The Leaf Reader by Emily ArsenaultThe Leaf Reader by Emily Arsenault

The Leaf Reader

byEmily Arsenault

Hardcover | June 13, 2017

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Emily Arsenault (The Rose Notes) makes her YA debut with a “page-ripping whodunit” about Marnie Wells, who comes face-to-face with the occult when she discovers her ability to read tea leaves might help solve the mystery of a classmate's disappearance.

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.
Emily Arsenault is the author of several literary mysteries, including In Search of the Rose Notes, a Wall Street Journal Best Book of the Year; The Broken Teaglass, a New York Times Notable Crime Book; and The Evening Spider. She lives in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, with her husband and daughter. The Leaf Reader is her first young...
Title:The Leaf ReaderFormat:HardcoverDimensions:240 pages, 8.6 × 5.7 × 1 inPublished:June 13, 2017Publisher:Soho PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1616957824

ISBN - 13:9781616957827


Rated 2 out of 5 by from Promising Start but Fell Short Set to release on June 13th, 2017, The Leaf Reader is Emily Arsenault’s most recent novel. Like a contemporary take on Libba Bray’s Gemma Doyle, Emily Asenault’s Marnie Wells comes face-to-face with the occult, discovering she can tell the future by reading tea leaves (Disclaimer: I received an e-review copy of The Leaf Reader from Soho Teen, in exchange for an honest review). The Leaf Reader had a strong start, but fell short as a result of a convoluted plot and very little pay-off. Arsenault presented an interesting mystery, intriguing characters and an aspect of mysticism, but just didn’t seem to be able to follow through and wrap-up when it came to concluding the novel. I enjoyed Marnie, the main protagonist of The Leaf Reader, had a very unique personality, and did quite a good job portraying an angsty teen from a questionable household. She’s trying hard to be different, rather than fitting in the mold, and not just when it comes to her quirky habit of leaf reading. She’s also a very strong female character, who doesn’t just succumb to her emotions and become subservient to the delegated love interest the minute he’s introduced, which is a refreshing change. Furthermore, the convoluted nature of the mystery was intriguing. For the majority of the book, Arsenault does a magnificent job spinning a thrilling mystery that incorporates multiple elements of the plot, the least of which is Marnie’s leaf reading and Matt Cotrell’s ominous personality. Just when the reader thinks they have a grasp on what is going on, it turns out they don’t, as Arsenault adds another dimension to the mystery that is Andrea Quinley’s disappearance. However, as previously mentioned, Arsenault started strong, but simply had no follow through. After establishing an engaging mystery, some strong characters and the concept of leaf reading, Arsenault simply dropped the ball. Leaf Reading became a sideshow for most of the middle portion of the book, which resulted in the reader losing a feel for the whole aspect of Leaf Reading and Marnie’s abilities. The mystery had a less than satisfying conclusion which definitely fell hopelessly short after the build up towards the answers for Andrea Quinley’s disappearance. And, with the exception of Marnie, the characters were just all over the place, allowing for little to no character development. Moreover, Arsenault fell into a far too familiar “rich kid” trap, where the rich kids in her book fit nearly perfectly into the spoiled, yet hard done by (think “woe is me”) rich kids who drink and complain about how spoiled they are nearly all the time. Really, its all a bit overdone and definitely not endearing when it comes to characters. Despite this, the aspect I disliked the most was perhaps the last minute entry of mysticism beyond Leaf Reading. Prior to Marnie finally talking to her brother and grandmother about her Leaf Reading predictions, there wasn’t so much as a hint of additional mysticism going on, and its addition to the story was unnecessary, and simply rang false. The Leaf Reader had a lot of promise, but Arsenault simply fell short on delivering when it came to nearly every aspect of this book. Marnie’s character and the quest to solve the mystery of Andrea Quinley’s disappearance were engaging, but the wrap-up, Matt Cotrell and his spoiled friends, and the last minute entry of additional mysticism spoiled any previous success Arsenault had (1.5/5).
Date published: 2017-01-26

