Meet the high school senior who aims to spread inclusivity and highlight diverse stories through her YA book recommendations.

Annabelle Chang Portrait
Clara Madenwald

People have always looked to Annabelle Chang for book recommendations. As a child, Annabelle was a voracious reader, so when friends, family, and classmates began to reach out during the pandemic asking for advice on what to read, she started a blog and Instagram account dedicated to her favorite young adult books. She saw how much people enjoyed her picks so she began to sell books online and at various pop-ups. After doing some research, Annabelle realized she found a gap in the market; there were no young adult-focused bookstores in the United States. In November 2022, she filled that gap and brought her highly curated book selection to Studio City, California, where she opened Annabelle’s Book Club LA—a hot pink storefront complete with library ladders, a reading nook, and a dress made out of books.

You’re 17, a full-time student, and about to go to college, why did you decide to open a brick-and-mortar bookstore now instead of after graduating?

When I saw how excited people were about having something young adult-focused and community oriented and having an independent bookstore in the community, I just felt like now is really the time to do it. Especially coming out of the pandemic, people were really excited to have a place to come and connect with other readers, authors, and book lovers. During the pandemic, sadly, some independent bookstores did close and I think it was really nice for the community, and for us, to sort of fill that need.

Why did you decide to have a focus on YA books? What feels so significant about this particular genre to you?

There are many, many things that I love about YA. One of the things that I admire most about this genre is that it does a really great job of highlighting historically underrepresented voices. In YA I think there’s a lot of space for new stories, new perspectives, and a lot of new and debut authors, many of whom we’ve been lucky to host here. I also love YA because even though being a young adult is a very unique and specific time, coming of age can really happen at any stage of life and the teen years are really just beginning.

For me, walking into a bookstore can be overwhelming with so many options and not knowing exactly what I’m looking for—how do you go about recommending books to others?

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It’s different for every person and it’s funny because sometimes people come in and they admit that they don’t know where to start or they’re a little overwhelmed. I think it’s really important to start with what people are interested in and excited about. A lot of our customers are kids and sometimes parents are trying to get the kids reading so we’ll recommend a graphic novel or something with sports that maybe isn’t yet the reading level that the parent is hoping for, but just to get them excited about it because once you really feel that connection with a book, you’re just going to want to keep reading.

It’s hard to look past how inspiring it is to see a teenager open her own bookstore with such a strong mission and brand. Do you feel like your age helps you in running the store?

Because we are young adult-focused and I’m a young adult it’s been really fun having that inside look and helping other people find books within the YA genre. Although we are young adult-focused, we do have a lot of children’s books and adult books that represent all different stages of life. I think that being a teenager gives me a unique perspective that, I hope, makes our curation exciting and unique.

You’ve only been open for a little over a year but if you had to do it all over again what, if anything, would you do differently?

I’m not sure if I can think of anything major that I would have done differently. I feel very grateful that we’ve been able to connect with the community in the way that we have. The mission of inclusivity, highlighting so many different stories, and being welcoming to all readers and people has been really essential even since the very beginning when it was just an Instagram account so I really try to bring that to every step of the process.

A lot of people I know stopped reading during high school or college when they didn’t have enough time outside of their work to read for fun. For people who want to fall back in love with reading, how do you suggest they find that spark again?

A lot of people come in with that question. Sometimes it’s high school or college students who feel overwhelmed or just people who feel overwhelmed by work and I completely understand that. With my own school schedule, it feels a little overwhelming sometimes but I think it’s really important to just be patient with yourself and really let yourself enjoy what you enjoy. Some people feel like they need to be reading a certain kind of book or they need to be reading a certain amount of books and it’s really important to read what you’re excited about, what you’re interested in, and what makes you want to stay up until two in the morning finishing it. I really hope that we can help people find that spark through our recommendations and diverse selection of stories.