A teenager’s sixth sense opens up a world of intrigue.
In her first novel for teens, thriller-writer Arsenault (The Evening Spider, 2016, etc.) here delves into the psychic realm, choosing as her protagonist Marnie Wells, a high school junior drawn to the ancient art of tea-leaf reading. Marnie’s interest in tasseomancy initially stemmed from a desire to distance herself from her absent parents and the troubles of her elder brother, out of rehab after an overdose; from the embarrassing hoarding tendencies of her guardian grandmother, who teaches at their high school; and from a family home that literally “screams trashy from the outside.” Narrator Marnie admits: “If I couldn’t be perfect or athletic or Yale-bound, I could at least be weird.” When her eccentric tea-leaf prophecies actually begin to come true, Marnie soon finds herself being consulted by members of the “in” crowd, including Matt, the star basketball player desperate for clues explaining the messages he’s received from someone claiming to be his best friend, who vanished the year before. As Marnie grapples with the disturbing reality of her clairvoyance, her visions bring her and Matt closer to even more frightening and unimaginable truths. Arsenault paints a vivid picture of the haves and have-nots of this seemingly all-white small town.
Arsenault’s page-ripping whodunit not only will send readers running for their tea kettles, but packs the thrill of self-discovery and acceptance amid base adversity: a rich, rewarding teen debut. (Thriller. 14-18)