Read from the Book

Chapter 1   Back when Andrea Quinley went missing, I never thought it would have much to do with me. Sure, it affected everyone in Colesbury in a things-like-that-don’t-happen-here sort of way. Andrea was a year ahead of me in school and friendly with me—as she was with just about everyone. And I was, of course, as sorry as anyone else that something terrible might’ve happened to her.      They feared the worst about the river, but they didn’t find her. Andrea’s story went national on the sleazy Martin Report—not surprising since Mitzie Martin is partial to stories about pretty, missing teenage girls. Then spring came. Mitzie’s camera crews left. And then summer stretched and simmered along and no one found anything. The Have you seen Andrea? signs on all of the shop doors faded and curled at their corners. There were no more vigils or fundraisers. The newspaper articles about her became infrequent, then stopped altogether.      School started again. My junior year. Andrea would’ve been a senior. But everyone started to think of Andrea Quinley as old news. Sad and disturbing old news, yes—but still old news.      Surely those people who had been close to her still thought about her every hour of every day.      But the rest of us—reluctantly, guiltily—settled into the idea that she was gone.      I know I did.      And I know I never thought she’d appear in my tea leaves.  Chapter 2   “If you can’t get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance.”      Ms. Platt read this quote to us in English class sometime in the fall of last year, back when I was a sophomore. It’s from George Bernard Shaw.      I loved it. I can relate to the whole skeleton thing.      I don’t have just one skeleton—a single, secret thing I’m ashamed of. I have more like a chorus line of skeletons rattling casually around me, always: Creepy house. Foul-mouthed grandmother/guardian. Absentee mother. My brother’s reputation for “drug issues,” whether that’s deserved or not.      I’m so painfully, obviously not your typical Colesbury material, it’s almost laughable I’d ever tried. I’d learned by sophomore year that I was never going to be embraced as a soccer girl or a student leader. I’d spent most of middle school and ninth grade trying to pretend it was possible—joining clubs I didn’t like and babysitting like a madwoman to try to afford the kind of clothes most of the Colesbury golden children wore. By tenth grade, I was ready to try something new.      I couldn’t pretend anymore. I had to make my skeletons dance. If I was going to have to be creepy, I figured I may as well find a way to make it interesting.      It was around then that I found the book about tea-leaf reading in my grandmother’s dusty shelves. It was a stinking, yellowing thing from the sixties: Cosmos in a Cup: A Guide to Tea-Leaf Reading. On the cover was a girl with hippie hair staring googly-eyed into a teacup while tiny stars swirled above her head. G. Clara claimed it was never hers. She said it came in a box of books she got for a dollar at a tag sale. G. Clara never cops to anything hippie.      Tea-leaf reading is a kind of fortune-telling, I learned from the book’s introduction:   The art of tea-leaf reading—or tasseomancy—is an ancient one. The practice spread from the Orient to Europe with the trade and consumption of tea.      Of course, it borrows much from other ancient forms of divination. Throughout human history, people have sought out patterns or signs to help them forecast the future: in sand, bird formations, stars, entrails.      Tea-leaf reading has become less commonplace since the invention of the teabag. Still, it is one of the easiest and most accessible forms of prophecy. All that is required is a teacup, water, loose tea, and an open mind.        After you drink a cup of tea—with loose tea, not a teabag—you leave the last bit of liquid and tea leaves at the bottom of the cup. Then you flip the cup over on its saucer and turn it around three times counterclockwise, concentrating your thoughts on the cup. When you turn the cup right-side up again, you look at the images formed by the clumps of tea leaves. It’s a little like spotting pictures in the clouds. Someone might see a penguin where someone else might see an ironing board.      Cosmos in a Cup had a long “Symbol Key” toward the end, arranged alphabetically:   -Wagon: A positive change is coming. -Wall: Resistance or misunderstanding. Also: a physical or mental barrier. -Wheel: A journey with a positive outcome. Often a metaphorical journey of discovery. -Window: Consider looking at things from a different perspective. Also: psychic ability. -Wolf: Envy, within oneself or from one’s associates. Can also signify a greedy or vicious adversary. -Wreath: Sometimes signifies a ceremony to come—a wedding, a graduation, a funeral. Also: a symbol of loss, grief, or death.   I started studying the symbols sometimes before bed. I found it weirdly relaxing. And it seemed related to another interest I’d had for a long time: dream interpretation. I’d always liked the idea that your brain—or maybe the universe—could be trying to tell you secrets with little signs or symbols here and there. Tea-leaf reading allowed for that possibility when you were awake, too. Why not give it a shot?      Then I started to try some readings on my friend Carson at the Clover Café, the downtown coffee shop.   “I think I see a goat, Carson. A goat can mean you’ve got hidden guilt about something.”      Carson didn’t look up from his homework. “If you think I’m going to bite that easily, you’re wrong.”      I squinted at a blob of tea leaves at the very bottom of his cup. A few larger leaves had clumped into a lopsided sort of U-shape, with a few smaller leaves poking out of one end (feathers?) and a single pointy one sticking out the other (a beak?). “But I also see a rooster. A rooster means arrogance.”       “Wow, Marnie. Tell me how you really feel. You know, it sounds like I’ve got a barnyard sort of cup this time. Do you also see a pitchfork? A manure pile?”       “No.” I tried not to sound exasperated. “I see an archway. I don’t remember ever seeing that in my book, but if I had to guess, I’d say it means a new beginning.”      Carson tried to meet my gaze over his laptop, but I couldn’t quite see his eyes through his overgrown black bangs. Lately he’d been experimenting with hair growth—on both his head and his face.       “Unfortunately, I don’t believe in new beginnings,” he said.      I rolled my eyes. “Okay. How about it’s the entranceway to the campus of an Ivy League university?”       “Perfect.” Carson began to type again. “The tea leaves are probably telling me to get back to work. Maybe they’re trying to tell you the same thing?”       “I don’t have much homework today,” I grumbled. “I’m going to do it after dinner.”      I was about to get my jacket on and abandon Carson then and there, but Leah Perry and Morgan Gorse came up to our table. They were two drama nerds who hung out at the Clover Café sometimes.       “What’re you guys doing?” Morgan wanted to know.       “I was reading Carson’s tea leaves,” I admitted.      Carson blushed, but Morgan and Leah wanted their own readings.     It probably would’ve ended there if I hadn’t seen an image of a boat in Leah Perry’s teacup. A boat usually symbolizes a big windfall, and I’d told her so. Three days later, she won a huge scholarship from a national essay contest. I was as surprised as Leah was. Had I gotten lucky, or had I sensed a real sign in her cup? I wasn’t sure. Meanwhile, Leah told everybody I’d made a spookily accurate prediction, and then all of her drama friends wanted a reading.      And it went from there. They even paid me . . . Well, sort of. A latte or a cocoa for a reading. I don’t actually like tea that much. Besides, if I’m drinking something else, it keeps people from asking me to read my own cup in front of them. Ever since Leah and her friends graduated, though, I’d had only a few regular “clients.”     “Don’t you feel like a little bit of a fraud?” Carson once sniffed at me. “I mean, don’t you feel like you’re pretending?”      I did feel like I was pretending, at least at the start. I admit that. But whenever you start on something, it always feels a little like pretending, right? If you let that stop you, you might never try anything new.      And maybe Carson could stand to loosen up and try something new himself. From the time I met him, when he moved to my neighborhood in the seventh grade, all he’s ever cared about is getting into Yale. Most of the time he talks and acts like he’s already there. Twice a week he drives down to New Haven and does his homework in one of the coffee shops there. Now that we’re juniors—now that his grades are more important than ever and he has to start thinking about his application next year—he’s becoming a monster.      I don’t see him as much as I used to, but that’s okay. I’m happy with my decent-enough grades and my tea readings and my pretending.

