Life is messy, people are imperfect—but Ashleigh learns that love really is all you need in this bighearted story of honesty and acceptance.
Parents who are fighting incessantly, a best friend whose path is diverging from her own, a boyfriend who wants their physical relationship to progress faster than she’s comfortable with—these are just a few of the things Ash is wrestling with. As if that weren’t enough, although usually an indifferent student, the white teen finds her new English A-level teacher, Miss Murray, inexplicably entrancing. A self-proclaimed “expert at skirting around anything that might resemble a genuine feeling,” Ash tries to ignore her problems in the vain hope that they will somehow go away, but instead she finds that the only thing that vanishes is her closeness to the people she loves. Taking risks both large and small—and growing from them—is a recurring theme of this story, from Ash’s shoplifting on a dare with a rebellious friend to coming out to her parents on her 18th birthday. The English setting (including frequent pub visits and colorful slang) adds a rich dimension, as do the well-rounded characters whose flaws make them all the more sympathetic.
With an absorbing plot and believable dialogue, this novel demonstrates respect for teens’ fears and desires, ending on a hopeful note that steers clear of unconvincing platitudes. (Fiction. 14 & up)