Book Review – ‘If I Was Your Girl’ by Meredith Russo

A touching story about self-acceptance and finding your place.

If I Was Your Girl Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, GLBT

No. of pages: 288

From Goodreads:

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.

Page border by Casey Carlisle

The first thing that drew me to ‘If I Was Your Girl’ was the amazing cover art; and the second was when I found out it was a contemporary with a transgender protagonist. I’ve read a few other titles similar and enjoyed the concepts of identity and social anxiety – they make compelling stories.

If I Was Your Girl Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle.jpgI found Amanda, our protagonist, to be strong but a little naive and a somewhat whiny – but it worked for her age and to set up her hearts desires. It was easy to relate to the fear and anxiety Amanda goes through and how it is always there, as it would be with anyone hiding a big secret. The treatment of questions about her old name, body parts and surgeries, and how they should never be asked just made sense. It’s intimate and personal and is passive-aggressive, if not a form of bullying to ask if you do not have a close relationship. But it is always one of the first questions out of people’s mouths when they discover someone is transgender. It actually taught me some deportment in handling this issue, and for that I am thankful. The last thing I want to do is come across as rude and mean in the face of someone who is going through a difficult journey.

In comparison to the other novels I’ve read tackling transgender issues, ‘If I Was Your Girl’ is the most realistic representation I’ve read of a trans character to date – with a focus more on the person and their relationships instead of Gender Identity and using it as a plot reveal.

Amanda’s love interest, Grant was a bit of a larrikin. Your typical boy, but with a worldly compassion shaped from his experiences. It was nice to read something that was positive, strong and kinda cute. It brought issues into a real world landscape and gave the characters a chance to react organically.

The violence described in this book that Amanda lived through felt a bit much. I understand it is a real issue for transgender teens, but for me personally, was confronting and didn’t add much to the story. Although, its educating readers to real world fears people like Amanda face – it makes a blunt, horrific point which I find disgusting and devastating.

I didn’t like the flashbacks interspersed throughout the story so much. I much prefer the narrative style to discover the past through one poignant moment, or through conversation. Frequent time jumping always pulls me from the story.

I had issue with a few things – but after reading the Author’s Note, feel they are less important now. Many things were written in a way about Amanda and her circumstances to make ‘If I Was Your Girl’ easy and relatable, losing some realism. But still, I would have liked some more realistic characters and reactions.

A great book about a girl’s emotional journey into adulthood.

Overall, this was a heart-warming contemporary. The storyline itself felt a little simple. But the character development was great. Pleasant writing style, not heavy with the feels, but enough to hit you with what is important. I read the entire book in a day. Pacing is great, I put the book down once for a short rest.

One little factoid I read somewhere is that the cover model is a transgender teen, which I felt added another dynamic to the novel. I was really impressed with Meredith Russo’s writing and look forward to see what she produces next.

Overall feeling – cuteness with a message

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Critique Casey by Casey Carlisle

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