EXCLUSIVE! How teen girl Annabelle Chang turned her love of reading into starting an IRL bookstore
How far would you take your reading obsession? Annabelle Chang has a few ideas. At just 17 years old, she's gone from devoted bookworm to girlboss entrepreneur by founding her own curated bookstore, called Annabelle's Book Club LA. She balances her everyday high school life with meeting famous writers and hosting amaze literary events (yes, she even finds time to curl up with books herself).
Not only is her shop fulfilling all of our cutesy interior design dreams (peep the pastel wallpaper and funky seating in the pics below), but it's stocked with all your YA must-reads—hand-selected by Annabelle and her team. What's more, Annabelle's Book Club stands as a reminder that, if you're willing to put in *lots* of hard work, you can translate your passions into something incredible for your community.
Annabelle says it best: "When you really believe in something and when you're really passionate about it, other people will believe in your vision, too."
Girls' Life: So, have you always loved reading?
Annabelle Chang: Yes! I’ve been a lifelong reader, and I also come from a family of huge book lovers. I credit my parents with my early love of reading. I’ve even loved picture books before I could actually read on my own.
GL: What inspired you to start your own bookstore?
Annabelle: I started the book store during the pandemic because I was getting a lot of requests for book recommendations when people were stuck in their homes. I started an Instagram account and blog to post about my favorite books and eventually expanded my blog to interview a lot of bookstore owners and authors. While talking to them, I learned that even though young adult, or YA, is a really popular genre for all age groups, it's underrepresented in bookstores.
So, I started selling books online and at in-person pop-up events. And people were really excited about it. Then, I started to think about making my book curation more permanent.
GL: In a world where it seems like you can do just about everything online, what's the value of creating an IRL bookstore?
Annabelle: I've noticed that people in the community have just been really excited to visit a physical bookstore. They come into the store, and they say, "Oh, it's real books!" I can host events and connect book lovers with their favorite authors. I just wanted it to be somewhere where people of all ages will want to spend their time.
GL: To you, what is the power of YA books? Why stock your store with that particular genre?
Annabelle: One of the many things I love about the genre is that YA often focuses on coming-of-age stories. Coming-of-age can happen at any time of life—the teen years are just the beginning—and so I feel like people really connect with those themes.
I think [YA novels] have been dismissed in the past as just "fun reads", but I think now there's a recognition that they do tackle difficult topics and can be very powerful.
GL: We absolutely love the aesthetic of Annabelle's Book Club. What inspired the look and layout of the store?
Annabelle: I wanted it to be a vibrant, inviting, colorful space.
We have a reading nook in the store and lots of chairs because I wanted [the shop] to be somwhere people could come to read, hang out and discuss books. There's also some fun touches, like library ladders and a dress made out of books.
GL: What are your future goals? Do you dream of being an author, running more bookstores or working in publishing?
Annabelle: One of my dreams is to have my own YA novel in print, which I think would be really fun. In the meantime, I'm just hoping to grow the store and make it a go-to place in the community for all readers.
Annabelle on all things books:
Fave childhood books: Boxcar Children or Rainbow Magic series
Fave recent read: I Must Betray You by Ruta Sepetys
Most anticipated new release: Silver in the Bone by Alexandra Bracken or Stars and Smoke by Marie Lu
Pro tip for bookstore browsing: Look for staff picks and don't be afraif to ask for a rec.
Bookmarks or dog-eared pages: I use bookmarks. It makes me sad when people damage books by dog-earing them!
Hardcover or paperback: Paperback.
Contemporary or fantasy: Contemporary.
First-person or third-person story: I like first-person.
Reading alone or reading with friends: Reading with friends.
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Annabelle Chang Photo (Top): Stephanie Girard. Annabelle's Book Club LA Photos: Jeremy Wetmore Spann.