If I Was Your Girl (2016) by Meredith Russo Review
Amanda Hardy is the new girl in school. Like anyone else, she wants to fit in. She does, having a clique and friends who openly welcome her in. She also soon falls in love with Grant, a sweet and easygoing person. Despite her beloved presence at school, Amanda is keeping a secret, a deep truth that might change what everyone thought of her in the present. She’s actually a transgender, and if her secret gets out, will it cost her her new life?
Being entirely objective, and whether or not this is a “good” or a “bad” book, this is important and it needs to exist. It gives a new face on the YA genre and speaks out for the entire trans community. This book heralds a new beginning for both readers and authors alike. I also believe that this book must be read on all accounts by both transgenders and cisgenders as it shatters the stereotypes on trans and gives readers an equal and a positive outlook on their personality and character.
That’s what I appreciate about If I Was Your Girl. A story about a trans girl written by a trans woman with the artist on the cover a trans model as well, this is indeed published at an important time, filling a gap on what society needs to be aware of in the modern world. I also appreciate the author’s complete honesty in her note at the end, where she openly admitted that she changed some of Amanda’s journey in order to make things easier financially and medically for readers to resonate more with Amanda emotionally and to remove whatever negative view they’ve had on transgenders.
Removing the fact that the existence of this novel is important and judging it by the aspects in which I typically review a novel, it’s just okay. It’s a very quick read, being less than 300 pages and is filled with a clear, linear narrative. I did like Amanda’s strength as a heroine, but the other characters suffered from the typical tropes I find in YA books. There’s your best friend, the really mean bully, the handsome boyfriend, etc. I also felt the romance to be unbelievably sappy and cliche. The unrealistic situation within the family is somewhat justifiable by the author’s postscript, though I would’ve liked a bit more complexity. This also applies to Amanda’s character on how she could’ve had more layers on her confusion on her gender identity.
If I Was Your Girl is no doubt an important book and will soon inspire other authors to feature more transgender characters. The problem, however, is that I wished this novel didn’t play it safe. I completely understand what Russo said at the end to make the reading experience easier for other people to digest, but sooner or later, in a few years time, I believe that there will be more trans books that will have more exploration and realism on transgenders, making this one buried and forgotten from all the other books that fill the genre. There is certainly merit on opening society’s eyes on trans, but I really wished that this did not sugarcoat things to adjust to a certain type of reader.