgia.
I can't wait for the rest of the series to be published. Next up is 'The Main Attraction'. Will Debbie and Joe ever become a couple? You'll have to wait and see.