Review: If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo
Source: ARC courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Expected publication: May 3, 2016 by Flatiron Books
Verdict: Very Good
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. 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 in. 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 she used to be Andrew.
Will the truth cost Amanda her new life–and her new love?
If I Was Your Girl is a universal story about feeling different–and a love story that everyone will root for.
With starred and favourable reviews coming in from Publisher’s Weekly, Kirkus and ALA Booklist, Meredith Russo’s debut novel If I Was Your Girl is making a strong name for itself in this year’s young adult reads. Russo has crafted an impressive debut that, while indeed an important, illuminating, heartbreaking and hopeful novel about a trans teen, is also a solid and beautifully written entry into the sphere of contemporary young adult lit.
In chapters alternating between past and present, Amanda’s insightful and affecting first-person narrative takes us on an emotional and romantic journey. Starting present-day, with Amanda moving to live with her distant father, readers gain insight into her history: Amanda growing up, her complex and amazing relationship with her mother, her difficult relationship with her dad, her path to transitioning, her treatments, and what lead to Amanda having to start a new school in a new town. In the midst of this, Amanda meets Grant and begins the terrifying and tentative steps into the possibilities of falling for someone and trusting someone. There is so much tenderness and lyricism to Amanda and Grant’s relationship- it is well written and done in such a way that that never feels overdone or reads as cloying or precious. My one minor quibble with the novel is that a number of events happen in the last third of the novel. Without giving anything away, certain events and big character moments feel either too rushed or too glossed over. Considering the pacing and tone of the rest of the novel, the last section read as hurried to me– but that did not take much away from my positive reading experience.
Overall, If I Was Your Girl is a strong YA novel- even more impressive considering it is a debut novel which covers such an intense scope of topics (including everything from absentee parents to bullying, attempted suicide to transitioning treatments). I think that the book description, which notes that this is a ‘universal story about feeling different’ is a genuinely true statement. Russo writes a seriously moving and hopeful story here that teems with both very specific and broad emotional resonance. Readers who are keen on realistic and/or meaningful YA (with some romance!), or readers who enjoy writers such as Julie Halpern, Holly Goldberg Sloan, Julie Murphy, Jasmine Warga or Nina LaCour, might especially appreciate If I Was Your Girl.
I received a copy of this title courtesy of Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.