Monday, June 27, 2016

Everything is awesome when we're living our dream: Blog Tour for Liz Kessler's READ ME LIKE A BOOK

I was really excited when Candlewick Press asked me to be a part of this blog tour. Sadly, even in 2016, I feel like lesbian characters in literature are few and far between. Realistic lesbian characters and stories are even harder to find in the YA realm. Author Liz Kessler, who has published the best-selling Emily Windsnap series, the Philippa Fisher series, and various middle-grade novels, wrote an early version of "Read Me Like a Book" as her first novel. She went on to dust it off after the success of some of her other novels, update it, and here we are. And we should all be glad, because it's a great book. My review below:

Ashleigh Walker's life is crumbling around her. Her parents are fighting constantly, she's not doing well in school, and her boyfriend, Dylan, doesn't exactly make her heart sing. Suddenly, the one bright spot in Ash's life becomes her new English teacher, Miss Murray. Young and hip, Miss Murray engages Ash in a way she's never felt before. She's even joined the debate club, for pete's sake, and started working hard on her English submissions. But there's more to it than that. Miss Murray makes Ash feel something else. If she really admits it, Miss Murray makes Ash feel what Dylan (and other boys) should. Is something wrong with Ash? And more importantly, Ash starts to think... does Miss Murray feel the same way?

This is a lovely gem of a book. It's the perfect blend of heartbreaking and funny. Kessler, who, as I mentioned, has previously written a series of books for young teens, expertly captures the older teen voice in this novel (which was actually her first book, finally published and updated for the more modern, digital era). She creates a picture as she writes, allowing you to vividly imagine her multi-faceted and complicated characters. Ash is no one-dimensional teen: she's intricate and her own person. As she deals with the agony of her parents' own issues, plus her own inner angst about her love life, your heart goes out to the girl.

Kessler easily paints the angst one feels when in love with a teacher, especially if LGBT - coupled with the delusion that comes with youth, no matter your sexual orientation. Ash's feelings are so real, so strong, and she seems so alone. It's an excellent portrayal of what young teens go through as they wrestle with their sexuality (believe me, I know; it took me back to some tough times in high school).

If anything, some of the resolution is a little too easy, a bit quick and forced at times, but it really doesn't diminish from the force of the book. Watching Ash grow up before our eyes is rather magical. There are some excellent comedic portions from the novel to balance out the heaviness, coupled with a great supporting cast of characters, including Ash's best friend, Cat, and some other youth she meets via school, family, and friends. The novel is perfect for teens struggling with their own sexuality, or needing to see someone "like them" in print, and those looking to support a LGBT best friend, but should also be given to parents of those teens -- as Ash's parents play a role in the story as well.

Overall, I found myself completely wrapped in Ash's coming of age (and coming out) tale. Books with a true to life, multi-dimensional lesbian heroine are still sadly hard to come by, it seems, but Kessler's novel certainly tries to change that.

For more about this lovely book, please check out the rest of the blog tour. It's also a great chance to check out some fun and different blogs:

Official Blog Tour Stops:

6/14 YA Book Central

6/15 My Mercurial Musings

6/16 Hopelessly Devoted Bibliophile

6/17 Mayor of Bookopolis

6/18 I Read Banned Books

6/19 Forever Literary

6/20 Word Spelunking

6/21 My Books Views

6/22 Kelly Vision

6/23 Swoony Boys Podcast

6/24 Reviews Comin At YA

6/25 Comfort Books

6/26 Satisfaction for Insatiable Reader

6/27 Just a Cat and a Book by her Side

6/28 The Reading Date

6/29 Forever YA

6/30 Musing Librarian reviews

7/1 Randomly Reading

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for a copy of this book; it's available everywhere!
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