For What It's Worth

For What It's Worth

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Review: if i was your girl by meredith russo


26156987Amanda 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

Source: Purchased

Review:

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.

29 comments:

  1. I always read authors notes and I thought this one was interesting. I think sometimes when a reader relates very closely to a story they expect every detail to align with their own experience. To me, this was a story about a character who had been through a lot and just wanted to love and be loved. I really liked the simple message of that - deep down, we all have that in common.

    Jen @ YA Romantics

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    1. Amanda and her experiences (& her friends) were very relatable. I think it was really well done.

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  2. Wow, wonderful review! I love that this book seems to have a hopeful tone and message. I'm not part of the trans community, so I may be wrong, but I feel like they don't need just sad, tragic stories. Sometimes, I imagine they probably just need a fun story like this.

    - Lefty @ The Left-Handed Book Lover

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    1. Thank you. I agree. There are so few LGBT stories to begin with. Exploring different experiences, and positive ones, are just as valid and inspiring to kids out there who feel like they have no hope - whatever their individual experience may be.

      It also didn't shy away from anything IMO. We see how difficult it is for her before & after her move.

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  3. That's what this book is about?!?! I definitely want to read I, but I think I would have a harder time than you getting through it. I'm a big cry baby and stupid emotional when it comes to books. Love love love all the heart that the author put into this though.

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    1. You really do fear for her safety and it was difficult to read because I know there are people out there struggling right now with this and I wish they weren't but it was also extremely hopeful with solid friendships, romance and presence of family.

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  4. I was hoping the stereotypes and tropes weren't there, and the romance wasn't the fulcrum. It sounds like a great book for teens in the same predicament of Amanda, or who are struggling with the same issues - and, like you said, also for cisgender teens who need to open up to other life experiences. But I guess the tropes etc. would ruin it for me :(. I've become so picky LOL.

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    1. BTW, I read this one actually has a trans model on the cover, which is great!

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    2. Yes, trans author and cover model.

      I don't know if maybe I'm going easy on it but I think the tropes work here. As in, it's nice to read a LGBT story that doesn't shy away from anything at all yet isn't drowning in tragedy. Amanda's fears are greater than a typical teen if her secret is discovered but finding your first love, friendships (this is where it got into stereotypes - but they did feel like something she would encounter in real life - just not maybe all a the same time) is universal and made this more of a general YA book rather than an ISSUE book.

      The romance was done well too but he's a pretty standard, perfect YA boy.

      But again...I was ok with it in this case.

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  5. I'm glad the author approached this topic, I don't think there are many books out there like this and I hope it helps people if they're in Amanda's shoes.

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    1. I think it's a great read for any teen really. It has a positive & hopeful portrayal of a trans character.

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  6. Good cos I can not take any more tragic ones

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    1. There are a lot of stories to tell. I don't think they all need to be tragic or end without hope.

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  7. I do love a good swoony read!! If I ever get in the mood for YA---I will be grabbing this one up. It sounds exactly like something I would like. Great review here.

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    1. It may not be a traditional HEA romance but I think it ended on a really sweet, realistic note.

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  8. I like the sound of this one...not too weighty and focused more on the underlying themes that unify us all.

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    1. Amanda's journey is difficult but I think it was more hopeful story than most.

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  9. PS love the pic of you and your three babies!

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  10. Hmm, having read your review I'm not sure what to make of this book. Hoping for something more I think I'm a bit disappointed to read that when all is said and done its just another YA novel and yet at the same time Amanda sounds like the kind of character I love.

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    1. I didn't mean to imply that she shied away from anything that Amanda went through. It's just that it was shaped into a somewhat typical YA framework - and that worked in this case...for this particular story.

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  11. This sounds like it has a lot of tough issues in it! :( Amanda had to suffer through SO FREAKING MUCH that would make a normal person probably crack up, plus she had to deal with herself as she changed. I thought it was a swoony read from the book cover (which is a clear sign that DUH, I need to stop judging books by their coves so much...) but.. ALAS ;)

    Great review, lovely! :)

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    1. But it is kind of swoony. The transition and bullying happens before she moves in with her dad. It's more about the fear of her new friends/boyfriend finding out but really just what most teens worry about - acceptance and love.

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  12. I'm so glad you shared the author's note. I love it when whatever makes someone "different" is just a part of them and not the definition of that person. Makes the character more real and more human. I wish more authors did that with race and disability as well. Might have to pick this one up.

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    1. I think the note was helpful to explain some of the narrative choices she made. It's easy to criticize a book like this that is both educational and important but is trying to reach a broader audience. People want it to say or be certain things. As she said - she wanted to tell *Amanda's* story - that's not necessarily anyone else's story.

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  13. I've had my eye on this one for a while, i love that it tackles so many tough issues head on and i'm usually a sucker for those books, i just haven't gotten around to picking this one up yet. Lovely review!

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    1. I hope you enjoy it if you get a chance to read it.

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  14. There seems to be so many beautiful themes in this book. I'm definitely super interested in reading it. I love it when there's more to the characters than we think! Wonderful review :D

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    1. Amanda was a fantastic protagonist. I thought she was written very well.

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