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.
I looked forward to this one for awhile. Transgendered issues have gotten more media attention in the past year, than they have in a very long time. It’s probably in part due to Caitlyn Jenner which in turn has sensationalize the issues surrounding trans individuals, which has lead to some ill researched legislation that has been proposed and passed in some states.
While it has been great that trans issues have been getting more awareness as of late, the coverage of it has been particularly skewed which was why I was glad that there was a YA book touching upon it
The thing is, If I Was Your Girl was not about such an important issue, it would’ve been one of those books that I would’ve been sort of meh about. In a lot of ways it reminded me of None of the Above which discussed its issue-intersex-in a informative type of way, but when it came to the actual storyline and side characters it wasn’t the greatest.
And that’s kind of sad, but at the same time sort of understandable.
When it comes to books that discuss an issue such as being transgendered in the case of If I Was Your Girl, you know that the storyline is going to be limited to a degree. I think that what made me so excited about this book before readage was I thought it was going to be more or less about a character that had already transitioned and was more or less functioning as a transitioned teen a la Jazz Jennings on her TLC show, but that was not the case.
While it was true that Amanda had transitioned physically, she was still dealing with fallout emotionally from transitioning and the book often used flashbacks to show her transition.
I didn’t mind this, but again it limited the scope of the story and made it more of an issue piece like None of the Above which again isn’t a bad thing but makes the book more educational to uninformed masses.
However, I think that’s one of things that I find that a lot of QUILTBAG books miss is that they make the books more issue oriented than identifiable books and I get why they have to be issue oriented. The media often misconstrues a lot of different aspects about these individuals lives and it’s important that young readers who don’t exactly know who they are yet, be able to see books that deal with these issues. But I also would really like these books to be more identifiable to its readers who identify to its narrator. With If I Was Your Girl, I thought it would be more of a YA romantic contemporary with a twist, but it wasn’t. And while that didn’t make the book bad, it did make me a little sad that society hasn’t reached a place where there can be a book about a trans character where the focus of the book isn’t about her being trans.
Issue book aside, I did like how this book presented trans individual issues for someone who is completely uninformed like yours truly. I feel like this book should be introduced to anyone who wants to know more about people who are transgendered. It does discuss different aspects over the situation perfectly. Yes, Amanda’s transition is a little bit more effortless than most people’s, but the author addresses that in a note at the end of the story.
I also have to give props to Russo for Amanda’s character. She felt completely realistic and the flashbacks before and during her transition made me cry.
The family elements also rang true, though I found her dad’s turn around in the end a little too fast.
What I didn’t like was a lot of the side characters. I found most of them, save for Bee and Virginia to be pretty forgettable. The boyfriend character was sort of a wash for me. There was always something superficial about his relationship with Amanda and it just didn’t work for me.
Do I recommend this book: yes. But was it as spectacular as I thought it would be: no. Still, a good debut and I hope that Russo continues to write books about trans characters.
Overall Rating: A B.