Ash has a lot on her plate – warring parents, changeable feelings towards her new boyfriend Dylan, college work piling up, verbal warnings issued and to top it all a new English teacher to get used to. Her life is dominated by the very strong presence of her best friend Cat; house parties with her other close friend Luke and dates with Dylan after which she’s left with strange and unexpected feelings. So there’s definitely no time in her busy schedule for reading Wuthering Heights but the new English teacher Miss Murray breathes life into the novel Ash was ready to give up on. In fact Miss Murray does a lot more than that, she breathes life into Ash who has been operating on autopilot for some time.
‘You can see how her compliments make people feel. It’s like she switches a light on inside their eyes.’
Miss Murray’s arrival in Ash’s life coincides with an escalation in the arguments between her parents, a growing divide between Ash and Cat and the realisation that it isn’t Dylan she wants to be kissing. We’re only a few steps ahead of Ash as she starts to find out who she is and what she wants from life. Ash uncovers new possibilities when she meets Miss Murray forcing Ash to ask herself some big and awkward questions. Kessler doesn’t readily equip Ash with the ability to answer all the questions but instead allows her the strength and space to at least try and work some of them out.
‘Am I going to spend the rest of my life sneaking round, pretending to be something I’m not?’
Liz Kessler writes about people trying to work out who they are in an open, honest and unpredictable manner. I made assumptions about the choices I thought Ash would make but had to sit back and let the story unfold rather than try to jump ahead and work out where it would go and this made the book even more enjoyable.
I’m always looking out for really good novels to recommend to librarians, teachers and teen readers and Read me Like a Book is going to the top of the pile. This coming of age and coming out novel should be read, talked about and passed around much like Judy Blume’s iconic Forever. I can easily imagine readers discussing the issues raised about sexuality, friendship, families and identity whilst folding down certain pages. I found myself underlining passages which reflected universal themes about life as a teenager because Kessler deals with the real world, there’s no fade to black and she doesn’t leave the reader with a mass of unanswered questions, she really does tell it like it is. In this novel Ash is allowed to make mistakes, take risks and do the things a lot of readers might wish they could do too as they try and find their place in the world. As Ash says ‘the world is a lot bigger than I am’ but with novels like Read me Like a Book the world doesn’t seem like such a big and scary place any more.
About the reviewer
Rhian Ivory has written 4 novels published by Bloomsbury under her maiden name Rhian Tracey including The Bad Girls Club. Her new novel The Boy who drew the Future is published this September by Firefly Press.
You can follow Rhian on Twitter – Rhian Ivory