Page Pundit Review: If I was Your Girl

| Jul 3, 2017

If I was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

I read this book several months ago, but didn’t review it in my blog. Why not? I’ll get to that.

Ms. Russo is a trans woman from Tennessee who started living her Truth in 2013. Her bio is a bit lacking, but I understand why — it was a previous life after all. She received a $100,000 advance for this book from her publisher. I’m not jealous. At all. Really. Okay, I am.

Anyway, her experiences inform this Young Adult book, which has won a ton of major awards, including Barnes and Noble Best New Books of the Year, Amazon.com Best Books of the Year, ALA Stonewall Book Award – Winner, Publishers Weekly Best Books of the Year. Not bad for a first effort! Again, not jeal. . .  okay I am.
Of course, all the reviews throw around terms like “Important,” and “groundbreaking.”

From the jacket:

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.

Book cover
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?

Okay. So we have Amanda, a trans woman who is still in high school. She transitioned young, and has had surgery (must be nice.) However, she was forced to relocate. You see, Amanda lives in the Deep South, where she was beaten for being who she is, so she had to move in with her father. New home; new city; new life. Her boy life ended with a suicide attempt, like so many of us. This lingers in the background of the book, like a shadow that won’t dissipate.

“If I’d had the strength to be normal, I thought, or at least the strength to die, then everyone would’ve been happy.”

Wow.  That resonated HARD with me.

So, aside from the whole Trans thing, everything is wonderful, right?! She makes friends, does teen girl things, has guys interested in her. . . but then there’s that damn secret! But no matter — life is wonderful! Well, dad isn’t exactly accepting. And Grant is keeping secrets. And. . . .

Sorry — not saying any more. However, as this is a YA book, and there needs to be a catastrophe to move the plot, one can guess what happens — the worst possible thing. Or is it?

Okay, until that point, I really wasn’t enjoying the book. It seemed a little too “dream come true” for reality. Or am I just too cynical? But when things REALLY go bad, that’s when Amanda’s strength starts to shine. We, as trans people, MUST be strong to survive, and I just wasn’t seeing it until then. That’s when the book became Real to me. Well, as real as it would get.

How Amanda handles adversity is what makes this book worth reading for a Trans audience. More on that in a bit.

Is there a happy ending? I’m not saying. How many of us actually live happily ever after? Or even something like it?

Still, when I finished the actual story, I was dissatisfied. It was still a little too, I don’t know, improbable. Then, I read the afterward, which includes the following:

“I have, in some ways, cleaved to stereotypes and even bent rules to make Amanda’s trans-ness as unchallenging to normative assumptions as possible. She knew from a very young age. She is exclusively attracted to boys. She is entirely feminine. She passes as a woman with little to no effort. She had a surgery that her family should not have been able to afford, and she started hormones through legitimate channels before she probably could have in the real world. I did this because I wanted you to have no possible barrier to understanding Amanda as a teenage girl with a different medical history from most other girls.”

She also has a message for Trans readers which in so many words. . . I’ll let you read it.

So, what did I think? I’m not a HUGE fan of YA, and there are the difficulties I cited. That said, this is a wonderful book for cisgender people to be introduced to our Humanity. Amanda is very vulnerable and, well, a typical teen in so many ways. If you have that teen in your life that you want to Understand who we are, this is a great introduction. Is it the Best? Sorry, no. But it is wonderful.

For Trans readers? Read it for yourself. Maybe you’ll get something from it that this chick didn’t. That said, There is Suicide, Extreme Bullying, and Rape in this book, so trigger warning! Amanda’s strength is inspiring, so that made it worth the read for me.

Ms. Russo has a fine first effort. I hope she does something for adults soon.

Oh, and why didn’t I review it in my blog?  Other things happened back in July, and I was planning something for September, but that fell through.

If I Was Your Girl

 

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Flatiron Books; First Edition edition (May 3, 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1250078407
  • ISBN-13: 978-1250078407

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Category: Opinion, Product Review

About Sophie Lynne: http://sophielynne1.blogspot.com/ : http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/projects/storywall/transgender-today/stories/sophie-lynne : http://articles.philly.com/2016-06-29/news/74075409_1_transgender-students-gender-identity-transgender-people

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