KIRKUS
Starred Review, 3/15/17

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)
Kirkus review online

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BOOKLIST

Tea-leaf reading was just supposed to be a silly hobby. It was something Marnie got into on a whim when she found an old book, and her main client is boy-crazy Cecilia, who just wants to know about her romantic prospects—totally harmless. But then Cecilia’s friend Matt asks for a reading. Matt’s best friend, Andrea, has been missing for months and is presumed dead, but Matt hasn’t given up. Even weirder, he’s been getting e-mails from someone claiming to be Andrea. Marnie knows better than to get involved, but she finds herself drawn to Matt, even as her readings start to become suddenly, eerily accurate. Despite her attraction to him, there’s something off about Matt, and as Marnie gets more entrenched in his search, she starts to realize the mystery surrounds her own family as well. 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.

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SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL

Marnie Wells has always been on the outside of life in Colesbury. She and her older brother Noah live with their grandmother G. Clara, the home ec teacher at the local high school. Marnie takes up tea leaf reading after she finds a book on the subject in G. Clara’s library. It’s mostly harmless fun until A-lister Matt Cotrell asks for a reading. His best friend (and possible girlfriend) Andrea Quinley is missing and presumed dead. Now Marnie’s readings seem eerily real and dangerous. When a body is discovered at a place Marnie’s reading foresaw, the suspense mounts. Can Marnie open herself to the possibility that her readings are not merely fun and games but a glimpse into the past? Arsenault’s deliberate pacing sets the tone for a big reveal in the final chapters. Marnie and Matt aren’t unique in their characterizations—shy, quiet outsider who finds herself beside the popular boy—but they are well drawn. 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. VERDICT For fans of mysteries with a tinge of the paranormal. A strong purchase for most YA collections.–Elaine Baran Black, Georgia Public Library Service, Atlanta

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PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
June, 2017

In high school junior Marnie Wells’s small town, the disappearance and presumed death of star athlete Andrea Quinley is sad but old news. Andrea’s onetime best friend, Matt Cotrell, remains haunted by her disappearance, and he turns to Marnie, hoping that her rumored ability to read tea leaves might provide new insight or that she’ll be a sympathetic shoulder. (Marnie is all too familiar with concerned glances and alienation after her brother’s overdose.) The tea leaves that Marnie reads foretell something sinister, and eerie anonymous emails begin arriving as the two unravel the intricate threads linking Andrea and their peers in increasingly unexpected and potentially dangerous ways. Mystery writer Arsenault makes a solid foray into YA, though the story moves more slowly than some readers might expect. Marnie is a well-developed protagonist whose concern with how others perceive her family is immensely relatable, but the book’s secondary characters are less memorable. 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. Ages 14–up. Agent: Laura Langlie, Laura Langlie Agency.

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JUSTINE MAGAZINE
June / July 2017

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…

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BULLETIN OF THE CENTER FOR CHILDREN’S BOOKS
May, 2017

Reading tea leaves is just a hobby for high school junior Marnie, something to pass the time until she’s old enough to leave her aging grandmother, her recovering addict brother, and their dilapidated home behind. When golden boy Matt Cotrell seeks out Marnie’s help in finding his missing friend Andrea, though, her readings become eerily more accurate, directing Marnie and Matt to a dead body—and pointing blame towards Matt’s friends. It soon becomes apparent to Marnie that she’s in over her head, but it’s not like she can go to the cops with some tea residue as proof of foul play, so she’s left to follow the leaves wherever they take her. This is a tightly crafted, suspense-filled thriller, complete with effective red herrings, a slow burn reveal of the truth, and plenty of shifty characters. Marnie makes a fierce protagonist, funny but determined and not about to take anybody’s BS, and the pace moves along swiftly as she navigates clues from surprising sources. 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.

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MEG CABOT
Author of The Princess Diaries

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!

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KARA THOMAS
Author of The Darkest Corners

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.

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JAMES KLISE
Edgar Award winning author of The Art of Secrets

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.

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