The Heartbreak Messengerby Alexander Vance
Breaking up is hard to doso why not pay someone to do it for you?
Twelve-year-old Quentin never asked to be the Heartbreak Messenger. It just kind of happened, and he can't let a golden opportunity pass him by. The valuable communication service he offers is simple: He delivers breakup messages. For a small fee, he will deliver/b>/b>/b>
Breaking up is hard to doso why not pay someone to do it for you?
Twelve-year-old Quentin never asked to be the Heartbreak Messenger. It just kind of happened, and he can't let a golden opportunity pass him by. The valuable communication service he offers is simple: He delivers breakup messages. For a small fee, he will deliver that message to your soon-to-be ex. If you order the deluxe package, he'll even throw in some flowers and a box of chocolates. You know . . . to soften the blow.
At first, Quentin's entrepreneurial brainchild is surprisingly successful, which is great, because he suspects his mom, who works as a car mechanic, is worried about money. But as he interacts with clients, message recipients, and his best friend, Abigail, it doesn't take long for him to wonder if his own heart will remain intact. In The Heartbreak Messenger by Alexander Vance, Quentin discovers that the game of love and the emotions that go with it are as complicated as they comeeven for an almost-innocent bystander.
“When his best friend's brother wants to break up with his girlfriend but doesn't know how, Quentin agrees to do it for him for $20. He never expects it to turn into a business, but after being successful and taking the ex's advice to soften the blow with flowers and chocolate, he becomes the heartbreak messenger. . . This clever read will find an audience with both boys and girls.” School Library Journal, starred review
“The laughs are plentiful in Vance's debut. . . . Overall it's an entertaining and funny read with a clever conceit.” Publishers Weekly
“Breaking up is hard to do, but not if you have the Heartbreak Messenger do it for you. . . .With strong supporting characters and an appealing lead, this funny, feel-good tale is perfect for those beginning to think about dating.” Booklist
Read an Excerpt
The Heartbreak Messenger
By Alexander Vance
Feiwel and FriendsCopyright © 2013 Alexander Vance
All rights reserved.
I didn't choose to be the Heartbreak Messenger. Not really. I was just trying to make a few honest bucks and help a guy out. I definitely didn't choose the name. I don't know who did. It just started floating around and eventually stuck. Me? I would've gone for something more professional and less ... girly.
Speaking of girls, I should probably tell you something about myself right off the bat — and it's embarrassing, so you can pretty much count on it being true. I'm not exactly what you would call a "ladies' man." Anyone who knows me can tell you I don't talk to girls if I can help it. I mean, besides my friend Abby and the occasional cashier at the grocery store. I'm only saying this so you'll believe me when I tell you that I didn't get involved in all this as a way to meet girls. And, for the record, I don't enjoy making people cry, either.
But, believe it or not, there are guys out there that have even more trouble with girls than I do. The crazy part is that some of those guys have girlfriends.
And that's where I come in.
It all started with Rob McFallen's older brother, who was a junior in high school. We were sitting in Rob's kitchen one afternoon eating ice cream. That was the great thing about Rob's house — both of his parents worked, and their freezer was always stocked with ice cream. As long as the rest of the house was in one piece when they came home, his parents didn't really care if half a carton of rocky road was missing.
Rob's brother, Marcus, came in and pulled out the mint fudge brownie. He had on his red delivery uniform, but he didn't seem to be in a hurry to get to work. He sat down and dug in with a serving spoon.
Rob looked up from making patterns in his ice cream with his fork prongs. "Dude, Marcus, use a bowl."
Rob had been my friend since the second grade when he'd dared me to kiss a particular girl on the playground. I didn't have the guts, so I started a fight with him instead. He finished it by throwing sand in my face. Sitting in the principal's office afterward, me blind and him busted, had bonded us for life in a prisoner-of-war kind of way. I guess you could say he was my best friend. One of two.
Marcus scowled at his brother. "Don't bug me. I'm thinking."
"First time for everything," Rob said.
