Thursday, June 16, 2016
Review: if i was your girl by meredith russo
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. ~ Goodreads
If I Was Your Girl is a simple and sweet coming of age story that explores first love, friendships and family but also has a message of tolerance and acceptance woven seamlessly into Amanda’s story.
It was difficult to read at times Seeing Amanda open up, blossom in her new school – find friends and romance – knowing that the other shoe is about to drop yet not knowing how here new friends will react to the fact that she used to be Andrew. She’s in a deeply religious community in the south. The danger is real and you just want to hug Amanda close and keep her safe.
I’ve read several reviews that Amanda had a relatively easy experience – she made friends easily, the guys at school love her immediately, she didn’t struggle financially with her transition for example.
The author actually addresses this in a note at the end of this book – explaining that she wanted to make “Amanda’s trans-ness as unchallenging to normative assumptions as possible” and “It is easy to get hung up on these points if you haven’t lived our lives though, so I wanted to set those aside. I hope that, having gotten to know Amanda, you will not apply the details of her experience as dogma other trans people must adhere to…” She also addresses her trans readers as well and explains, as a trans woman herself, that Amanda’s experience isn’t your experience. “ She isn’t real, and you are.”
Personally, I think she succeeded. Amanda’s story is uniquely hers and definitely a story about a trans-girl, yet she’s so relatable and her desire for love and acceptance so universal, that If I Was Your Girl works on multiple levels.
While in the present her life is *easier* (it’s still pretty damn difficult imo – but hopeful), flashbacks show a different story and help cisgender readers understand Amanda’s experiences and hopefully empathize. Amanda has been beaten, bullied, survived a suicide attempt, and divorced parents – for which she feels responsible for. If that’s easy – then no thank you.
*btw - I'm not questioning what other readers took away from the story or their opinions. I firmly believe we get to have our own thoughts - positive or negative - about a book. I'm just expressing my own on the matter.
I also want to quickly touch on how the relationship with her father was portrayed. While her mother was accepting right away, Amanda’s father kept trying to make her play baseball and make her act more "like a boy", eventually abandoning the family and Amanda. It’s easy to hate on her dad until she goes to live and reconnect with him and you understand that, while wrong, his reactions towards her came more from a bone deep fear for her safety rather than prejudice.
Despite the weight of the topic, this is actually just a straight up YA romance with a few stereotypes and tropes thrown in for good measure. Some people may be disappointed with that but I thought it made for a quick, sweet, swoony YA read.
But beyond all the danger is a hopeful story. If I Was Your Girl isn’t another tragic tale. She’s strong and fights for what she learns that she is deserving of – love.