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 via Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review).
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 tea-leaf-reading book 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. Rumor has it Matt and Andrea were romantically involved, though they’d always denied it. A faint cloud of suspicion still hangs over Matt. But Marnie sees a kindred spirit: someone who, like her, is damaged by association. Suddenly the readings seem real. And they’re telling Marnie things about Matt that make him seem increasingly dangerous. But she can’t shake her initial attraction to him. In fact, it’s getting stronger. And that could turn out to be deadly.
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 in came to concluding the novel.
What I Liked:
- 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.
- The convoluted nature of the mystery. 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.
What I Didn’t Like:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).