Marcus didn't respond. He just sat there, staring at the spotted green ice cream on his spoon.
"Man ... you really are thinking," Rob said.
I was kind of amazed, too.
Marcus dropped his spoon back into the carton without taking a bite. He pushed the ice cream away. "I've got problems."
I licked the dripping ice cream from my spoon. "What kind of problems?"
Rob answered for him. "Girl problems. With Marcus, it's always girl problems."
"But I thought you already have a girlfriend," I said.
"Sure, man. But that's when the real problems start." Marcus looked at me with troubled eyes.
Rob had already lost interest and was digging the marshmallows out of his ice cream. But I was curious. "Like what?"
"Like, on Monday when I picked her up for school. I wore my cross-trainers, but she made me go back home and change into my dress shoes. She said they went better with my shirt."
"Or Tuesday, I was gonna hang out with the guys, but she needed me to come decorate some preschool for their fall party. She wanted me to stay for the party, too! I barely escaped. Told her I wasn't feeling well."
Now I was losing interest.
"Or today, in English, when she saw me passing notes back and forth with Cammie Bollinger. It didn't mean nothing, but Melissa spends the rest of the day giving me the silent treatment."
"Man, I just don't feel free anymore. I can't do what I wanna do. I'm trapped. I think ... I think I need to break up with her."
Rob suddenly surfaced from his bowl of ice cream. "Break up with Melissa? But I thought you liked her."
Marcus reached across the table and swatted Rob on the side of the head. "You're so dense.Haven't you been listening? I'm miserable. I want my freedom."
"So break up with her," I said between spoonfuls.
"I ... I'm not sure how. I've never done it before."
"Yeah," Rob said. "Girls usually dump him." He ducked just in time to miss another swat from Marcus's hand.
"Why don't you just send her an e-mail?" I suggested. "Or a text."
"Not a chance," Marcus said. "Tony Seong sent this sappy text to break up with his girl last year, and you know what happened? She forwarded it to everyone on her contact list, and then posted it on her blog. You can Google Tony's name right now and his breakup text pops right to the top."
"Don't be a wuss," Rob said. "Just talk to her."
Marcus glared at him. "If it's so easy, then you do it." He paused for a moment, and I saw the wheels in his head start moving again. "Hey, that's it. Why don't you break up with her for me?"
Rob almost snorted an almond. "What? You're crazy. Besides, Mom and Dad grounded my cell phone after I downloaded all those games, remember?"
"No, no, I mean talk with her in person. I'm serious. Go and let her know that it just isn't working out between us. That I think we should go our separate ways."
"Not a chance," Rob said. "That's so totally not going to happen."
"Please?" begged Marcus. "I'll give you twenty bucks if you do it."
My ears perked up. Twenty dollars just for delivering a message?
Rob shook his head. "Not gonna happen."
I cleared my throat. "I'll do it."
I was kind of surprised to hear myself say that. This was probably a family thing, and I shouldn't have butted in. But I'm not one to turn down easy money. Like one year in elementary school we had a fundraiser where we had to get people to buy things from a Christmas catalog — picture frames and little angel statues and smelly decorations. The kid that sold the most would win fifty bucks. Most of the kids went door-to-door, hitting up the parents of the other kids that were selling. I figured out a better strategy. My mom knew a lady in charge of an old folk's home that let me bring my catalog there. Yeah, in one afternoon I easily claimed that fifty dollars and made a whole building full of grandmas happy at the same time.
Marcus looked at me with a hopeful half smile. "You serious?"
"Sure, if you want me to." I shrugged. "For the twenty, of course. In advance."
Marcus grabbed the ice cream carton and dug in. "Quentin, you're a lifesaver."CHAPTER 2
"Seriously, Quentin, what do you know about breaking up with high school girls?" Rob asked me later that afternoon as we walked down to Mick's. "You're in seventh grade."
"Age matters not," I said in my best Yoda voice. "No ... no."
"Yoda didn't say that. He said, 'Size matters not.'"
