Author: Meredith Russo
Also by this author: Meet Cute: Some People Are Destined to Meet.
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Publication date: May 3rd 2016
Source: Purchased at Chapters Indigo
Format: Audiobook / Hardcover
A big-hearted novel about being seen for who you really are.
Amanda Hardy is the new girl in school. Like anyone else, all she wants is to make friends and fit in. But Amanda is keeping a secret, and she’s determined not to get too close to anyone.
But when she meets sweet, easygoing Grant, Amanda can’t help but start to let him into her life. As they spend more time together, she realizes just how much she is losing by guarding her heart. She finds herself yearning to share with Grant everything about herself, including her past. But Amanda’s terrified that once she tells him the truth, he won't be able to see past it.
Because the secret that Amanda’s been keeping? It's that at her old school, she used to be Andrew. Will the truth cost Amanda her new life, and her new love?
Meredith Russo's If I Was Your Girl is a universal story about feeling different—and a love story that everyone will root for.
Review: If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo
I feel like an alternate title for If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo could be “Secrets” or “The Secrets We Keep.” Because even though it’s Amanda’s secret that is the impetus for this story of a transgender girl who moves to a new town, it’s the idea of secrets and secret-keeping that makes this story as compelling as it is. There’s a universality in being scared to show someone your true self, in moving to a new town, in first love and first real friends. In those ways, this is a very simple book, a classic contemporary.
I started If I Was Your Girl as an audiobook, and loved the writing so much that I immediately went and bought it as a hardcover. It’s that good. Reading it in audiobook was a treat, though – narrator Samia Mounts did an incredible job of balancing the sweet moments with the dark, and alternating the voices for the characters and the “before” moments when we see Andy struggling with his identity and facing it with his parents, to the “after” moments of the present.
What made this book really special for me was not, however, the emphasis on how being her true self could actually get Amanda hurt or even killed – although that did make the stakes much higher. The thing that got me, that always gets me about contemporaries, are the characters and how they develop.
I fell completely in love with Amanda, who is super-smart, funny, earnest while being playful. Her voice is incredibly sincere and there were passages that just spoke to me, beautifully written descriptions of being lonely and afraid that I connected to. I LOVED her. I think there are very few people out there who won’t – I mean, how can you go wrong with a girl who is obsessed with Star Wars, makes her own sushi because she can’t find it in her hometown and loves comics? She’s a girl who loves to create and bask in story.
Whether you are LGBTQIA or cisgendered, if you’re looking for a really good contemporary YA that deals with identity, first romance, and bullying, this is your book. And if you are interested in what being transgender means and how it could feel to have gender identity disorder…this is also the book for you. I learned so much from this book, not the least of which being that this is just one representation of a transperson’s journey.
I love the fact that in the author’s note at the end, Russo discusses how she wrote this not as an educator, but as a story – and enjoyable one, but also one that removes many of the complications and barriers that many transpeople have to face. That doesn’t mean, though, that Amanda’s story doesn’t ring true. It does. It completely does. And that, in the end, is what got me – that I could see myself in her, that I could be her.
Christianity x LGBTQ: I loved the fact that this book didn’t shy away from talking about Amanda’s feelings about going to church or believing in God – and I love that it did it in a balanced way.
Heart-Squeezing Romance: While I can’t say I would put Grant entirely into my book boyfriend category, there were definitely some seriously swoony moments that really, really got me.
Kick-Arse Secondary Characters: Too many to mention them all, but I love, love, LOVED Amanda’s new girl friends at her school, who were realistically complex, both nice and not nice. Grant, the love interest, was such a fascinating study as well – I really don’t want to give things away, but there’s so many layers to him.
Parents Who Are Trying: I loved that we got to see Amanda’s parents before, during and after her gender reassignment and how they were both still learning how to cope and deal in a way that’s understanding and respectful. It was just such an honest portrayal of what I think I would feel as a parent – in particular, Amanda’s relationship with her father was really interesting because he was so overprotective…but you could understand how he had a right to be.
The Final Word:
A stunning debut that is as complex in writing as it is in character, If I Was Your Girl is not only a necessary read for teens; it’s also beautifully written, with gorgeous prose and well-structured scenes. There are quite a few books out there right now that deal with LGBTQIA issues for teens, but I feel like this is one of my favorites – and definitely one of my favorite reads this year.
IF I WAS YOUR GIRL is out in bookstores now. Have you read it? Is it on your list (and if not, please, please put it on your list)? How do you think you’d react if you found out one of your friends was transgender? Hit the comments and let me know your thoughts.