A huge thank-you to Ellingstar Media for this review copy of No Experience Required by Janet Quin-Harkin.
If you’re like me, hearing “1989” makes you think of Taylor Swift – but it’s also the year No Experience Required takes place.
It’s crazy to me that this is considered “historical fiction” now because 1989 was only a few years before I was born! However, as I read No Experience Required, I definitely realized how dated it was. This beachy, teen drama gives off some OC vibes and is a super quick and easy read.
I can’t say it was my favorite book of all time, but I did find it interesting to pick up a book that was originally published in the ’80s and then re-released in the ’00s. I don’t usually reach for books that are older than me (nope, not even a fan of classics), so this was a leap outside of my reading comfort zone!
This book is great for those who want a journey to a beachside dive bar in the 80’s, enjoy lots of teen angst, and need an escape into a book that requires little-to-no concentration.
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These are my honest thoughts on No Experience Required by Janet Quin-Harkin.
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 — he’s running 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.
Debbie, Joe and the rest of the gang are all at the Heartbreak Café. Meet them in this sparkling series from bestselling author Janet Quin-Harkin. (Goodreads Synopsis)
“…I was halfway down the canyon before I noticed I had missed my turning and was heading towards destiny in the form of the Heartbreak Café.”No Experience Required
This book had a lot of potential to be a cute and clever contemporary romance, but unfortunately, for me, it fell really flat. I think a lot of that had to do with the fact that it was originally published in a different era, and therefore, a lot of the themes were super problematic.
What I liked:
The setting! I wish I could spend every day in a beachside diner, eating burgers with the locals. It sounded like a great place to hang out with friends, relax with a book (or a comic book like Howard) by yourself, or even go out on a date.
The “regulars” at the café. Ashley cracked me up with her ridiculous diet tips. Howard was always ready to watch another wacky science fiction flick. Even Mr. Garbarini made me smile with his willingness to see Deborah succeed – even at the annoyance of his grandson.
What I disliked:
Deborah. She was awful. Stuck-up, spoiled, and with the mindset that she always has to prove everyone else wrong (whether that’s her mom, her boyfriend, Joe, etc.). She was the most unlikeable main character I think I’ve ever read.
All of Deborah’s friends. They were so entitled and it bothers me that Deborah never once put them in their place.
The “stereotypes.” OH MY GOSH this was the biggest nuisance for me. Again, potentially just when it was written, but it bothered me so much that Joe was “the bad boy” because he rode a motorcycle and he was “secretly smart” because he had a copy of Dickens in his leather jacket. GAG. And Howard was a nerd, we get it, but not all nerds are that uncomfortably awkward and loud about their nerdiness? And even the way they made assumptions about Deborah because she had money. It would just not fly at ALL to treat someone that way just because they have a nice car. Truly, all of that irked me to no end.
The parental figures – or lack thereof. Deborah’s mom is selfish and an utter letdown as a mom. That doesn’t excuse the way Deborah speaks to her, but seriously? You’re just going to stop working altogether because you want to go to school? I understand wanting freedom after a divorce, but that was just totally unrealistic. Meanwhile, Deborah’s free spirit father is off hooking up with younger women and providing zero support. The dynamics were ALL off. Maybe it was supposed to show how Deborah had to learn how to handle life herself? But she does a terrible job at it and then has to deal with her flaky family.
Overall, I found that this book just didn’t settle right with me and I don’t plan to read the rest. I wish it was as cute as it had sounded like it would be, but oof. It was a bit of a hot mess. I gave this book two stars.