Editorial Reviews

Praise for The Leaf Reader"Skillfully constructed . . . Arsenault never pushes the supernatural angle too hard, letting Marnie, and the reader, skate on the suspenseful edge of skepticism and belief."—The New York Times Book Review“The clues come fast and furious in The Leaf Reader and Arsenault does an excellent job of slowly rolling out the supernatural aspects of Marnie’s ‘talent’ . . .  A mystery that offers all teens could want in smart and supernatural writing.”—Locus Magazine“Emily Arsenault, known for weaving haunting tales in adult mysteries, brings her knack for subtle suspense to a younger audience in this rewarding YA debut.”—BookPage“Intriguing and suspenseful, the mystery and the cast of characters kept us guessing from the first page to the last. And now we’re more than a little interested in tea leaf fortune telling…”—Justine“A twisty, delicious young-adult thriller.”—Plattsburgh Press-Republican“A solid foray into YA . . . The incorporation of tea-leaf reading, including the ceremony and symbolism of the art, adds a distinctive element to a mystery that’s well worth a read.”—Publishers Weekly“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.”—Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review“More eerie than frightening, this is an atmospheric tale laced with hints of magic. Thoughtful, careful Marnie and her hobby-turned-calling will endear themselves to readers looking for a slowly unfolding mystery.”—Booklist“This is a solid teen mystery with a slow build and hints of the supernatural. Readers will be left guessing until the very last page.”—School Library Journal“A tightly crafted, suspense-filled thriller . . . While the mystery itself is intriguing enough, the murder and its cause bring up serious issue of class, and once readers catch their breath they’ll have plenty to ponder about the relationship between privilege and crime and punishment.”—Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books“Left me guessing until the last, utterly delicious page! I loved the heroine’s cynical sense of humor, while fearing for her every minute of this taut, deftly written thriller about a community that clearly cares only for a certain kind of girl. Emily Arsenault is a YA writer to watch!”—Meg Cabot, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Princess Diaries“Arsenault's debut YA is an entertaining, potent brew of sinister secrets, convincing twists, and no shortage of suspects. Teen fans of old-school crime masters like Agatha Christie and Lois Duncan will happily drink this up.”—James Klise, Edgar Award–winning author of The Art of Secrets“Mysterious and romantic, full of twists and revelations that kept me turning pages long into the night, The Leaf Reader is one of those special books I hadn’t even known I’d been searching for.”—Kara Thomas, author of The Darkest CornersPraise for Emily Arsenault“Emily Arsenault’s mysteries are so much fun.”—The New York Times Book Review“Absorbing . . . Ms. Arsenault here reveals strange truths beneath everyday surfaces.”—The Wall Street Journal, 10 Best Mysteries of the Year