Title: If I Was Your Girl
Author: Meredeth Russo
Genre: Realistic Contemporary
Publication Date: May 3rd 2016
Publisher: Flatiron Books
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
TRIGGER WARNINGS: Suicide, Bullying, and Sexual Assault.
“I’m not brave,” I said, smiling despite myself. “Bravery implies I had a choice. I’m just me, you know?”
Amanda Hardy is the new girl in school in Lambertville, Tennessee. Like any other girl, all she wants is to make friends and fit in. But Amanda is keeping a secret. There’s a reason why she transferred schools for her senior year, and why she’s determined not to get too close to anyone. And then she meets Grant Everett. Grant is unlike anyone she’s ever met—open, honest, kind—and Amanda can’t help but start to let him into her life. As they spend more time together, she finds herself yearning to share with Grant everything about herself…including her past. But she’s terrified that once she tells Grant the truth, he won’t be able to see past it. Because the secret that Amanda’s been keeping? It’s that she used to be Andrew. – Excerpt from Goodreads
If I was Your Girl follows a young transwoman who has is going to live with her estranged father because of the relentless bullying at her old school. When our main protagonist arrives, Amanda, she is met with lots of friends and even interest from a couple of the popular boys. Amanda is accepted, and she is well-liked and, for once in her life, she is “normal.” It’s all she ever wanted, except she is still dealing with her internal fears that somehow someone might find out her secret and is it ok for her to be in a relationship with a boy without disclosing her past. In a world that will tear you apart for being even the slightest bit different from the supposed “societal norm,” she still wanted to give herself a chance to honest and open about herself.
I can think of a few words to describe this book – insightful, powerful, heart-wrenching and beautiful. I went through so many emotions with this read. I know this one is going to stay with me for awhile. I have read a lot of the reviews and some people did find this book on the slow side. I had the opposite experience. I’m writing this review at 5 a.m. because I couldn’t put the book down and read the majority of it in a sitting. I have been purposely seeking out more diverse books – not just because it’s on “trend” but because I’m tired of reading about the same people over and over again. I want something that challenges me and lets me explore important questions. This book does that and I’m so grateful for that.
There were times my stomach felt really tense during this book. I actually had to peek a couple chapters down because I became overly anxious – that is a warning to people who could be triggered by reading about people possibly being harmed in realistic situations. I thought the characters were fairly well-developed. I really loved Amanda, I loved that she was still naive but aware. Her friends were great, although I ended up hating someone I didn’t expect to. I still want to kick that person really hard. Amanda’s love interest, Grant, seemed like a good guy, I think he could’ve used a bit more developing but I liked him enough. I have my doubts about Grant accepting Amanda. This is probably due to my tendency to not trust people and in a religious town like they were in, I just didn’t feel it was very realistic. However, I would love to find out that I’m wrong and it happens all that time. I somehow doubt we’ve come that far as a society yet though.
The book explores many important questions but one that struck out to me was whether you have to tell your partner about your past to be authentic to yourself. It has really made me think. At the end of the day I think you need to stay happy and safe and whatever that translates for you is the right answer.
This is a book that should be among required reading in schools. It talks about an important topic in a non-polarizing way. Teens could likely grasp these ideas and identify with them. You do not need to be part of the trans community to understand bullying and stigma.
I also want to point out that the author, who is a transwoman herself, points out in the acknowledgements that this story doesn’t not represent the whole trans community and that she is not an educator but a storyteller. I think that was very important distinction and I really appreciated her saying so.
Now go read this book! READ IT! Now!