Genre: YA Contemporary
Release Date: September 5th 2016
Thompson may be only seventeen but he knows he’s just checked into Heartbreak Hotel for good, now that his girlfriend, Caroline, has put an end to their burning love. Since then he’s been sleepwalking through his summer job at Super Kmart while desperately dreaming of ways to win her back. He even drops by the Tiki House on Elvis Presley Night hoping that she, a diehard fan of the “King of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” will be there as well. That’s when he meets Johnny Lee Young—real estate agent by day, Hawaii’s Favorite Elvis Impersonator by night—and the lovesick teen’s world suddenly takes a wild and unexpected turn.
As luck would have it, Johnny needs a temporary assistant to help with equipment and social media and Thompson eagerly accepts the offer, hoping it will distract him from his painful and lingering romantic issues. But like Thompson, Johnny is nursing a secret heartbreak and pining for his own lost love. So the new roadie starts making plans—with a little help from his friends Ronnie and Greta—to accompany the counterfeit King on an odyssey of a lifetime that will take them far from their island paradise home in search of true love.
I had a decision to make: Elvis or Mr. Wonderful. I loved listening to Mr. Wonderful tear apart idiotic business ideas; more than that, I admired him because he wasn’t afraid to tell the truth. But I’d stayed home the last three Friday nights watching Shark Tank with my parents, and I couldn’t do it for another week.
I drove my rusty white Corolla toward the Tiki House, a family restaurant on Honolulu’s northwest side that was a cliché of itself. My heart pounded and my palms soaked the steering wheel with sweat. My body was telling me not to do this, but I kept going. I parked fifty feet away from the entrance and turned off the engine. The Tiki House shared a plaza with Starbucks, T.J. Maxx, and a movie theater, and had achieved a certain level of infamy. It was where everyone took out-of-town guests from the mainland who demanded an “authentic” Hawaiian experience. There were countless other restaurants in Honolulu with better food and less-tacky furnishings, but the Tiki House was an event tourists lived for.
I considered pulling out of the parking lot and going home, but I’d clocked out of Super Kmart six minutes early to be there on time. I got out and walked up to the bamboo front door. There was a hot pink flier taped to the outside promoting Elvis night featuring Eddie King, Harold Rogers, and Johnny Lee Young.
I’d watched Eddie King once with my ex-girlfriend Caroline and her friend Becca. Caroline loved Eddie and had only missed two of his shows in the past year. On Wednesday she’d posted on Facebook that she’d be at tonight’s performance. I was counting on it. I hoped she’d see me across the room and then walk back into my arms as if nothing had changed, as if the Worst Valentine’s Day in History™ had never happened. It was a long shot, but it was a shot I had to take.
I pulled out my phone and dialed Ronnie. “Are you sure you can’t meet me at the Tiki House?”
“Can’t. It’s mahjong night at casa de Medina, and I gotta watch Ella. Sorry, T-dawg.”
God forbid Ronnie call me by my actual name, Thompson. It was always T-dawg, T-money, T-dubs, or my personal favorite, T-cup, as if we were popular jocks with cheerleader girlfriends who could pull off such ridiculous nicknames. Instead, we were scrawny AP class nerds who played NBA Live instead of real basketball.
“Can’t you just put your sister in her playpen?” I asked. “Have Barkley watch her?”
Barkley was his family’s neurotic West Highland terrier. He weighed all of eighteen pounds, but had the guard dog tendencies of a Rottweiler.
“That’s cruelty to two year-olds,” he said. “Besides, you know how I feel about your quest to get the CW back.”
“Who says I’m trying to get her back? Maybe I’m just embracing the pain. Wallowing if you will.”
“Yeah right. I think we might need to have an intervention soon. You are very close to hitting rock bottom, my friend. You might already be there.” He hung up before I could think of a witty comeback.
Inside, the Tiki House looked like the island section of a party supply store had thrown up. Magentas, purples, and greens practically punched you in the face as you walked in. Synthetic palm trees and multi-colored lights on strings multiplied in places they shouldn’t, like the urinals in the restroom. The female wait staff wore grass skirts over their khaki shorts and all the employees draped rainbow leis around their necks. The food was so-so at best. The fries weren’t salty enough and were often undercooked, and locals knew it was a bad idea to order the cheeseburger, or any beef dish they had on offer.
I sat at a small round table meant for two and ordered a chocolate shake and fish tacos. I scanned the bamboo- and palm-encrusted room, hoping I’d see Caroline’s wavy red hair in the crowd. Caroline had an unrivaled obsession with Elvis and I had what was probably, in retrospect, an unhealthy obsession with her. I loved that she didn’t worship boy bands like other girls or listen to obscure alt-rock bands that were supposed to be cool. After we became a couple, “Sweet Caroline,” a song I had loathed previously and that I was sure had no business being played for anyone except the unfortunate souls who actually attended Neil Diamond concerts, became my ring tone. It was in my top twenty-five most played songs on iTunes, sitting comfortably in the number three spot. I had every word memorized and sang the song with gusto whenever my phone went off, grinning like an idiot when it played. Elvis songs held five of the twenty-five spots, another side effect of Caroline. Caroline loved Elvis so much that I myself became enamored with him. I bought his CDs, read up on his life (Me & A Guy Named Elvis: wow, what a book), and watched his movies, even though they all followed a similar formula:
Elvis meets girl + Elvis punches guy in dancelike fight over girl + Elvis wins girl + catchy songs = cash cow
I noticed I was one of maybe six males in the restaurant. There was a table full of women who, based on their soft bodies and day glo crocs, had to be moms. They were acting like they didn’t get out much, shrieking and laughing as if everything that was being said was the funniest thing they’d ever heard. This, I knew, was statistically impossible. There were groups of younger females in their twenties wearing high heels, low-cut shirts, and bright red lipstick, with the occasional couple thrown into the mix. There was also an old couple with silver hair at a table near the stage with a large pepperoni pizza and margaritas in front of them. For a second I thought about leaving, but didn’t. I wanted to “run into” Caroline and this was the only way to do it.
About the Author
Deanna Cabinian has worked in radio, television, and magazine publishing, but her greatest passion is writing. A graduate of Northern Illinois University, she has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a Master’s degree in sport management. She writes from wherever she happens to be, but the majority of her writing is done from Chicago.
When she isn’t writing she enjoys traveling and spending time with her husband and family.