Mine was New Kids on the Block. Theirs were the first concert I attended (Hilton Colosseum in 1988) and, if I’m being honest, the last one, too. (My friends and I attended one of their reunion shows in Minneapolis in 2015. Nelly and TLC were the opening acts. It was the 90s all over again and it was awesome!)
My point is, you never forget your first boy band obsession. Or, if you’re Stella Samuel in Ali Novak’s The Heartbreakers, you never stop mocking your sister for her boy band obsession, also called The Heartbreakers. Stella is more indie music, not the pseudo-punk her sister loves, yet she’s on a mission to secure autographs of the hottest band around for her sister’s birthday present.
Stella’s road trip to Chicago with her brother Drew starts with a meet-cute at Starbucks. She spends a few minutes conversing/kind of flirting with a boy she knows she’ll never see again — until she does, this time sitting at a table with the other members of The Heartbreakers during a fan autograph session. Equally embarrassed and horrified, and dealing with the stress of personal matters I won’t go into for fear of spoiling the book, Stella lets Oliver know exactly what she thinks of him and his music when they connect once more. Needless to say, he isn’t used to girls not swooning over him, so while she considers the matter over, he’s convinced it’s just beginning.
The Heartbreakers is a fast-paced, fun read that can be finished in a day (or two if real life insists you go to work, care for your children, sleep, etc.). It’s cute and somehow manages to be believable even though you know this would never happen in real life. But hey, if someone wants to take the meeting-you-favorite-boy-band-member daydream and turn it in to an adorable YA book, I’m all for it! Novak does a great job of peeling back the curtain of the pop star (I’m sorry; their punk, according to Stella’s sister) life, showing that those who appear to have it all in front of the camera tell a different picture behind the lens.
The Heartbreakers is Novak’s second contemporary romance YA book. Her first book, My Life with the Walter Boys, was a 2014 Goodreads Choice Nominee and the Young Adult Library Services Association’s Teens Top Ten Reads of 2015 Winner. Her next full-length YA novel, Paper Hearts, will be released on July 4.