Tuesday, August 23, 2016

If I Was Your Girl

If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo (Grades 7+). Flatiron Books, May 2016. Review copy provided by my local library.

Amanda is starting over. She's moved to a small town in Tennessee to live with her dad and fly under the radar as she completes her senior year of high school. She dreams of getting into NYU and leaving the South for good. She doesn't plan on making friends or going to football games or bringing any attention to herself whatsoever.

If the other kids at her high school knew the truth about her, Amanda's pretty sure she knows how it would go. If everyone knew that she was assigned male at birth and had only recently transitioned to female, she's pretty sure everyone would freak out. So she keeps her secret. And stays under the radar.

But it's not that simple. This is, after all, Amanda's first chance to really live the way she was meant to live. To live without being bullied, to live as her true self. And she finds herself making friends and going to football games and falling in love... knowing that as easy as anything it could all fall to pieces around her.

This is a powerful and important book. I know that Amanda's story is going to stick with me for a long time. At its heart, it's a book about first love, a book about finally finding the place where you fit in and you feel free. It's a book about being the new kid, albeit with a complication that most new kids may not have to worry about. It's also a book about a girl connecting with her father, the father who she never really related to, a father who is imperfect but trying to accept this new situation.

The author of this book is a trans woman and pieces of the story are based on her own experiences. Meredith Russo is able to incorporate some "teachable moments" (for lack of a better term) in a way that seems organic to the story. For example, when she eventually confides in a friend, Amanda is very clear about a few types of questions NOT to task (don't ask about genitals - it's none of your business, etc.).

I appreciate that Russo leaves us with two notes - a note to cisgender readers explaining that this book about a trans experience does not stand for ALL trans experiences and particularly outlining some points where she stretched reality to make the story work more smoothly. And she includes a note to trans readers, reaching out to let them know they are not alone.

This is Meredith Russo's first novel and I hope to see much more from her.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who loves realistic, contemporary fiction. I would also recommend it to folks interested in reading about the trans experience. This is an important book for us to have on library shelves and to display and to share with teens.


Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen by Jazz Jennings. In her memoir, Jazz shares her story of growing up as a transgender teen.

Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kirstin Cronn-Mills. Elizabeth was assigned female at birth, but she has always known she is a boy. When she gets the opportunity to do her own late night radio show, she decides to take the plunge and host the show as her true self, Gabe.