The Leaf Reader by Emily ArsenaultPublished by Soho Teen on June 2017
Genres: Mystery, Young Adult
Format: Physical Book
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Marnie Wells knows that she creeps people out. It’s not really her fault; her brother is always in trouble, and her grandmother, who’s been their guardian since Mom took off is…eccentric. So no one even bats an eye when Marnie finds an old book about reading tea leaves and starts telling fortunes. The ceremony and symbols are weirdly soothing, but she knows—and hopes everyone else does too—that none of it’s real.
Then basketball star Matt Cotrell asks for a reading. He’s been getting emails from someone claiming to be his best friend, Andrea Quinley, who disappeared and is presumed dead. And while they’d always denied they were romantically involved, a cloud of suspicion now hangs over Matt. But Marnie sees a kindred spirit: someone who, like her, is damaged by association.
Suddenly the readings seem real. And, despite the fact that they’re telling Marnie things about Matt that make him seem increasingly dangerous, she can’t shake her initial attraction to him. In fact, it’s getting stronger. And that could turn out to be deadly.
Maybe, occasionally, some of the pictures I saw in teacups were not for the tea drinkers. Maybe some of them were for me.
Hmmm, Marnie has always been a little odd and knows it. I like how she knew she didn’t fit in and how she embraced that fact, knowing how she was different. She did care, and was wholly self-conscious about where she lived, her backstory, her messed up brother. Marnie’s vulnerabilities seemed very natural to me because of her upbringing and family life. I liked how she knew she was odd, but didn’t try too hard to fit in or be the rebel.
This is a big plot book that quietly unfolds with some twists. It did move slow for me at times, but there was something compelling about it that kept me reading. Thankfully, it was on the shorter side which I think was a big advantage. Nothing was too drawn out or lasted too long. It was the perfect length with th perfect amount of creepiness.
That said, I wish there was more character development. I had good sense of G. Clara, the grandmother and Marnie, but not a whole lot from anyone else. Matt, the main guy who enlists Marnie’s help and may be lying to her, is somewhat thin. There’s plenty there about motivation, but not a lot about him as a person, his background or any kind of emotion besides desperation and mystery. There’s also a lot of other teenage characters in the book, but none stand out (except Pheonix who knits. As I’m a knitter, I feel more inclined to pay attention to other knitters in literature when I come across them). I wish I had just more because by the end, while I could keep them straight in my head, I didn’t have any attachment any of the characters. This includes Marnie.
Overall though, it’s a creepy little book that surprises readers and will drag you along for the ride. It’s not super fast moving, or thriller-y, or super intense. It’s good for a thoughtful, late night read when you’re in the mood for a bit of mystery.