Is it possible to fall in love with a book? If it is, The Teashop Girls (2008 ) by Laura Schaefer, with illustrations by Sujean Rim, now holds my heart. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book, especially since I am not actually much of a tea drinker, but as soon as I saw the cover and the illustration of The Steeping Leaf I knew this book would have my undying devotion. I know I keep banging readers over the head with what I’m trying to point out with my Chick Lit Wednesday Reviews, but really this book embodies what a CLW book should be.
But that doesn’t tell you what it’s actually about.
Annie Green and her best friends Genna and Zoe have been drinking tea at the Steeping Leaf since grade school when they founded an exclusive group called The Teashop Girls. More than a fondness of tea is required in order to be a proper Teashop Girl, there are rules:
1) Teashop Girls are best friends forever.
2) Tea is held every week, no matter what.
3) All tea and scones must be split equally at all times.
Unfortunately, somewhere between elementary school and the end of eighth grade, the girls lost track of their weekly ritual. Genna is busy trying to start her acting career and Zoe is always practicing for tennis, leaving Annie feeling very alone.
For Annie, the logical solution is to convince her grandmother Louisa to hire Annie as a barista. Just because the Teashop Girls don’t have tea every week anymore, it doesn’t mean Annie can’t spend her spare time there, right?
With a new job, and a new crush on her Barista Boy coworker, Annie finally feels as focused as her friends. It isn’t the same, but Annie is enjoying her time at the Leaf. Until the lights go out. Working with her grandmother, Annie realizes the Leaf’s future is tenuous–an eviction notice could spell the end of the beloved tea shop for good.
Luckily, another Teashop Girl rule is that “A Teashop Girl will always help other Teashop Girls in need.” So, with Zoe and Genna’s help, Annie sets out to save their beloved Steeping Leaf with varying ideas ranging from sheer genius to, well, less than successful.
Aside from saving the Steeping Leaf, this book’s main story is about friendship. Specifically, The Teashop Girls is about how Annie and her friends reconnect and realize that, no matter what else changes in their lives, being a Teashop Girl is forever.n (Just recently I was wishing for a book where romance was not central to the plot, and/or where I did not want it to be, and it wasn’t a big deal. This is that book.)
This is what I would call a middle grade book (the jacket sleeve recommends the book for ages 8 to 14 which seems spot on), which would be comfortably defined as either a children’s or young adult book. It also seemed really authentic. Annie narrates this novel as if she is talking to the reader, an affectation that often fails writers. Here, however, it worked perfectly because Schaefer’s characters were so vibrant and just real.
Another great feature was the book design. The cover was great because, as readers will learn, it totally shows Annie. I also loved the inclusion of Annie’s “handwritten” lists and notes as well as Genna’s illustrations and excerpts from the girls’ tea handbook. It was a feature that made the book feel as unique and charming as The Steeping Leaf sounds. Schaefer also includes some recipes from the girls and tea related quotes/ads that are sure to amuse tea enthusiasts while informing tea novices like myself.
I don’t think I’ve ever called a book both heartwarming and cheerful, but this one was. The Teashop Girls put me in a good mood as soon as I got and kept me in good spirits right to the end. One of the best books for girls that I have read recently.