You can have anything once you admit you deserve it.
–If I Was Your Girl, Meredith Russo
I am still venturing into the genre that is LGBTQ YA fiction, and it’s because of books like these that I want to keep reading this genre.
AUTHOR: Meredith Russo
GENRE: Young Adult
BOOK FORMAT: audiobook
RATING: 4.5/5 stars
SUMMARY: Amanda Hardy is the new girl in school and has one goal: survive high school as a transgender teen and graduate, then move to the Northern states for college where she might have a better chance at living her truth. However, her plan becomes skewed when she meets a kind, nice boy named Grant and she can’t help but let herself become closer to him. However, she struggles with how close she wants to be to her new boyfriend and her new group of friends…and how much she wants to let them know about her. Trigger warning: outing scene of multiple lgbt characters, sexual assault, bullying, suicide
THOUGHTS: Okay so first of all, I want to say that I am a cisgender individual so if you’d like to know how a transgender person felt about the representation in this book, I would point to On Wednesday’s We Wear Capes for a co-authored review in which one of the reviewers is a transgender individual and can speak to the representation accurately.
I loved this book, and not because it was perfect. It was far from perfect- it fell into some of the many cliched traps that YA books often fall into. The whole plot line in which the new, quiet, kind, Southern, and charming girl moves into town and instantly gets the boyfriend on the football team and the gaggle of popular girl friends felt a little unrealistic to me. It’s the kind of thing that you’d expect from any other YA book. BUT this might have been intentional on Meredith Russo’s part, because that whole traditional storyline is subverted by the very fact that Amanda is transgender. So the normal events in the book, such as going to church with her Southern Baptist friend and dating an athlete in high school, suddenly became events ringed in tension and potential danger.
One thing that I really valued about this book is that it is an own-voices novel, as Meredith Russo is also a transgender woman, and this meant that she could speak to all of the small things about the process of getting surgery, taking hormones, and learning to inhabit the gender that people truly are but were not born into. This story could have easily and rightfully been a narrative full of drama, since the life of a transgender individual is inherently more dangerous than the life of a cisgender individual, especially in an environment such as the American South. However, Russo based most of the novel in ordinary teenage girl experiences, which I really admired. It speaks to the potential for the future of transgender teens in a more accepting society.
One thing that I absolutely adored in this novel, even though it played a minuscule role, is the treatment of religion. Church was a place of danger for Amanda- she was in the presence of many Christian fundamentalists, after all. However, Amanda learns to come to terms with religion with her own faith in a small way; she chose to believe that God still loved her no matter what society told her. I loved this because I feel like the subject of religious LGBTQ individuals is not represented enough- in literature as well as in media in general. LGBTQ religious individuals’ stories are important too.
I had to give this book such a high rating because of how emotional and touching it was. It made me laugh multiple times, it made me freeze with fright and it made me cry. It was so realistic that it made the story so touching. It was also of some personal value to me because I have been at a loss several times in conversation with a transgender friend because of my misunderstandings of their experiences, and this novel allowed me to better educate myself so that I can be a little more prepared in the future. I am grateful for that and for being able to hear a perspective that is so different than my own.
I’d recommend this to everyone.