Sep 29, 2016

An important tale on identity || If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

Title : If I Was Your Girl
Author: Meredith Russo
Release Date: June 1st 2016
Publisher: Usborne Publishing

Amanda Hardy is the new girl at school.

Like everyone else, all she wants is to make friends and fit in. But Amanda is holding back. Even from Grant, the guy she's falling in love with.

Amanda has a secret.

At her old school, she used to be called Andrew. And secrets always have a way of getting out.

A book about loving yourself and being loved for who you really are.

A finished copy of the book was provided by Usborne UK in exchange of a honest review

If I was your girl was a book I've been wanting to read since the moment I heard about it for the first time. It's not news that I am mad over diversity in books, and in particular, I love to read stories with LGBTQIA rep, since I have no first or second hand experience about that community. If I was your girl, especially, was my first trans book, and I was unbelievably excited and looking forward to read what the book had in store for me. I expected to be enlightened, but I wasn't ready for the deep and emotional impact it left on me.

“For as long as I could remember, I had been apologizing for existing, for trying to be who I was, to live the life I was meant to lead.” 

Amanda might just seem to be a pretty, normal and happy girl to anyone who looks at her for the first time. It doesn't take her a long time to make friends and even get a super cute and nice boyfriend at her new school, and life should have been pretty normal for a girl like her. But Amanda has her secrets. Her relationship with her dad is complicated. She has tried to kill herself. A few years ago, she was called Andrew....

If I was your girl was an important book. A beautiful book. An emotional book. A story that deals with the aftermath of a gender confirmation surgery, how a trans teen copes with family, relationships, her identity and life in general. If I was your girl is an eye opening and poignant tale, a must read which gives a chance for fellow trans readers to relate, and cis gender readers to be educated on this particular subject matter.

Amanda was wonderful, and I was able to develop a connection with her character as the story progressed. Her voice was clear, even when her thoughts and feelings were confused. She had a great personality, and it's beautiful to see how much she had grown and changed from the confused soul she was - whom we get glimpses of through flashbacks - or even from the person she was when the book started. She is strong, genuine, smart and brave and it was delight to be a part of her story.

“I wasn’t sorry I existed any more. I deserved to live. I deserved to find love. I knew now – I believed, now – that I deserved to be loved.” 

I loved the batch of secondary characters. Grant, the love interest, is sweet, nice, caring and understanding. The romance between them is so cute and provided the lightness the book needed. Amanda's new friends in school, who has their own complications, but were a pillar of support. And most of all, Amanda's parents, two realistically and beautifully fleshed out characters, whose ways of dealing with Amanda's transition was so different and so real. Amanda's mum is a sweetheart, whose love for her child is more worthy than any kind of social stigma. Amanda's relationship with her dad is one bittersweet, complex and deep journey, which brought tears to my eyes by the end.

But the beauty of the book is that it was not just about how it is to be trans teen. It was a story about one's identity crisis, first romance, prejudices and beliefs, bullying and the bravery to stand by and do what your heart wills you to do. It was about complicated relationships - with parents, friends and oneself. All these were portrayed beautifully and provided a raw and honest tale.

That being said, I loved the LGBT aspects of it. Amanda's journey and struggles were so realistic, considering the author herself is trans woman.  I also loved the treatment of the concept of faith and LGBT, which was beautifully portrayed with the right sense of ambiguity in it. 

“God wanted me to live, and this was the only way I knew how to survive, so this was what God wanted.” 

It is also important to note that If I was your girl doesn't talk about certain things. Simply put, the book is one I would call realistic, but not brutally honest. Amanda looks entirely feminine and it creates no doubt in anyone who sees her that she could've been anything other than a girl. She hasn't had any complications during her surgery. Her parents could afford it all in the first place. Her friends were accepting. Her boyfriend was a sweet heart. I would dare to even call that Amanda had it easy to an extent. But reading Meredith's author's note - yes I do read those - it was clear that it was intentional. What Meredith has intended to do is provide a basic understanding, a stepping stone into the life of a trans gender man or woman. It was easy to understand her intentions, and it was a rather smart one if you ask me, considering the fact that it left the book to be moving and not be cluttered and complicated at the same time.

If I was your girl is an important book. I would recommend it to each and every one of you - it's a tale of an amazing girl who used to be a boy, with enough cuteness, romance and lightness to balance out the emotions, the heartache and the tears that are inevitable. Thank you Meredith Russo for this book, thank you for telling Amanda's story, for opening my eyes and I am pretty sure, a lot of readers' eyes on the way.

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