"No way. It was when he was talking about being nine hundred years old or something."
"'Size matters not.' It was when Luke was trying to carry Yoda on his shoulders."
Rob and I passed the glass doors that opened into the front of Mickelson's Quality Service Garage. It's the only auto garage in the county that's open until midnight. Plus they give you a complimentary pine-scented air freshener with each oil change. The poster in the window says WHILE SUPPLIES LAST, but Mick got a smoking good deal on half a warehouse of those air fresheners on eBay. I've seen the boxes in the storeroom and, believe me, supplies will last a good long while.
We turned the corner of the building and walked around back where the four garage bays opened up into a cement parking lot. Next to the office door in the first bay stood a chubby man in green coveralls and a red Cardinals baseball cap. As always, he chewed on half a cigar. Unlit, of course, because only an idiot would light up in a garage. Besides, he'd quit smoking years ago.
"Hey, Mick," I said as we walked past.
He looked up from his clipboard. "Quentin, my man, how's it going?" He glanced behind me at Rob. "And ... Richard. Always welcome at Mickelson's Garage."
Rob scowled and followed me past Mick to bay four. There was an old Chevy Malibu up on the lift. Looked like an inline fuel filter job. The woman underneath it was also dressed in green coveralls. Her plain brown hair was pulled up in a ponytail and threaded through the back of a white baseball cap that didn't have a logo on it. Just grease. She looked both young and old — thirty-two to be exact — and she handled the wrench in her hand like a pro.
"Hi, Mom," I said.
She stopped cranking the wrench just long enough to look over and give me a piece of a smile. "Hey, Quentin. Hi, Rob. How was school?"
"Okay," I said.
"Guess what Quentin's going to do for my brother?" Rob blurted out.
I jabbed my elbow in his ribs before Mom looked over at us again.
I shrugged. "Nothing. Just help him with some school stuff."
Mom turned back to the underside of the car and I pulled Rob across the parking lot to an old picnic table resting in the shade of a grove of poplars. The trees went out for at least a hundred yards on town land. A dirt path cut through the trees, crossing a wooden bridge on its way.
Rob rubbed his chest. "I think you cracked a rib."
"That's not something my mom needs to hear about," I said, pulling notebooks from my backpack.
"Sorry. It's not like you're doing something illegal."
"What are you doing that's not illegal?" said a familiar voice.
Abby stepped out from the poplar path and joined us at the picnic table. Her soft blond hair fell past her shoulders and a single dimple stuck in her cheek as if a thumbtack held it there.
Back in the second grade, when Rob and I got in that scuffle over daring me to kiss a girl, well, Abby was the girl. Somehow that had endeared us to her, and we'd been friends ever since. She was also my best friend, the other one of two.
"Hi, Abby. Quentin's going to ..." Rob stopped short and looked over at me, his eyes begging me to let him go on.
I stepped in before Rob could stick his foot in his mouth. "Nothing. Not really. I'm just helping Marcus with something. Something he wants to do for ... or actually with ... um, Melissa."
Abby's eyes suddenly became a brighter shade of blue. "Oh, that's so sweet of him. Like a surprise date? Or a birthday party?"
I cleared my throat. "Well, I can't really talk about it. It's kinda hush-hush."
"Quentin, come on, just give me a hint."
"Don't make me ask you three questions."
"Don't you mean twenty questions?" I corrected.
"No. Just three. I saw this courtroom show the other night where the lawyer was explaining how you could get to the bottom of any case with just three questions ... if you know the right questions to ask." Everyone knows that Abby's life plan includes a successful career as a district attorney. "So are you going to tell me, or are you going to make me ask the questions?"
"I really can't, Abby. Because ..." I hesitated. I never kept anything from her or Rob. But somehow this seemed like a good exception. I wasn't sure what she'd think about my little job for Marcus. "Because we have that grammar test on Friday that's going to kick your trash if we don't get busy."
Abby groaned and plopped down at the picnic table. "That's a hopeless cause. Why bother?"
