From the Publisher
Praise for The Heartbreak Messenger:
“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
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.
After seventh-grader Quentin accepts to deliver a breakup message for a friend’s older brother, a new business is born: he becomes the “Heartbreak Messenger,” hired to perform breakups for the weak-willed. Quentin believes his single mother, an auto mechanic, is struggling to pay their bills, so there’s an altruistic side to his entrepreneurship, but he also enjoys the power the job gives him. Problems arise, including bad reactions from the recipients of his services, as well as the friction created as Quentin lies to his close friend Abby about his secret profession. His complicated feelings for Abby don’t help, especially after she starts dating another boy. The laughs are plentiful in Vance’s debut, between Quentin’s wry voice and the awkward situations the author creates (like when Quentin gets decked by a girl after delivering the bad news); Quentin’s communicative, protective relationship with his mother is another high point. The lessons Quentin learns about love, compassion, and himself can be slightly heavy-handed, but overall it’s an entertaining and funny read with a clever conceit. Ages 10–13. Agent: Jennifer Weltz, Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency. (July)
Children's Literature - Lois Rubin Gross
Quentin Chinetti has a thriving business as a courier of bad news. Overhearing his single mom discussing their financial straits on the telephone, Quentin hatches a plan to deliver the bad news to girls (and one guy) that their significant other is breaking up with them. The first break-up message he delivers goes so smoothly that he thinks he has discovered a real “get rich quick” scheme. Other jobs, however, prove to be more difficult and lead to physical pain and bruises. Along the way, Quentin discovers his moral compass especially when his best female friend becomes one of the recipients of his special deliveries. This is a quick and entertaining book with some strong underlying themes about honesty, morality and ethical behavior, but it comes wrapped in humor and has some immediately identifiable characters. Quentin is amazingly self-aware when he begins to understand that he has abandonment issues connected to his father’s abrupt departure from his life, and he often identifies with the victims of his “kiss offs.” When he confesses his scheme to his very young and understanding mother, he learns more about his father’s desertion and how his mother dealt with her own feelings of rejection. While most of the book provides real laughs as Quentin is given more bizarre break-up assignments by his clients (including the search for and delivery of a dead rat to one ex-boyfriend), the final confrontation between Quentin and his friend, Abby, seems a little too grown-up for a couple of seventh graders. Do young teens actually understand that having a boyfriend or girlfriend is a responsibility and not just an adolescent status symbol? It is doubtful. However, this is one flaw in a funny and engaging book that may hatch some moneymaking schemes in the minds of the almost-ready for relationships age group. Reviewer: Lois Rubin Gross; Ages 12 up.
School Library Journal
Gr 5–8—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. Wanting to help out his car-mechanic mother with what he assumes are money problems, he takes on more breakups. However, most of them are not so simple. He gets punched by a girl, has to figure out how to break up with two girls at the same time without telling them about each other, and must comfort an enormous football player whose heart is broken. As he struggles to keep his business and his body safe from harm, he finds himself with conflicting feelings about his other best friend, Abby. When her boyfriend asks for his services, Quentin must decide about his true feelings for her. Quentin is a likable and funny narrator. His confusion over his feelings for Abby is authentic, and his decision that he is not ready to pursue a romantic relationship will strike a chord with other preteens. This clever read will find an audience with both boys and girls.—Kefira Phillipe, Nichols Middle School, Evanston, IL
Read an Excerpt
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.”
Copyright © 2013 by Alexander Vance