Title: If I Was Your Girl
Author: Meredith Russo
Age/Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Diversity: Trans MC, ownvoices
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?
A disclaimer: I got this book during Trans Awareness Week when I realized I’d never read a book with a trans MC before. It is the first and only book I’ve read since with a trans MC, although I have a couple others on my TBR list for 2017. Right now, I can’t compare it to any others, but I will be comparing future reads to this. That’s for sure.
I like to think I had never read one of these books before because I really prefer to read spec fic, and SFF and none on the list I put together for Trans Awareness Week *really* fit that. They were, for the most part, contemporary reads.
That said…I LOVED this book. I don’t often read contemporary but I’m glad I picked up IF I WAS YOUR GIRL. It’s not exciting in the way sword fights or space battles are exciting, but it provides a rare look into the life of a trans teen girl and I found myself, at turns, rooting for Amanda and worrying over her choices.
It’s pretty obvious the book is written by a trans woman, with all the little details folded into the the story and characterization that typically come from lived experience. This is a book I will point to in the future for why ownvoices books should often be read over non-ownvoices books when give the choice.
Amanda herself is a fairly shy girl with a secret she MUST keep in order to stay safe. Still, she can’t help falling for a local boy. She is definitely a believable teen character and, while she came off a little passive in this story, with most of the plot happening to her, she does take some big risks that show an underlying bravery you don’t often see.
Her parents were heartbreaking and so lovely to read about. The way they cope with their conflicted emotions and how these impact Amanda reminded me a little bit of my own journey as a gay woman. It’s so hard to be yourself when your family doesn’t approve, but when you do find that acceptance, it’s beautiful.
Grant certainly had some layers that I really enjoyed unpeeling. Just when he started to seem a little too perfect, the author introduces some minor bits of conflict that bring us back to reality.
The rest of the supporting cast is fantastically believable. From the religiously-strict friend to the bisexual wreck friend, to all of the others, their interactions with each other were things I could have seen in my own high school. The great thing is they also each brought their own baggage to the table, they didn’t blend together like a group of four or five can do sometimes.
The chapters alternate between telling Amanda’s present and her past as she and her family come to terms with her identity and she transitions, changes schools, and starts a new life with new friends and a cute new boy. As opposed to this same kind of structure in RUN by Kody Keplinger, Amanda’s “past” chapters don’t necessarily inform questions raised by the “present” chapters, but they allow enough time and space for a complicated backstory to unfold.
The story is building towards a fairly obvious climax but there’s a twist to it that I didn’t see coming. I could NOT PUT THIS DOWN for the last few chapters.
Be prepared to read at the edge of your seat as a high school girl navigates her complicated life, makes friends, falls in love, and learns to be her authentic self.
Possible Spoiler (Answers the question: Does this book have a happy ending?):
This book DOES have a happy ending (apparently that’s quite rare for books with trans characters? That’s messed up).