Because it just saved me from spilling the beans, that's why. "Come on, open up," I said.
Abby and Rob dug out their books. The three of us were in several classes together, which made homework a lot easier. Abby was really good with the math and science stuff. I had English and history in the bag. And Rob ... well, he was there for moral support.
"You want to start with number one, Abby?" I asked.
"Okay." She studied the page in her notebook. "Number one. Determine the adverb in this sentence. 'Abby was dying to know what Quentin was secretly doing for Marcus and Melissa.'"
"No," she replied with a straight face. "In this case 'Abby' is a noun."
"Okay, Rob," I said without looking up, "why don't you take the first one for us?"
"Please," Abby said before Rob could respond. "Just tell me, is it romantic sweet, or fun sweet, or a help-you-out-because-I-love-you sweet?"
I snapped my notebook shut. "I'm not going to tell you. It's between me and Marcus. Just drop it, all right?"
Abby folded her arms. "Guys have no sense of romance. Fine, keep your secret. You know I'll just get Rob to tell me later."
I eyed Rob fiercely. "He wouldn't dare."
"I wouldn't?" he said.
I shook my head more confidently than I felt. "You wouldn't because I know a few things about you I'm sure you don't want shared."
Rob's eyes widened and I knew my secret was safe with him.
"Embarrassing secrets will keep you from getting elected to public office, you know," Abby said. "That's why you should never do anything you might be ashamed of later. Your past has got to be clean."
"Like you?" I asked.
"That's right," she said in a dignified voice.
I couldn't help myself. I jumped onto the table and cupped my hands to my mouth. "Hey, everybody! Abigail Patch sleeps with a Hello Kitty doll!"
Abby scrambled up onto the table and clamped her hand around my mouth. "That's not the secret I was talking about," she hissed. Her lips were tight but her eyes were laughing.
"Humppffht," I said through her hand.
"If I take my hand off your face will you behave yourself?"
She slowly removed her hand. I grinned. We both stepped off the table and sat on the benches.
"Do you really sleep with a Hello Kitty doll?" Rob asked.
Abby stuck her tongue out at him.
I threw back my head and shouted, "And she has a pink unicorn night-light!"
Abby slapped the side of my arm. "You promised to behave yourself."
"I'm behaving just like myself," I laughed.
Abby gathered her books. "Then I hope you behave like someone with better manners at the show tomorrow night. You guys are coming, right?"
"Yep," Rob said.
"Wouldn't miss it," I added.
Abby swung herself out from the table. "Okay. Good. I think I'm going to head early to art club. I'll see you tomorrow." I watched her as she passed the garages and headed for the street.
She had said I might be ashamed of my secrets later. But there was nothing to be ashamed of in helping Marcus. No one would ever find out about it anyway.
"So when you gonna do the deed?" Rob asked, as if reading my mind.
I touched the twenty-dollar bill in my pocket. "Tomorrow. After school."CHAPTER 3
I stood in the parking lot of the Burger Joint for a few minutes, surveying the situation. There weren't any cars pulled up to the drive-in spots. The picnic tables were also empty. There was only one customer inside. And the air was fat with the mouthwatering scent of burger grease. It was like the place was waiting for me.
You can find the usual fast-food stops in our town: McDonald's and Taco Bell and whatnot. Rob's brother delivered Chinese food for the Golden Wok, which is good. But for a real treat you go down to Fifth and Main to the Burger Joint. The Burger Joint has a sit-down restaurant on the inside, white picnic tables with large orange umbrellas on the outside, and a row of parking spaces with intercom boxes you can order from. They serve the French fries in big wedges with plenty of salt, and they stick an oversized toothpick through the middle of your burger. They even used to have the waitresses sailing around on roller skates like back in the good old days, but after one of the new waitresses lost control and took out a grandma with a walker, they did away with the skates. Which is a shame.
