Author: Liz Kessler Published: May 2015 by Indigo
This book spoke to me.
There are several reasons that I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. One of them is definitely the writing – so easy and flowing, the type of writing that prevents you putting the book down willingly. Another is the story, it’s so simple and so relatable that it just sucked me right in and didn’t want to let me go. Last was Ash – I saw so much of my younger self in her that there was no way I wasn’t gonna fall in love with her.
The premise is simple:
Ashleigh Walker is in love. You know the feeling – that intense, heart-racing, all-consuming emotion that can only come with first love. It’s enough to stop her worrying about bad grades at college. Enough to distract her from her parents’ marriage troubles. There’s just one thing bothering her . . .
Shouldn’t it be her boyfriend, Dylan, who makes her feel this way – not Miss Murray, her English teacher?
I think there need to be more books like this one going around, no fairy-tale crap, no misleading happy endings. Just real feelings, real characters, a disarming sense of loss but no life stunting sadness (think Twilight and Bella’s ridiculous breakdown) – this story feels real. It’s real life and it’s really relatable; chances are that we’ve all had an unrequited crush on someone – and its crappy, but it’s not the end of the world. And this book tackles that beautifully.
I loved Ash. She reminded me so much of a teenage version of myself, back when emotions – particularly those that you haven’t experienced before – can be insanely confusing. Ash deals with things in a normal, teenage way: she withdraws, she lashes out, she bottles things in, she fights with her friends, she makes silly mistakes and wrong moves; Ash is just so very relatable and I love her persona so much. In fact, I’m sure I’d put my love for this book down to Ash and her character, and how well she is written.
Unrequited love is harsh. It’s cold and lonely and confusing, particularly when the receiving end is a teacher. Even more so if they are the same-sex as you. Discovering yourself as a teenager is hard, its complicated and it takes a certain amount of bravery. Liz Kessler writes this so poetically that it is integrated almost seamlessly into her amazing story. This is the type of book I would have read a hundred times during high-school had it been available to me back then, purely on the basis that someone, somewhere, knew how it felt to feel like you weren’t normal, but so totally normal at the same time; like everyone knew who you were but you and they were all waiting for you to catch up.
The actual story itself isn’t very difficult to follow – it’s a simple love story: girl meets boy, girl likes boy, boy likes girl, girl realises she doesn’t really like boy, girl likes teacher, teacher doesn’t like girl like that, girl feels rejected and confused… (okay, maybe not so simple.) But simple as it may be, the story is utterly engaging, it’s completely enthralling and it just left me wanting more. Honestly, it was a lovely, honest and sweet coming out story, there’s nothing over-the-top or smothering about this book, and I would recommend it to anyone; gay, straight or left-handed.
The story also deals with the separation of Ash’s parents and the breakdown of their marriage. This is not something I have experienced myself, but was still detailed throughout the story in a way that I could still relate to what Ash was feeling. The character growth that pulls Ash through the book is wonderfully written, and also not so much so that she comes out the other end a totally different person; I really liked that Ash still felt like the same character at the end as at the beginning, yet subtly different, enough so that we can figure she really has done a decent amount of self-discovering through-out the book.
Added bonus: I am an English fanatic, I loved it in high school, I majored in it at Uni, I am a readaholic adult and I just love writing. So the fact that this story not only focuses on Ash’s English teacher, but also her own growing adoration of studying English really engaged me. Loved it.
Brutally honest and unceasingly charming, this book should be read by teenagers (and adults) the world over.