Title: If I Was Your Girl
Author: Meredith Russo
Release Date: May 3, 2016
Publisher: Flatiron Books (Macmillan imprint)
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 moving and honest story, a story about a girl looking forward, looking to find a place where she can be herself.
Amanda is a kind girl. A lonely girl. She's cautious, worried, looking for a place where she can finally fit in. Where she can be herself and other people, other teens, will accept her. At the beginning she's very guarded. She doesn't want to be hurt again, which is understandable. considering the treatment she received before moving in with her father, but she soon finds people who accept her. Who see her as she's always wanted to be seen.
As realistic as Amanda is, so are the supporting characters. Amanda's parents, both with flaws, with worries. The girls Amanda meets at school who almost instantly befriend her, who all have their own secrets they keep from others. Girls like Chloe, girls like Bee. Boys like Grant, sweet and friendly with their own secrets that they would rather keep hidden. Everyone has something to hide, something to be embarrassed about, something they don't want certain people to find out.
I can't speak on the accuracy of Amanda's transition, her emotional struggles and the medical procedures, but I know an honest voice when I see one. The sorrow and the fear so clear on the page, the confusion when she was younger, as Andrew, writing about wanting to be a girl when he grew up. The sadness when close friends began to spout horrible words, the lingering pain of the physical assaults. But even in those dark moments, there is hope. There's always hope. There's always joy.
I love the idea of this book, that it's a book about a trans girl written by a trans woman (with a trans girl on the cover). The fact that it's the story of a girl trying to find her place, trying to be herself. Trying to find a place where she can be happy when her past is full of confusion, sadness, and fear. Amanda's strength is tucked away, hidden where no one can hurt it, and as she finds her place, as she meets people who welcome her, she finds it. She finds her voice. She finds herself. No two stories about trans people, about transitioning, about living, are the same. I can only hope that other readers find Amanda's story as emotional and moving as I did.
(I received an e-galley of this title to review from Macmillan through Raincoast Books.)