It’s the end of 8th grade, and Annie and her BFFs-4-eva Genna and Zoe appear to be growing apart. They’ve always hung out in Annie’s grandma’s tea shop, the Steeping Leaf, where Annie works after school. Since they were little they’ve called themselves the Teashop Girls. But Genna and Zoe never seem to be around anymore. And now
Starbucks Some Chain Coffeeshop has moved in across the street and the Leaf is in danger of going out of business. Annie is determined to save the Leaf, but she can’t do it without her friends!
I think the greatest virtue of this book, honestly, is as “organizing events for beginners: a middle school manual.” The girls launch into a meticulously planned, fairly believable teashop-saving campaign which both saves the day (they do get the town to appreciate the Leaf a bit more) and doesn’t (ultimately, grandmother Louisa still needs cold hard cash). My kids have a tremendous amount of Save the World energy, but don’t always know how to direct it. I’d love to be able to give them more books like this.
Overall, this book definitely falls into the “Some parts of the middle grade/YA section should be nice, for the nice people” (TM Adorablog) category, along with 11 Birthdays and Savvy and Shug and whatnot. It’s sweet from beginning to cake recipe appendix and has an implausibly happy ending.
The three girls are entirely believable middle schoolers, with believably middle-school crushes and friendship issues and concerns. And hey, I am a sucker for a) yummy food books, b) books with a strong sense of place, and c) ordinary kids making a real difference in their community, so I dug it. My only real complaints are Annie’s mostly one-dimensional immediate family (especially her older sister), and Louisa’s over-the-top new-age-y-ness. She’s forever brushing flowing scarves over one shoulder or adjusting her dangling crystal earrings. At one point she introduces a new Leaf employee with, “Jonathan’s grandmother is an old friend of mine from the ashram,” and I almost snorted my drink.
For a slightly older version of a similar story, try Naomi Shihab Nye’s underrated Going Going.