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Title: If I Was Your GirlSpring Book Review Button
Author: Meredith Russo
ISBN: 9781250078407
No. of Pages: 288
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Origins: Flatiron Books
Release Date: 3 May 2016


“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?”

My Thoughts: We all know that high school sucks. I recently read in one book that the only people who remember high school fondly are the rarefied ones at the top of the high school food chain – your football captains, your mean girl cheerleaders, etc. That leaves the rest of us who try not to think of high school at all because it dredges up bad memories. Still, after reading If I Was Your Girl, I know that most of us, for all our complaints, had it easy compared to LGBTQIA teens. Theirs is a journey we, as a society, almost never discuss, even though we absolutely should. Thankfully, there are people like Meredith Russo willing to start the discussion and bring attention to these ignored teens and the potential trauma they face just by attending school each and every day.

If I Was Your Girl is a beautiful and yet heartbreaking story of Amanda as she attempts to adjust to life not only at a new high school in a new town but also as a female. Her flashbacks to past tortures show how traumatized she remains after a childhood filled with the struggle to reconcile the differences between her body and her mind’s gender identification. It also shows how a statement considered innocuous by cisgender people can cut to the quick anyone who does not fit that norm. As such, Amanda’s trauma is deep and lasting. It is a wonder anyone is able to adjust and overcome such hate. Her entire story is a great example of how society gets caught up in body image and gender norms to the detriment of everyone.

As much as If I Was Your Girl makes you hate the ignoramuses who spew ignorant gender biases, it also gives you tremendous admiration for Amanda and for the entire transgender community. That they face such hate and confusion on a daily basis and are able to rise above it to become the beautiful butterflies they are is remarkable. It would be so easy for Amanda to hide herself away for the remainder of her high school years, but she does not. She finds friends, she remains social. More importantly, she puts herself out there in a way that is scary for any person. She is truly a remarkable young woman.

What makes If I Was Your Girl even more poignant is the fact that Ms. Russo herself is a transwoman. Her fiction is very much based in fact, and in many ways Amanda’s experiences are her own. Her story, both her private and her fictionalized versions, provide much-needed hope to an entire community left to flounder in a world where all sides struggle to accept them. She provides a vision in which life gets better and offers her own life experiences as proof. Moreover, she offers support where support is difficult to find and resources for those who need it.

If I Was Your Girl is one of those novels that should be required reading for everyone of any age and gender. It is timely and does more to raise empathy for the transgender community than anything to date because it puts you directly into Amanda’s shoes. If you are a parent, Amanda becomes your daughter. If you are a teen, you resonate with the cruelty of your fellow classmates. If you are a transgender teen, hopefully you recognize yourself in Amanda and realize that you can find happiness. We all can and more importantly, we all deserve it.

If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

BOTTOM LINE: Gut-wrenchingly honest and beautiful, it should be a mandatory reading assignment for everyone.

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