Read Me Like A Book by Liz Kessler (Orion Children's Books, 14 May 2015)
READ ME LIKE A BOOK is a quick, easy read that will leave you smiling.
Ash has just turned 17, and she’s managed to find a new boyfriend, Dylan. Dylan is okay, but Ash finds herself thinking about Miss Murray, her new English teacher, more and more, as her life feels like it’s starting to fall apart: her parents won’t stop fighting, until eventually they decide to break up and her dad moves out, and everything seems to be going wrong with Dylan as well. But Miss Murray is there for her throughout it all, and though Ash has never liked school much before, she now finds herself enjoying English lessons and wanting to do well, to earn Miss Murray’s approval. Ash is slowly starting to realise that what she feels for Miss Murray is something she never expected to feel for a teacher—or a woman, and that her future looks a whole lot different now.
I found this book relatable and pretty enjoyable. There’s a lot of stuff packed into a fairly short book: Ash’s first time having sex with a boy, a pregnancy scare, crushing on her female teacher and coming to terms with her gayness; her parents’ divorce and both of her parents exploring new relationships; Ash getting over her crush and moving onto bigger and better things in her life; coming out. And a lot of that stuff feels so familiar to me and it was all handled in a way that acknowledged how serious all of these things were and yet kept it all pretty light-hearted, so that reading this book was a very warm experience, like taking a nice bath. There isn’t anything very deep in this book but there doesn’t need to be; I still found it an affirming and refreshing read.
I’m wary of the student/teacher romance trope but to my surprise, this book doesn’t actually have Ash and her teacher getting together. I don’t really consider this a spoiler because I think this may actually encourage some of you to read the book if you’re as put off by student/teacher relationships as I am. I found Ash’s crush on her teacher entirely believable and I liked the way it was handled and resolved, and how it was something that allowed Ash independently to realise the true potential of what she could do with her life.
I love all the little details in the book: how Ash frequently thinks back to previous moments and episodes in her life and compares them to what’s going on right now. It gave her character a real sense of history and personality. With other books, I sometimes feel like the main character didn’t actually exist before the start of the book; I want a book to give me the illusion that a character lives beyond the pages of a book, and READ ME LIKE A BOOK managed to do just that. Ash has a strong voice that really comes through.
One thing that didn’t quite work for me was the passage of time in this book. Exactly a whole year goes by from the beginning to the end of the novel, but sometimes I was thrown off by how quickly the time has jumped from one passage to another; I didn’t always get a clear sense of how time was passing and how that impacted the characters. I would occasionally be surprised when the book casually informed me that a few weeks had gone by. I think the transitions could have been handled better and in a way that made it more obvious how much time had passed and how that interval had affected everyone’s feelings and situations.
I was a bit irked that nobody ever once brought up the possibility that Ash might be bisexual, but this is a failing of many gay YA books and not the unique fault of READ ME LIKE A BOOK.
All in all, READ ME LIKE A BOOK is a buoyant reading experience, and you should definitely give it a try if you’re looking for a realistic contemporary novel, especially if you’ve ever had a crush on a teacher and/or you’re not straight.