Title: If I Was Your Girl
Author: Meredith Russo
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult
Publisher: Usborne Publishing (1st June 2016)
AMANDA HARD 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 . . .
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (4 stars)
IF I WAS YOUR GIRL is Meredith Russo’s debut novel. It tells the story of Amanda Hardy an eighteen year old who has moved in with her dad for the first time, and is starting a new school. Like everyone else, she just wants to make friends and fit in. Amanda has a secret, one that has caused (and is causing) her a lot of heartache and pain: one that has pushed her and her family to their limits. Amanda used to be called Andrew. The trouble with secrets is that they have a way of getting out, whether you’re ready for them to or not.
In IF I WAS YOUR GIRL Russo tells an interesting and compelling story. It both was, and wasn’t, what I was expecting when I picked up this book – and I mean that in a good way. This book intrigued me because I was curious to see how a trans author would write a trans character and one of the things I most liked about how Russo wrote this book is that she’s included two letters at the end: one to the trans readers, and one to the cis readers. These letters step outside her fictional world and address briefly the “reality” of being trans verses the fictional representation in the book.
This is probably one of the most difficult book reviews I have written, partly because I am aware that IF I WAS YOUR GIRL is a fictional window into a world that I am not part of, and it would therefore be very easy of me to say the wrong thing. With that caveat in mind, I’m going to tell you what I thought of this book.
Amanda narrates her own story, which I thought worked really well as it allows us a clear view of her world. I thought she was a really interesting and relatable character, and I found myself cheering for her from the start. I enjoyed the way Russo provides glimpses into Amanda’s past, so we can see what her life was like, but focuses mainly on the present. It provided some contrasts between the past and the present that really helped to show how far Amanda has come. I actually really liked the ending, almost in spite of myself, because it’s typically the style of ending I hate. Yet in this case Russo really made it work.
Russo writes some really interesting secondary characters, which just came alive on the page. I really liked the fact that Amanda’s parents played an important role in the story and actually existed on the page. It makes a nice change from most YA books. I also liked the friends Amanda made at her new school; I thought they all seemed pretty realistic, and it was nice to see how good friends they were. My only slight complaint is that Grant, the love interest, felt a little flat to me at times. I think this may partially be because the story is told from Amanda’s POV, but although he seemed a genuinely nice guy I can’t say I formed a particular opinion about him.
Like a lot of contemporary romances, I don’t think there is a lot going on plot wise in IF I WAS YOUR GIRL. So if you like your books plot driven, then this probably isn’t a book for you. In fact, I would say that the main focus of IF I WAS YOUR GIRL was actually on Amanda finding her place in the world, and being comfortable there. In many ways this book is as much about friendship as it is about romance, and I actually kind of liked that.
Jennifer Niven says in the praise at the front of the book that IF I WAS YOUR GIRL is “important and necessary […] We should walk in Amanda’s shoes, whether we think we can relate to her or not.” I agree that this book is one you should read whether trans or cis. For a start it tells a great story. It also creates space for dialogue, and shows that after all we’re not that different. There’s space for everyone, we just have to find it.
 Cis in this case, refers to an individual whose personal identity and gender agrees with the sex they were assigned at birth.