BOOK REPORT for The Leaf Reader by Emily Arsenault

Cover Story: Drink Me
BFF Charm: Maybe
Swoonworthy Scale: 2
Talky Talk: Straight Up With A Twist
Bonus Factor: Tasseomancy
Relationship Status: Not Seeing A Future

Cover Story: Drink Me

I like this cover well enough—the shattered teacup is a little on the nose, but the painting-like quality and dark tones scream “mystery.” I might have chosen to play up the mysticism element, personally (like the original Diviners cover), but this evokes the perfect mood.

The Deal:

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Marnie lives with her grandmother and brother in a run-down house on the wrong side of the tracks. Awhile back, she found her grandmother’s guide to reading tea leaves and, on a whim, decided to learn. The hobby sets her apart, distracts from her embarrassing family, and also brings her into contact with some classmates with whom she’d never normally hang around.

It was only a matter of time before someone asked her about Andrea Quigley, the missing girl from school. The police have more or less given up on the search for her, but there are people still hoping she’s alive. And maybe there are some people who aren’t

BFF Charm: Maybe

Even having read 250 pages from Marnie’s perspective, I don’t feel like I know her at all. It’s like going on a date where the other person does all the talking, but by the end, you realize they’ve only talked about the weather, sports, and the news, and you don’t even know if they’re gainfully employed.

Does she have any hobbies other than tea-leaf-reading? Does she like or hate any particular subject in school? What do she and her best friend, Carson, talk about, when they’re not embroiled in a mystery? I mean, we could be friends. She seems like a decent person…but I’m pretty sure I’d have to know a little more about her before I could extend the other half of my BFF charm. 

Swoonworthy Scale: 2

There’s some inspired-by-desperate-circumstances kissing, but it, and the love interest, aren’t much to clutch your heart over.

Talky Talk: Straight Up

Arsenault’s writing flows well, and her characters hit the sweet spot between “overly adult” and “clichéd teen as written by adult.” It’s a quick, easy read.

Unfortunately, this book just didn’t work for me. Most of the characters fell flat (except for Marnie’s grandmother, and only within the last fifty pages). The mystery is pretty standard: drugs, rich kids, threatening emails, and incriminating photos, with some prophetic dreams and divination added in for good measure. There are some reveals that didn’t have enough space to be fleshed out—and even if they were, I don’t think I would have cared.

If it were my story, I think I would have focused around the last few scenes between Marnie and her grandmother—that’s when it gets interesting, and we start to see the spark of personality in our narrator.

Bonus Factor: Tasseomancy

Tasseomancy, the fancy word for tea-leaf-reading, is definitely an original feature in YA. I liked the descriptions of Marnie’s readings, even if she never seemed to care that people were clearly using her.

The author’s note mentioned that Emily Arsenault had a family friend who read tea leaves, and while some of it was clearly generic (“you have a lot of good friends!”), the friend would always give them one eerily accurate prediction. Out of the entire book, that and the last few scenes with Marnie’s grandmother were my favorite parts.

Note: my copy of the book also came with a little flyer explaining how to read your own tea leaves. (I did, which was fun: I got two people hugging, the number 3, a castle, a giant heart, and a tiny cross. I assume this means I’ll finally get my Scottish castle!)

Casting Call:

Kathryn Newton as Marnie

Relationship Status: Not Seeing A Future

Book, our date sounded so promising: thrills! Chills! Divination! You delivered on the divination portion, but left me cold on everything else. I don’t need tea leaves or a crystal ball to know that this isn’t going to work out.

The Leaf Reader is available now.

Jennie lives in San Francisco and has an excessive fondness for historical fiction, spreadsheets, turquoise sparkly things, and bourbon. When she’s not reading, writing, or writing about reading, she cooks obsessively, runs an Etsy shop, and thrifts for vintage everything.