Author Suzanne Mattaboni Stirs Up Girl-Power ‘80s Nostalgia with Debut Novel Once in a Lifetime

Tapping into the same renewed ‘80s interest as “Stranger Things” & American Utopia, this coming-of-age story spotlights the first women to be told they could “Have It All”

NORTHAMPTON, Pa., June 01, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Pushcart-nominated fiction writer, Newsweek Expert Forum contributor, pop culture podcaster, and ‘80s aficionado Suzanne Mattaboni announces the launch of her debut novel, Once in a Lifetime, now in paperback from TouchPoint Press. The book is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and the TouchPoint Press bookstore site.

Drawing on the same 1980s pop culture resurgence that sent Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” to #1 on iTunes (following its recent appearance on “Stranger Things”), Mattaboni’s coming-of-age story is a nostalgic but relevant tribute to the women of this decade.

In what Kirkus Reviews calls an “ebullient and engaging story of youthful longing and independence,” Mattaboni’s novel shines a spotlight on the ambitious young women of the “Me Generation,” who hair-sprayed hard, partied even harder, and worshipped post-punk deities like Chrissie Hynde, David Bowie, Deborah Harry, and The B-52s. The book tackles the early challenges to feminism and how it affected the lives and budding careers of the first women to be told they could “have it all,” playing-out against a vibrant background of post-punk music, dance clubs, and pop-art.

Set in the true-life Pennsylvania tourist town of New Hope, a progressive and artsy destination right along the Delaware River, the novel unfolds in the summer of 1984. New Wave music is rampant, Andy Warhol rules the art scene, and the book’s quirky and driven young protagonist, Jessica Addentro, is sick of missing out on the creatively-charged world she feels is just beyond her fingertips. “The life I want is out there,” Jess says as the story begins, “and it’s happening without me.”

Fun, irreverent, and crackling with bright prose, Once in a Lifetime follows 20-year-old University of Pittsburgh art student Jessica, a self-described “multimedia sensation” in-waiting. She sets her sights on an avant-garde study abroad program in London she can’t afford, and heads to New Hope with a crew of scrappy, avant-garde roommates, ready to take a shot at waitressing to raise enough tip money to fund her dream semester. The summer turns into a wild ride of edgy clubs, restaurant chaos, alcohol-fueled adventures, and drag show antics. It also leads to a conflicted love triangle between Jess’s hot new post-punk guitarist boyfriend (who climbs through her apartment window to ask her on a first date), and an intellectual and still-devoted ex who stepped back from their pairing to avoid a long-distance relationship.

This tug of war between Jess, her struggling but supportive roommates, her contrasting guy-crushes, and her equally encompassing professional drive creates a powerful dynamic throughout the story. Yet the novel’s larger themes show us how ambitious young women of the 1980s were finally let loose into the world believing they could fulfill their dreams and take charge of their own sexuality—yet found themselves nearly overwhelming the men they encountered.

“Once in a Lifetime gives us a heroine who’s ambitious to the point of wondering whether she’s ruining her chances to maintain a decent relationship,” said Mattaboni. “She and her friends find themselves in a world where women are finally free to pursue their goals with the same passion as men had always been privy to—yet it turned out those men weren’t necessarily ready for them. The story is a lot of fun, but it’s also full of imperfect characters, and women who were testing the boundaries of what they could achieve. The results weren’t always pretty, but they were certainly interesting.”

Over the course of the summer, Jess does a lot of tripping and spilling cocktails; leads a few steamy tours of town with her new BF; gets jostled by slam dancers; becomes buds with a drag queen; and is haunted by the emerging AIDS crisis. In the process, she tests not only her friendships and her boyfriends, but her own stubborn willpower. Jess eventually has to decide whether the men in her life will leave her as damaged as her cracked-glass mosaic art projects.

As one enthusiastic reviewer said, “If ‘The Breakfast Club’ and Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants had a baby, it would be this book.” This energetic, feminist coming-of-age tale of friendships, love, and determination will leave readers shaking with laughter and smearing away tears as they recall their own 1980s escapades.


Suzanne Mattaboni was named one of the Lehigh Valley Business Journal’s “2022 Women of Influence.” She’s a Pushcart Prize-nominated fiction writer, blogger, essayist, and corporate PR consultant. A former community service reporter for Newsday, her work has been published in Seventeen, Parents, Child, The Huffington Post, Mysterious Ways, Guideposts, and the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. Suzanne is also currently a host of The Banzai Retro Club podcasts, focusing on pop-culture of the ‘70s, ‘80s, & ‘90s.

Suzanne is available for interviews, articles, guest posts, Q&As, and commentary.

Additional Assets:

Headshot, Press Q&A
Medium article: “Men are Like Shoes: How Suzanne Mattaboni’s Novel Shows 80s Women as the First to Turn the Tables…”
Deborah DeKalb Mattaboni Q&A
Kate Bush Hits #1 on iTunes

Email for a digital review copy.

Contact: Olivia McCoy
Smith Publicity
856-489-8654 ext. 1022

Suzanne Mattaboni
610 737-2140

A photo accompanying this announcement is available at

Once in a Lifetime