If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo


Every now and then you come across a book that within mere chapters, makes you think this is so important. Those were my thoughts when reading If I Was Your Girl by the wonderful Meredith Russo. We follow the story of Amanda, a transgender girl who goes to live with her father. She falls in love, makes new friends and learns to love the body she should have been born with. The novel switches between present day and flashbacks all the way through Amanda’s childhood to her attempted suicide and finally, her transition. This is a YA contemporary with all our much-loved themes but having it told by a transgender woman makes the story so much more important.


Likes

+ Amanda. A transgender main character in a YA novel? Yep. Not only that, it’s also written by a transgender author. This is so important for young readers, regardless of the story itself. For Amanda to lead the life that many YA characters live – to fall in love, have family issues, meeting a new group of friends but also have such a traumatic past. She is brave character and incredibly strong. She tells us her story from present day but also switches between years and months ago, from a very young age when she knew that she should have been born a girl. There’s this amazing parallel scene in the book – in one chapter, Amanda tells us of the time she took pills and tried to end her life but then we also experience the moment she took pills that began her transition and the two scenes – one heartbreakingly sad and the other heartbreakingly joyous really stood out for me. Amanda is definitely one of my top favourite female characters after reading this book. 
+ Familial relationships! Amanda has a very strong bond with her mother, despite the fact that she is living with her father during the events of this novel. Her mother is the one who helped her after her suicide attempt and accepted that she is transgender. Her father, however, is less accepting at first and so the two go on a journey of acceptance. I like that there were strong family ties in this novel but still maintained complications. It’s realistic and it showed not only Amanda’s journey through transition, but also her parents. The two ultimately care deeply for their daughter. 
+ Female friendships!! I recently posted a blog post about my favourite fictional female friendships and I wish I had read this book before I compiled it because Amanda’s friendship with Chloe, Anna and Layla was really lovely. They accept her from the very beginning and they all maintained such a healthy relationship, especially Anna who is very religious and has a very religious family. I mean, Chloe pulled a loaded gun on Parker to save Amanda. Friendship goals.

50/50

+ The romance between Amanda and Grant. Okay, so I went from loving these two, loving their healthy relationship (he asked if he could kiss her rather than just kiss her without consent when she was babbling on and this is something that is important to me), he says that he would accept her no matter what and even refuses to read a letter she writes to him explaining everything etc etc butwhen he discovers Amanda was transgender, he wandered off and was nowhere to be seen until the end of the book even asking the question, ‘does that make me gay?’ However, he agrees to hear Amanda’s story from the beginning but this is how the book ends!! Does he accept her? Nobody knows. I’m all for books that don’t have everything tied up in a little bow at the end because that’s real life but this didn’t sit well with me. Their entire relationship would have changed in my eyes if he still didn’t end up accepting her, especially as he ‘loved her no matter what.’ 


Dislikes

+ Character treatment. So a character in this book, Bee, is bisexual, something she openly admits. She is also in a secret relationship with Chloe, another of Amanda’s friends. Bee is the first person Amanda trusts enough to tell her she is transgender as the two form a quick friendship and play a game in which they tell each other secrets about each other. What seems like a strong bond quickly turns sour when Bee attempts to kiss Amanda, gets kindly rejected and then proceeds to stand on stage and reveal secrets about pupils, including outing Amanda and Chloe. It was awful and I feel as though it came from nowhere? I feel like Bee’s character was ruined here and for no reason and also nothing comes of it after. She was such an interesting character, she was a good friend to Amanda, openly bisexual and also a rape victim and I feel like outing everybody was very OOC for her. 

+ Unnecessary attempted rape scene (trigger warning for this!) At the end of the novel, after the events of Homecoming, Amanda is apprehended by Parker, a friend of Grant who she turned down at the start of the novel. He offers her a ride home but when he is rejected, he goes on to verbally abuse her, punch her and attempt to rape her when only a few chapters ago, he was apologising for any hard feelings between them. Luckily Amanda is helped by her friends but once again like the Bee situation, nothing comes of it and Parker isn’t mentioned again despite this horrific crime. I felt like it was unnecessary and it made me extremely uncomfortable.


**

Overall, this book is important and no rating will change that. Having a YA contemporary novel that has a transgender main character is unfortunately very rare despite it being 2016 so every one we get is a must-read. Amanda was an amazing character, she was brave and strong but most of all, she was happy in her body and that was so beautiful to see considering she spent so long in the wrong one. This is another book that I would encourage to be compulsory reading in secondary schools, both for the cisgender and transgender communities.
Love,

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