When your mom’s writing makes her famous, you have two choices: run as far away from the literary world as possible or embrace it wholeheartedly. Sixteen-year-old Annabelle Chang chose the latter.
Chang’s mother, Amanda Brown, is the author of “Legally Blonde,” a bestselling novel that was adapted into a now cult-classic film and a Broadway musical. Growing up surrounded by books and writers, Chang’s nose stayed in books, but she wasn’t satisfied with simply getting lost in other people’s stories. A few years ago, she launched a book club, then started selling books online and through pop-ups. And last November, with the help of family and friends, Chang opened a brick-and-mortar store: Annabelle’s Book Club LA.
Mostly featuring young-adult (YA) fiction, the hot-pink storefront, located on Ventura Boulevard in Studio City, is impossible to miss. We checked in with Chang, a junior at Laurel Springs School (an online program that allows her the flexibility to run a business) to hear more about her venture.
Why did you want to start a book club and, later, open a bookstore?
Growing up, bookstores were my favorite places, and I’ve always been an avid reader. When the pandemic hit in early 2020, I received so many requests for book recommendations that I decided to create an Instagram account and blog to share some of my favorite YA reads. After seeing the positive response to the stories I featured, I expanded my blog to include interviews with authors, bookstore owners and other inspiring people in the book world. I started selling some of my favorite YA books online, and I eventually transitioned to selling books and merchandise at in-person pop-up events such as the L.A. Times Festival of Books.
After seeing how excited people were about the books I was featuring, I started to think about creating a store where my book curation would be more permanent. As I researched and visited bookstores in L.A. and across the country, I realized that there were no YA-focused ones, and I wanted to fill that gap in the market.
What are a few of your favorite books?
In the store, I have a wall dedicated to my favorite books that I am constantly updating. Some recent additions include “Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow” by Gabrielle Zevin, “I’ll Give You the Sun” by Jandy Nelson and “The Grace Year” by Kim Liggett. I tend to gravitate towards coming-of-age stories, and I loved how these books portrayed so many different experiences of growth and self-discovery at various stages of life. Coming-of-age can happen at any time, and the teenage years are just the beginning.
What has the experience of opening a bookstore been like?
Opening a brick-and-mortar store has been so exciting! One of the most important things I’ve learned is that when you truly believe in your vision and your brand, others do, too. Our entire team wholeheartedly believes in the importance of YA literature and the ability of these books to bring joy to people of all ages. That translates to our customers, who end up being our best brand ambassadors. We are so excited for the in-person book clubs and author signings we have coming up. I really find joy in connecting fellow book lovers.