If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo
The premise: 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? If I Was Your Girl is a universal story about feeling different and a love story that everyone will root for.
My review: Wow. Yes. This book is amazing. 5/5 stars.
First of all, an honest and uplifting trans story with a happy ending (because not every trans/gay/etc book needs to be a sad, issues-only book!)? Love. A “own voices” author who gets everything right? Amazing. A perfect balance of issues, plot, characters, theme, and emotion? Killed it.
Unlike some books I have read (and loved) this one does not drip with complex metaphors and extensive imagery- and I am so glad. I finished the book in one sitting and was completely captivated. The voice is strong and genuine, unique but relatable, and perfectly revealing in terms of Amanda’s character. Unlike some protagonists who you feel like you know because they have a certain hobby and a common way of speaking only, I felt like I knew Amanda because I felt what she was feeling. She did have quirks (like loving Star Wars) but also seemed to be defined as much by personality and a sense of Amanda-ness as anything else (almost like real people in our real lives). (Also, Meredith, if you ever read this, please teach me your ways. I’m in awe).
The themes are not preached and thus are so much more powerful. In fact, theme is not the main concern of this book, I think, and it’s perfect. The tension is natural and the events leading to it are realistic. From the dialogue to the thoughts and motivations, human nature is accurately portrayed in a way that makes the reader feel all the feels and get swept along in the story. While one English theorist I read about in school (Catherine Gallagher, I think) argued that we like books because we like feeling “not like a character”– in our ability to discern events before they happen and take perspectives of multiple characters at once– I would argue that this book is the perfect example of a book in which the character feels human, we feel like them, and there is nothing I would rather have happen.
I loved the group of girls that Amanda is friends with– definitely accurate in terms of many girl friendships, but also slightly imperfect, as they always are, while remaining fiercely loyal and supportive. Overall it is happy, but not without struggles and not overly so as to become unrealistic.
All in all, if you like “issue” books and/or LGBTQ+ books, read this one. If you don’t, or haven’t read one before, read this one.