Ashleigh Walker is a mediocre student with an assortment of friends, a sort-of boyfriend, and no plans for the future. Then a straight-from-college English teacher, Miss Murray, takes over Ash’s class and changes everything. Miss Murray smiles a lot. She shares poetry with curse words in it. She’s, well, cool. And she seems to really care about her students. About Ashleigh. For the first time, Ash feels an urge to try harder. To give something — someone — her best. Before she knows it, Ashleigh is in love. Intense, heart-racing, all-consuming first love. It’s strong enough to distract her from worrying about bad grades and her parents’ marriage troubles. But what will happen if Miss Murray finds out Ashleigh is in love with her?
This is Liz Kessler’s first YA novel and one that comes highly recommended. Jodi Picoult calls Read Me Like a Book “a welcome reminder that love is love, no matter what.” Part romance, part bildungsroman, all heart — this novel will appeal to fans of Speak and The Miseducation of Cameron Post; or anyone who loves a well-written story. This is one that I cannot wait to get into the hands of readers!
Candlewick Press gave me the awesome opportunity to interview Ashleigh Walker, the novel’s protagonist. Read on to get some insight to the world through Ashleigh’s eyes.
Q: Two of the first people we meet in your story are your best mates, Cat and Luke. Why do you think your bond with them is so strong (even if you don’t always see eye-to-eye)?
A: Cat (or Catherine if you’re a teacher or just wanting to annoy her) keeps me on my toes. She’s tough to read sometimes, but she is a loyal friend. She’s the pretty one of the bunch and Luke has had a crush on her forever. Luke, he’s a good guy. Dresses nice, don’t have to worry about him trying to chat you up or pull anything untoward. He’s steady, you know? Anyway, I’m not smooth at all, I’m awkward and words don’t always work when I need them to. So I’ve got Cat and Luke to remind me I’m not a completely lost cause.
Q: Why do you think the transition to high school was difficult for you?
A: Well, first, the teachers are all liars. I mean, they told us we’d have all this freedom, that we’d be treated like adults. But on the first day, Cat and I get called to the office to sign contracts that we won’t text, chat, update social media, or basically do anything else that would help us deal with our boring lessons. But, they weren’t all bad. I mean, Mrs. Murrray — she gets us. It’s like she’s one of us sometimes, but not. She’s smart and sophisticated. And beautiful.
Q: What about the new friends you made in school, like Dylan?
A: Dylan. He’s a distraction really, I don’t know if he is a friend, a boyfriend, not a friend at all. But thinking about him keeps me from thinking about Dad and Mum. It keeps me from thinking about Dad on the pull-out couch at night while Mum sleeps in their bed. Dylan and poetry keep me from thinking about that.
Q: You mentioned your parents. How is it at home?
A: Awful. Tense. Loud. Then quiet. Too quiet. They blame each other for everything. If I get in trouble, they blame each other for what I’ve done. Mum starts calling me “Young Lady” and Dad will ask her if she’s ever done anything wrong, then it’s all hands waving and yelling and accusations and they’ve forgotten about being mad at me because they are busy being mad at each other.
Q: Just one more question, if you could give the readers any advice, what would it be?
Don’t shoplift hair dye? Well that and, just to be true to pay attention to all the lessons around you. I learned a lot about myself this year. There were some things that Mrs. Murray helped me figure out and some things my parents helped me figure out — most times not even trying. In the end, I realized that I had to stop working so hard to please other people because you can’t always please other people and that hurts. But you have to learn from the hurt and the mistakes and sometimes, if you give people a chance, they will surprise you in the best ways possible.
To find out more about Ash’s life and those lessons she talked about, pick up a copy of “Read Me Like a Book” from your favorite bookstore.
A HUGE thank you to Candlewick for including me in part of this incredible release celebration.