Novel: The Heartbreakers by Ali Novak | Goodreads
Release Date: August 4, 2015
“When I met Oliver Perry, I had no clue he was the lead singer for The Heartbreakers. And he had no idea that I was the only girl in the world who hated his music.”
Stella will do anything for her sick sister, Cara—even stand in line for an autographed Heartbreakers CD…for four hours. She’s totally winning best birthday gift this year. At least she met a cute boy with soft brown hair and gorgeous blue eyes while getting her caffeine fix. Too bad she’ll never see him again.
Except, Stella’s life has suddenly turned into a cheesy love song. Because Starbucks Boy is Oliver Perry – lead singer for the Heartbreakers. And even after she calls his music crap, Oliver still gives Stella his phone number. And whispers quotes from her favorite Disney movie in her ear. OMG, what is her life?
But how can Stella even think about being with Oliver — dating and laughing and pulling pranks with the band — when her sister could be dying of cancer?
Ali Novak wrote her debut novel My Life with the Walter Boys when she was just 15 years old, and has since penned her next book, The Heartbreakers. First a hit on the online community Wattpad, her second novel has over 38 million reads and is loved by readers around the world.
Okay, I indulged in this one. Normally, I avoid all books even remotely having to do with fan fiction just because it’s not my thing and usually leaves me rolling my eyes rather than sinking into the story the way I’m supposed to. But I stopped by the booth at BEA, saw the words “boy band”, and immediately figured I’d give it a shot because it looked like an adorable beach read.
And I loved it. I seriously picked it up and didn’t put it down. It verged on fan fiction but had enough tumor and tone that set it apart in a way that wasn’t even remotely flat. While it does require that you suspend reality a bit, the scenes were crafted with enough impact to keep me reading and not groaning over cheesy dialogue, or annoying scenarios.
It’s cutesy and well-done, so I was a fan.
The story focuses on Stella, a triplet and photographer. She’s a bit snobby – with a blue streak in her hair and a distaste for anything that doesn’t meet her elitist standards. She’s homeschooled, which I was excited to see portrayed in YA, and close with her family. She’s curious about art and her future, but not enough to pursue her own wants. Her sister, Cara, has cancer and that dominates her life.
Sometimes I get frustrated with heroines who put everything aside for their family and are so overwhelmingly morally perfect (see my recent discussion post for more on that subject) but Stella’s devotion to her sister never felt fake. It felt genuine and was tangled with enough anecdotal evidence and mixed emotions to make me feel like it was an authentic struggle she dealt with, and she consistently chose her sister over her own desires. Therefore, I didn’t mind that the main conflict seemed to be that she was finally being active over her own life – I saw her as a character who, while still a bit underdeveloped, I could connect with.
In any case, Stella decides with her brother that they need to cheer up Cara for her birthday. So they plan a road trip to Chicago, in which Stella could see the photography exhibit for her favorite artist, and they could stand in line for four hours and go insane from the shrieks of the teen girls there for The Heartbreakers, the smarmy boy band that the world’s gone crazy for.
In Chicago, Stella encounters an artistic boy she flirts with – one who she connects with and would never see again. Until she’s in line and sees that the boy is the one they’re all screaming for. By a whole lot of coincidence (not too much – like I said, Novak is excellent with grounding the story in realistic details), they end up at the same hotel. And she flips out on the boys for being obnoxious.
Needless to say, they’re intrigued. Now, Novak could have gone the usual route and been all I’ve never met a girl who didn’t like me and therefore I must know you with the main love interest (thank goodness – I would have put it down) but instead built up a fantastic backstory and first encounter that left me rooting for the romance.
When Stella’s offered the chance to tour with the boys through her photography, as a behind-the-scenes blogger of sorts, she’s hesitant to take it. But after a whim, she decides to go. But the fame gets to her, and she witnesses the boys’ fallouts and blow-ups, and it was really interesting to me how they dealt with being who they were and being who they were portrayed as.
I liked reading about Oliver, and JJ, and Alec (I loved Alec), and Xander. They were an honestly great group of guys with differing personalities. Again, their personalities were on the verge of sinking into stereotype, but Novak developed them enough to keep them adapting and interacting. It isn’t just about Stella’s interactions with Oliver – it’s about her experiences with each boy, getting to know them as guys and not rockstars.
My favorite part of the book was probably Stella’s relationship with her siblings. They’re mostly just a supportive backbone but Stella had major issues balancing how much of her life should be devoted to her sister. As a twin, I respected that because while I don’t have nearly the same problem, I do struggle with how much of myself should be defined in relation to her. Stella’s alternating panic and joy over developments with her sister gutted me at points, but the light contemporary feel of the overall narrative didn’t let anything get too heavy. I found myself laughing at a few moments and one-liners, which I appreciated.
It’s really fast-paced which I wasn’t expecting, but I still got the sense that Stella got to know the guys so it didn’t feel like instalove. The first quarter or so of the book focuses on a full day, but it’s eventful without feeling crammed. The latter half of the book is moment based, with paragraphs that span days at a time but don’t feel out-of-place. Ali Novak did a wonderful job of avoiding cliche and still managing to wrestle in surprises at key moments in the pacing.
The end was the only point when it felt a little too fast – a few plot points met all at once, and there wasn’t enough of a foundation for each. I still liked the ending and thought Ali Novak did a solid job writing a book that’ll appeal to a lot of people.
I adored this book. Something about it – while a bit addictive and a bit too sugar-sweet at times – appealed to me despite my pretentious, I-must-read-serious-literature personality. At the end of the day, I like reading stories that make me happy or swoony and The Heartbreakers definitely did the trick. It’s feisty at times, perfectly packaged, and even a bit touching. I think if you’re looking for a great beach read or eat-it-up romance, this is a great pick. It’s almost cliche, but it isn’t – it’s well-executed and I can see myself recommending it in the future.