If I Was Your Girl, by Meredith Russo
Publisher: Flatiron Books (Macmillian)
Release Date: May 3, 2016
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
A new kind of big-hearted novel about being seen for who you really are.
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?
Meredith Russo’s If I Was Your Girl is a universal story about feeling different—and a love story that everyone will root for.
(see review for further warnings)
If I Was Your Girl is a very touching story about a transgender girl written by a transgender woman.
Sitting here and trying to get a decent review on page, I’m not really sure how to begin because there are many aspects to this story and they are all not simple and easily told in a few words.
I love how complex this story is and how many layers there are and how complex both the main and side characters are. However, while all this is complex, it is not complicated… but rather easy to relate to and the reader gets swept into the book and Amanda’s story right from the start. I might even say with the beginning of the foreword, from which I liked this part the most:
I hope that, once you get to know Amanda, you will not apply the details of her experience as dogma other trans people must adhere to but, rather, as inspiration to pursue an ever broader understanding of our lives and identities, as well as your own understanding of gender and sex.
Now, I don’t want to get into too much detail concerning the story because while the premise is clear from the blurb, I liked how Amanda’s whole story was revealed little by little. This story is mostly told in the present in first person narration, but there are mini chapters from different points of her past woven into it. We see how life was for Amanda when she was little and what ultimately led to her suicide attempt. (Beware that this is described on page and might be triggering for readers sensitive to this subject.)
In the present, Amanda has transitioned and is passing. Nobody would think that she got the gender male assigned at birth. The main theme of the story is for me how Amanda develops from a girl who wasn’t willing to live anymore to enjoying life and seeing herself worthy of love. With all the heaviness this book brings with it from time to time it has a positive message and I thought it was beautiful and well balanced out. I actually devoured this in no time.
There are a few characters in the book who can count as, well, not the nice ones. What I appreciate a lot, though, is that they weren’t (for the most part) depicted as pure evil, but as humans. In this regard, I especially loved Amanda’s relationship to her father.
The friendships and the romance in the book are real and lovely. The author finds just the right amount of page space with each one of Amanda’s friends to bring them alive and relatable without taking away from Amanda herself and her relationship with Grant, who was mostly really lovely.
I liked the ending of the book and where it leaves things with Amanda (and Grant). I think it’s a really good place to stop.
So this book is great and I highly recommend it. I only have some small personal niggles with two plot developments near the end that are quite common tropes that I don’t really like. I’m not saying it’s bad and I think it’s sadly even realistic, and I think it fits the story as well. Heh, right… No, I’m not spoiling them, clearly.
On another note, for the nerds under us, there be Star Wars 😀 Also Amelié. I kinda loved how I got the references in the book because I usually don’t ;-P
This book is really, really good! I hope you’ll give it a try and like it as well.
Content warnings: on-page suicide attempt in the past, assault, transphobia, homophobia
MEREDITH RUSSO was born, raised, and lives in Tennessee. She started living as her true self in late 2013 and never looked back. If I Was Your Girl was partially inspired by her experiences as a trans woman. Like Amanda, Meredith is a gigantic nerd who spends a lot of her time obsessing over video games and Star Wars.
You can buy If I Was Your Girl from:
Flatiron Books (Macmillian)
I received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.