Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Heartbreak Messenger by Alexander Vance

It's too bad it took me so long to pick this up off my review shelf, because I loved it and I wish I'd had it available to hand to kids last year when it first came out!

Quentin is a pretty typical 13 year old guy. His mom works at a garage and his dad hasn't been around since he was little. He has two best friends, Rob, who's ok at sports, and Abby who's good at math, science, and art. Quentin is pretty good at English so they make a great team and have been friends since elementary school. Then, one day, he somehow ends up being the messenger for a high school guy - and the message he takes is a break up. Things snowball out of control quickly and suddenly Quentin finds himself earning money as the Heartbreak Messenger, delivering break up messages for high school guys. But it's not as good a gig as it looks at first - the girls that cry are bad enough, but some of them seem to have never heard of "don't shoot the messenger." It's not his fault after all, is it? Then there's his friend Abby...or maybe she's more than a friend? He's ready to give it up when he overhears that his mom is having money problems and now he just has to go on with it. But between orchestrating a little revenge on the side and then finding his business and personal life getting mixed up, he's not the only one facing heartbreak.

I really liked the middle school kids portrayed in this book. They make mistakes, they do stupid stuff, but they're basically good kids, good friends, and when they stop and think they do the right thing. The high school kids are much more one-dimensional with the Tough Sports Girl, Football Player Who's Really a Softie, Scary Gang Guy, and Popular Girls Who Get Revenge, but that's pretty much how a middle schooler would see these strange beings and it felt right for the story - the focus is Quentin and his friends, not the peripheral high school kids whose lives he sees into. It was funny, touching, and I loved that Quentin and his mom had such a warm relationship and he was so anxious to help her out. Quentin's self-realization at the end about relationships and how he really feels about Abby might seem a bit mature for him, but anyone who's hung out with middle school kids will be familiar with their startling jumps into maturity (and right back out again, as witness Quentin's plans for his next business!).

Verdict: There's a very mild romance, lots of hilarious antics, and a few serious but not too preachy moments. In fact, if I was laying out the perfect formula for a realistic fiction book that would appeal to kids in 5th through 7th grade, boys and girls, this would pretty much be it. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9781250029690; Published 2013 by Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan; ARC provided at ALA; Purchased for the library

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