I'd eat at the Burger Joint every day if I could, but Mom works as a mechanic and my dad's been out of the picture since pretty much forever, so it's not like we're rolling in money. We don't go there very often. Mom calls it a "splurge" and saves it for special occasions, like birthdays or the end of the school year or stuff. But the day after I made the deal with Marcus, I headed down there right when school let out. Melissa was a waitress and I wanted to get the job over with before the afternoon customers started coming in.
I spotted her in the restaurant through a window. She and another waitress filled ketchup bottles behind a counter.
Right away my hands started to sweat. My heart beat like a bongo. I hoped that my face wasn't getting splotchy, which sometimes happens when I get nervous. Or embarrassed. Or when I eat walnuts. Easy, Quentin, I told myself. You're just delivering a message. That's all. You're not talking to a girl. You're speaking for your client.
Both waitresses had their backs turned as I walked up to the white picnic tables. I figured Melissa would like as much privacy as possible when I delivered the message, so I moved to the table farthest from the building. I sat down and tried to look casual.
A waitress spotted me and came out of the restaurant, a paper menu in one hand. She wasn't Melissa. She looked as old as my mom, with her hair tied up and tucked under her cap and white sneakers on her feet. She walked all the way to my end of the picnic area and slapped the menu down on the table. "What'll it be for you?" she asked.
My hand only shook a little as I reached for the menu. "Um ... actually I was hoping I could see Melissa."
The waitress smirked. "Oh. I see."
Excerpted from The Heartbreak Messenger by Alexander Vance. Copyright © 2013 Alexander Vance. Excerpted by permission of Feiwel and Friends.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
Alexander Vance works as a film and video editor. The Heartbreak Messenger is his fiction debut. He lives in Upstate New York with his family.
and post it to your social network
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews >
I love it
The Heartbreak Messenger by Alexander Vance took me by surprise. I expected it to be a cute, quick read. What I didn't expect was to stay up much too late because I just couldn't put the book down. I don't usually read middle grade novels, but since this one seemed on the cusp of young adult I gave it a shot, and I'm so glad I did. One thing that made The Heartbreak Messenger stand out for me was the solid business strategies of thirteen year old Quentin. Seriously. This kid could be one of the sharks on Shark Tank when he's older. He's desperate for cash and is willing to work for it, but not to the point of doing anything illegal. Although his business does push some moral boundaries and he knows it. But what does he care? He's thirteen and raking in dough to help his single mom pay the rent. To heck with moral boundaries. Quentin does feel guilty about breaking people's hearts though, and that's part of what makes him so lovable. Alexander Vance sort of nails the standard young boy coming of age story. And Quentin's voice is perfection. Sometimes the cutesy cussing (e.g. "kicked my trash" instead of... well, you know) seemed a little forced, but it fit perfectly with the characters personalities, so I'm not complaining. I'd even go as far as to say this reminded me a little of Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen, one of my all time favorite coming of age stories. It had the same innocence that Flipped had, and the same agelessness. The story takes place in the present, but it could have easily taken place in any decade. The Heartbreak Messenger is great for younger readers, with its lovable, yet clueless narrator and the way he transitions from being—in his words—"too young" to think about girls as anything but best friends to maybe, possibly, seeing them as something more. And it's great for adult readers, too. It had me smiling the whole way through. And occasionally rolling my eyes at how little Quentin understood about girls.
I feel the age range for this book is 12+, thus the dilemma is it middle grade or YA? And more so for the boy/girl relationships. I don't think the average 3rd or 4th grader has the knowledge base to understand broken hearts and "breaking up". Either way, it is a fantastic book. Quentin is a fun twelve-year-old, but also pretty mature for his age, at least in some aspects of his life. Since his dad's been gone for years, he's become the man of the house and has more responsibilities than your average 7th grader. Even so, he doesn't always make the right decisions, but you can't help but root for him anyway. As he gets deeper into his business of being the Heartbreak Messenger, he soon realizes that love isn't just a game and emotions can cause people to do crazy things. Girls and boys will both appreciate this book, and may even learn a thing or two about girl/boy relationships.
I also know alot about breaking up because I have actually dumped a guy for cheating on me.