A word of caution for those of you just beginning Laura Schaefer’s The Teashop Girls — that raging sweet tooth you have? Yeah, it’s going to be aching. With a phenomenal mixture of family, love, sweets and tea, Schaefer’s young adult novel is one fabulous treat.
Thirteen-year-old Annie Green adores the time she spends at the Steeping Leaf, her grandmother Louisa’s cozy tea shop in Madison, Wis. With her best friends Zoe and Genna, Annie has spent countless hours on the cafe’s well-worn and well-loved couches as a member of the Teashop Girls, a trio they formed in elementary school. As the girls prepare to enter high school and Annie begs to be given more responsibility at the Steeping Leaf, Louisa eventually agrees — and her granddaughter becomes the Leaf’s newest barista. The position comes with a crush, too; Jonathan Schultz, a high school sophomore with serious ideas about “business,” arrives on the scene with plenty of thoughts on how to improve the Leaf’s dwindling customer base.
And the shop definitely needs some help. It’s not long before the Leaf’s lights begin to flicker and the landlord arrives, demanding back rent. Louisa takes it all in stride but her granddaughter, ever astute and organized, springs into action. The Steeping Leaf is the site of her fondest childhood memories and she clings to them as everything around her begins to shift and change. And even though the Teashop Girls have begun to drift in different directions, can they all band together to save the spot they once loved the most?
I won’t tell you that, of course, but I’ll give you a hint: everything in The Teashop Girls is completely fun and delicious. Seriously, if I were 12 again? I would have gobbled this one up. (Hey, I’m so very not 12, and I still devoured it whole.) I first saw the novel floating around a few blogs last year and immediately developed a raging love affair with the cover. As someone who has known (and brewed) tea since she was a little girl herself, I could completely relate to Annie — definitely an old soul. Everything about our narrator felt believable; Schaefer did an impeccable job of capturing the sweet, wise voice of an eighth grader owed far more credit for her smarts and wit than others are willing to give her.
What I think I loved best about the novel, definitely aimed to the 11- to 14-year-old set, are the overall “morals” of the story — which were prevalent, but not heavy-handed. The idea that anyone, regardless of age, can be innovative and accomplish seemingly impossible goals was inspiring. Along that vein, Annie’s crush on Jonathan felt like a 13-year-old’s crush — and it’s clear in the novel that getting a boyfriend will not solve all your problems, make your life impossibly better or make you a more worthwhile person. As someone who spent more than a decade in a boy-obsessed stupor (you guess which decade and when that period ended — you won’t hear it from me!), I definitely appreciated Schaefer’s fresh take on adolescent crushing! It’s easy to forget that as desperately as we want other people to like us, we have to like them, too. And — ahem — that’s definitely a lesson that I benefited from refreshing!
And the drawings! Genna is an artist and, Annie tells us, many of her drawings of the Leaf and other goodies accompany the text. Each chapter begins with either an awesome recipe, brewing instructions for the perfect cup of tea, or vintage tea advertisements with Annie’s commentary. I was completely entranced by them and almost looked forward to the art most of all! (Well, almost.)
I wouldn’t hesitate a moment to recommend The Teashop Girls to young ladies — and to girls young at heart. I completely loved it and am taking some of Louisa’s calming meditation techniques to heart; we could all use a little more Zen in our lives! If I could trundle over to Madison and was assured a cafe like the Steeping Leaf would be there to greet me, I’d grab a book and get in the car right now.
4.5 out of 5!