★★★★★ Live from the Café by Tory Gates is the story of a coffee shop in the small town of Harlandsville, Canada. The owners are Luc and Emily, a couple in their late twenties who left town and came back, each for their own reasons: Luc left to go to school and Emily left to escape her abusive father. They also came back because, among other reasons, they wanted to be together. Along with Luc and Emily, Le Café is run by a few high school students. Mike, Shannon and Akasha go to one local school and Giz, Li, Kayla and Khattia go to another school nearby. The book goes into detail about the characters’ daily lives, and also describes the musicians that play at the café. It also details both the high points of a teenager’s life, like experiencing love for the first time, and the low points, such as domestic abuse and the death of a loved one.
Gates describes his characters very well, and you develop a connection to them as you read. Because of this, you begin to care about the characters and feel for them as they form new relationships, follow their dreams, and spend their days working at the café. The musicians who come in for the open-mic nights are a fun and interesting part of daily life at the café, adding their own particular flavor to the story. For example, Emily turns out to be a talented musician who plays guitar and sings on stage. The characters’ lives intertwine with each other beautifully, and the community within the café is warm, passionate, and fun to read about. Far from being quotidian, Live from the Café shows how even the most mundane workday can hide its own unexpected magic.