By the time you read this I’ll have been in Canada for a few hours (about ten, I think, provided there are no delays with the flight and I haven’t massively failed with converting the time difference in my head). I’m sure it’s lovely. I’m writing this the night before we leave, though, so that’s about all I can say. As a result, if I’m a bit slow replying to any comments for the next couple of weeks, you know why.
Read Me Like A Book was a NetGalley read that I requested because it combined LGBTQ themes with secondary school English lessons and, while it’s a cliche as a lover of books, I definitely believe that English teachers are either the best or the worst teachers you ever have. They can make or break literature for you, and I was lucky to have some really inspiring teachers while at school and in sixth form and some … less so inspiring ones.
However, I was a bit concerned about how the book would deal with these themes since the blurb suggested the main character would be romantically interested in her teacher. I was worried it would portray an unhealthy age gap or otherwise romanticise a situation that could potentially be harmful. To my relief, it managed to avoid that. While trying to avoid spoilers, I will say that the relationship the character ends up pursuing is not with her teacher, although it is her teacher that first makes her think she’s interested in girls.
I have to admit that this book didn’t entirely click with me. As you probably know, I’m not that big on contemporary, and only go for it when it’s LGBTQ or otherwise different from the normal romantic high school stories which dominate the genre. I don’t think my problems with the book were because I’m not too keen on the genre, but I feel like I should mention that for the benefit of newbies to the blog.
One issue I had was that it seemed a little dated in places. That might be because the slang didn’t match the colloquialisms I heard at school and in my area — it’s set somewhere further North, I think Manchester — and so what seems dated to a Londoner may be current to a Mancunian. (Is that the right word? I can never remember.) But the school system seemed a bit out of touch as well, like A-Level results being posted on a board for everyone to see instead of printed and put in envelopes. That’s totally unlike my own experience just a couple of years ago, and I don’t know anywhere that does it like that these days.
I also can’t imagine my mum’s reaction if I’d started my UCAS application the week it was due — but then, she’s a careers and higher education adviser, so she’d probably have exploded.
For a book to seem dated (even if it may be just different from my own experience) before it’s even come out seems like a bad sign with a contemporary, so that put up some red flags.
There were some cute moments in this, and some emotional ones. It deals with the confusion of realising you’re queer, and the ups and downs of coming out. I liked that Ash’s family were a bit of a mixed bag with reactions, instead of caricatures at one end of the spectrum or the other — it recognised that people may want to be supportive, but they need time to come to terms with it.
On the whole, though, it wasn’t quite emotional enough or different enough or otherwise outstanding enough to really get a strong reaction from me. It wasn’t bad, but it just didn’t distinguish itself much to me.
That said, there were a few bits of dialogue that stood out:
“Do I look OK?” I pull at the sleeves of my new coat, as if I’m trying to hide inside it.
“You look great.”
“Not too gay?”
“Ash, it’s a gay club!”
“What if I see someone I know?”
“What if you do?”
“They might think I’m, you know…”
“Ash, you are ‘you know’.”
I can imagine this dialogue happening with some of my friends to be honest — it was probably one of the most realistic bits of the book. Awkward gay nerds unite.
And this, which isn’t related to the plot at all, but simply amused me:
“Our father, who art in heaven, Harold be thy name,” I intoned earnestly every morning. It was years before I realised God wasn’t actually called Harold.
You don’t know that. God could be called Harold.
Anyway, I don’t really know how to rate this. Probably a 2.5-bordering on 3-star read? I mean, there were some moments that were particularly poignant and resonated with my own experiences, so I’ll use that as a reason to give it a solid 3, but on the whole it just didn’t hit the spots I was hoping it would hit.
But hey, another one for the unbury your queers shelf, so that’s always nice.