If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo
Published by Usborne Publishing
Genres: YA, Contemporary, Romance
For Fans of: books that make you think
My Rating: 3 stars out of 5.
Amanda Hardy is the new girl at school.
Like everyone else, all she wants is to make friends and fit in. But Amanda is holding back. Even from Grant, the guy she’s falling in love with.
Amanda has a secret.
At her old school, she used to be called Andrew. And secrets always have a way of getting out.
A book about loving yourself and being loved for who you really are.
I received this book from Usborne Publishing UK in exchange for an honest review
I’m not one for contemporary romance novels. For me, they’ve always been the same old recycled stories, filled with sappy dialogue, and eye-roll worthy declarations of love. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good love story as much as the next romantic. I’m a serial shipper, of course I love love. But for some reason, a romance novels have never been my thing. It has to really be something special for me to even like it.
If I Was Your Girl wasn’t a very exciting book. As expected of any debut novel, this one had problems in terms of writing and pacing. A lot of them. The dialogue had me rolling my eyes a ton of the time, and I couldn’t care about any of the characters very much.
That said, it’s an important book.
The blurb summarizes this book pretty well, I think, so I’m not going to try and nutshell it further. Basically, it’s about a trans girl who moves to a new town and falls in love with a boy. If you read this as a love story, strictly, and for a moment, ignore the fact that our heroine is trans, then this whole thing is yet another recycled “Girl moves to new town, girl makes a ton of friends, girl meets a beautiful boy and they fall in love” story. And that’s the beauty of it. You can read this book without ever seeing Amanda as “other”. Because she’s not. She’s a girl and she’s in love with a boy who doesn’t know about her past.
And this is something I find really important in a book that falls under the “diverse books” umbrella. In fact, it was something discussed on a recent Twitter chat (it’s somewhere on the #DiverseBookBloggers thread, if you’re curious). So often, a diverse book with tackle the issues a certain marginalized protagonist has to face. We’re rarely ever given a look of a marginalized person and seen them deal with issues that don’t have anything to do with their stereotyped issues. A black hero will deal with racism; a queer woman will deal with homophobia, etc, etc. We’ve all seen how this goes.
But what happens to the young people reading these books? What happens to the people who have the same problems and have to read about these protagonists with mighty, oppression related problems, and never have to deal with something as normal as boy-problems? Marginalized people are so much more than the oppression they face.
BUT, at the same time, you never truly forget that Amanda is trans. Because every time she fears for her life, you remember. Every time she worries about whether or not she can trust a friend, you remember. Every flashback, every strained conversation with her struggling father, every crude joke made by some dumb jock; you remember. And that’s why you can’t read this, strictly, as a love story.
When I Was Your Girl is so much more than just “Amanda met Grant and they fell in love”. To a trans person, it’s a reminder that you’re normal, you’re beautiful, and you deserve to live the life you want to live. To a cis person, it’s an eye-opener. It’s a reminder that, even if you’re an ally, there’s so much you don’t understand. It’s a chance to understand a bit better.
Look, I know people are going to have problems with this, because Amanda is an idealized trans person. I know that Amanda doesn’t represent every trans woman. Amanda was lucky. She was able to start hormones early, and legally, she was able to afford the surgery. She made friends. She got a boyfriend. Her parents did not cut her out of their lives. The author addresses all of these things in her notes to the readers at the end of the book. Amanda’s idealism did not take anything away from the importance of this novel.
So, yeah. If I Was Your Girl wasn’t the most riveting thing I’ve read. I didn’t care for the romance, and I was bored from time to time – but it’s an important novel about a trans woman, written by a transwoman, and dammit, it needs to be read.