If you haven’t yet read Meredith Russo’s 2016 debut novel If I Was Your Girl, then you are seriously missing out on a gorgeous, heartbreaking – but ultimately uplifting novel about being true to yourself in a world where that isn’t always encouraged.
Amanda Hardy is the new girl in school. Like anyone else, all she wants is to make friends and fit in. But Amanda is keeping a secret, and she’s determined not to get too close to anyone.
But when she meets sweet, easygoing Grant, Amanda can’t help but start to let him into her life. As they spend more time together, she realizes just how much she is losing by guarding her heart. She finds herself yearning to share with Grant everything about herself, including her past. But Amanda’s terrified that once she tells him the truth, he won’t be able to see past it.
Because the secret that Amanda’s been keeping? It’s that at her old school, she used to be Andrew. Will the truth cost Amanda her new life, and her new love?
Meredith Russo’s If I Was Your Girl is a universal story about feeling different and a love story that everyone will root for.
I’d heard plenty of good things about this book when it was first released, but I honestly can’t remember why I didn’t get around to reading it right away. But when Flat Iron Books reached out to me recently about sending me a copy of the new paperback for review and feature, I immediately said yes — and I am so glad I finally got to read this beautiful book.
Let me start by saying that, as a straight cis-gender woman, I feel wholly unqualified to properly review this book — but holy crap, I loved the heck out of it. I devoured this book in two big gulps (only because I started it late at night, and I needed to sleep), and I just can’t stop thinking about these characters! So here’s a few of my thoughts on reading If I Was Your Girl:
1) I just loved this story, plain and simple. Regardless of how much this book is going to be talked about for being about a transgender teen, part of what I found so charming about this book is that when you break it down, it’s just about a teen girl, and her struggle to accept her true self and her desire to fit in. And if these aren’t universal feelings, I don’t know what is. That’s not to downplay the fact that Amanda faces more challenges than most — and Russo does an excellent job of detailing and describing Amanda’s journey and experiences thoughtfully and meaningfully. But the magic of this book is that Russo tackles Amanda’s story through a lens that is approachable to so many readers.
2) The characters are a big part of what I loved so much. Amanda is so charming and lovely, and I felt myself rooting for her from the very beginning. But the supporting characters are also part of what makes this book so wonderful: her dad’s struggle to accept his daughter; her new group of friends and all their quirks; and charming Grant, who has his own set of struggles to overcome, but — much like Amanda — really just wants to fit in.
3) This book has the potential to change so many lives. There are two big takeaways from this: first, for the transgender teens who desperately need to see themselves reflected in literature, here is a story about them and for them. And second, for those who want to better understand what it means to be transgender, and the challenges that go along with that. Russo explains in an author’s note at the end of the book that she has taken certain liberties and shortcuts with Amanda’s story (and for good reasons) — but for so many who fail to understand that transgender people are, first and foremost, just people … well, we live in a hate-filled world, and I am hopeful that books like this will chip away at that hatred.
Not to get all sappy and sentimental, but there you have it.
This book squeezed so many FEELS out of me; it brought me to tears and had me anxious and gnashing at my fingernails, but it also had me rooting for Amanda (and her friends and her family). I cheered for each one of her victories, and though plenty of parts broke me heart, other parts lifted me up — and the ending left me feeling full of joy and hope.
If I Was Your Girl is now available in paperback.