Ashley Li: Pretty or Petty? Or both?

Author’s comment: Here’s another excerpt from THE ASHLEYS. I’m so glad so many of you have emailed me to tell me you’re excited for this book. I’m excited for you to read it!

This book was a hoooot to write and each of the Ashleys and Lauren have a little of me in them. The inspiration for the relationship between Ashley Spencer and Ashley Li comes from my own experience with my best friend.

Jennie and I always used to argue about who was more popular. Her or me? It seemed so IMPORTANT back then that this issue be resolved. And we weren’t even in seventh-grade! We were in college! But girls are always so competitive. Of course, we never really TALKED about this, but it was definitely a part of our lives and our friendship. Who’s prettier? Who’s more popular? Who has a cuter boyfriend, handbag, circle of friends?

It all seems so RIDICULOUS now. Especially since I think Jennie is incredibly beautiful, intelligent and all-around awesome and I know she thinks the same of me. Check out her MySpace page if you don’t believe me. I mean, she STILL looks seventeen. Ugh!

But you do grow up after all. And you know what, so do friendships. When Jennie and I first met, she thought I was a total FOB. As in dorky-Asian-person-who-does-not-even-speak-English. I thought she was a grade-A byatch.

And now I can’t imagine life without the byatch. 🙂

Jennie helped a lot with the Ashleys, sharing all her private all-girls-school memories for me to mine and fictionalize. Thanks Jen! >>


How much longer did she have to wait? Another five minutes? Ten? Fifteen? Her mother would go ballistic if she got slapped with a late notice on the first day of school. Three late notices and you had to face the Honor Board—which was kind of embarrassing especially since she was on the Honor Board.

Ashley Li checked the time on the dangling golden lock of her tan leather Hermes Kelly watch that she wore strapped around her wrist like a lariat. If they weren’t at Miss Gamble’s in five minutes, Miss Moos, the dreaded school secretary with the creepy hair weave and onion-bagel breath would soon be ringing their parents, inquiring in that quavery voice of hers as to why their little girls weren’t in school that morning.

She took a sip from her cardboard coffee cup. Chai soy decaf latte. It tasted like ass but she pretended to like it because Ashley Spencer loved it and the point of being friends with Ashley Spencer, the whole point of being in the Ashleys was that they all liked and did the same thing. They had decided back in fourth grade that the Ashley thing was too confusing and had opted to go by very cute nicknames. All except for Ashley Spencer of course, who somehow retained the right to go by “Ashley.” Oh well, Lili was a much chicer name than Ashley anyway. 

Where was the byatch? It drove her crazy how Ashley never seemed to notice the time.

You’d think the girl would at least try to be on time for the first day of junior high. Lili sighed. She’d have to lie to her mom again to explain the disciplinary note.

Whenever Lili messed up at school, she was sure to feel the wrath of (Nancy) Khan. Her mother, who had kept her maiden name and used to be the highest-paid female partner at Willbanks, Eliot and Dumforth, and before that, Law Review Editor at Harvard Law, was now a full-time SAHM: a Stay-At-Home-Mom—or in her case a Socialite-At-Home-Mom, serving on all the committees and volunteer boards at Miss Gamble’s. She didn’t accept anything less than perfection from her only daughter.

She should just leave. Forget Ashley. Yeah, right. As if she could ever desert her best friend. That was the problem. Ashley could make anything better, more fun and less completely mundane. She thought about the stickers from last year that Ashley had made for them to put on select lockers, which read “The Ashleys: SOA” in script on silver foil. No one but the three of them knew what the letters stood for and it drove the whole class crazy trying to guess. SOA stood for Seal of Approval, which should have been glaringly obvious since only the cute girls in class got the sticker.

Lili gripped her coffee cup tightly, took an agonized sip of the drink and contemplated tossing it in the trash. They’d gotten into trouble for the stickers once the faculty got wind of it, and were chastised since their little prank promoted “clique culture” which was supposedly against school policy. Uh-huh. Good luck with that.

Ashley supposedly had a surprise for them and Lili had no choice but to wait or be left out of the fun. Her other best friend, Ashley Alioto, had found something better to do than wait around for Ashley. A.A. had arrived right on time, just as Lili had, but had disappeared once they’d gotten their orders. Maybe she had decided to ditch Ashley, but most likely she was just on the phone to that “boyfriend”—air quotes definitely intended–of hers again.

Lili yawned and stretched on the wooden chair. She reached behind her to make sure her new Fendi Spy bag was still hanging there. The puffy tote was the same one that Ashley would be carrying and the same one that A.A. had carelessly plopped down on the seat across from hers. They had bought them together a few weeks ago. Lili had angled for the fire-engine red version, but Ashley had convinced her that beige was a more practical color. A.A., of course, had settled for the beige without complaint.

Lili noticed an old Chinese lady smiling at her from across the room. Old Chinese ladies were always smiling at her. She figured she probably reminded them of their granddaughters or something. They were always patting her on the head and saying “piao liang, piao-liang.” (Pretty, pretty.) Lili always smiled back. She knew how to take a compliment.

Her jet-black hair fell just below her shoulders, and today she was wearing it in soft curls. She had fine, delicate features, slightly almond-shaped eyes, a tiny chin, and a flawless, caramel complexion. People always said she looked like Zhiyi Zhang from those crazy martial-arts movies, but then that was maybe because there were no other Asian actresses to compare her to. She didn’t think she looked a bit like Zhiyi Zhang but she liked hearing it anyway. Speaking of things she liked to hear…

“Hi Pretty!” A clear, sing-song voice called from the entrance of the shop.

She turned. Ashley had finally arrived. Lili got up from her chair so fast she almost knocked over her coffee cup.

“Hi Pretty!” she gushed back. “Oh my god!” she exclaimed, slapping her hands on her hips in dismay.


“Your bag!” Lili accused, pointing to the offending accessory.

“I know! Don’t you love?” Ashley grinned, holding it up to the light.

“It’s red!” Lili said indignantly. “You said we were all getting beige!”

“I changed my mind,” Ashley said, shrugging. “I’m always red,” she said, quoting from their favorite movie.

“Ha ha.” Lili dead-panned sourly. “But now we don’t match.” She frowned. “We were all supposed to get the same one.”

“You and A.A. still match,” Ashley shrugged. “What’s the big deal? It’s just a bag, Lil. Chill out.”

Lili pasted a smile on her face. It was just a bag. Ashley was right. She was her best friend and so what if she’d changed her mind? Lili could have changed her mind just as easily, but of course, the thought would never occur to her. They had an agreement. Now instead of three Ashleys, she and A.A. would look like backup singers to the main Ashley. This was so Dreamgirls. But if Ashley didn’t watch out, Lili was going to Jennifer Hudson her one day.

Next up: ASHLEY "A.A." ALIOTO: the Sporty Spice of the Ashleys!