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Review: If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo
Notes: Review copy received via Amazon Vine.
Young Adult, LGBTQ, Social Issues
Digital/Print/Audio (288 pages, FLATIRON BOOKS)
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.
Author Site: website

It's heartfelt, hopeful, and just a really good read. (5 stars)

As a cisgender adult I was really nervous that anything I could write in a review of IF I WAS YOUR GIRL would be the wrong thing. But when I read the blurb this book called to me deeply, I had to read it, and when I did, I desperately wanted to tell everyone I could how much of an emotional response I had to it.

In many ways this was one of the most painful novels I've ever read. As a parent, I could relate to both Amanda's mother and father. Their fears and foibles, but also, their deep love for their daughter. I don't want to spoil scenes but there was a moment with her mother that was absolutely devastating to read because I could both understand her mother's grief and also how it affected Amanda. I found Amanda's growth into her own womanhood, her relationship with Grant, and how her transition had changed her privilege from that of a male very engrossing.

As I read I found myself wondering at times how much of Amanda's story fudged on the details a bit for the sake of story and Russo has a wonderful note at the end that I felt explained her choices well and made me feel better about my own reactions to this novel. Because, put simply, I loved this book deeply. So often we see trans characters used for humor, shown as freaks, and facing the horrific side of the world. While there are certainly moments of darkness that I believe are probably accurate for many, IIWYG is a much more positive and ultimately hopeful story. And though I certainly think stories that reflect the sad truths of what trans teens face are important too, having one where readers can see a trans teen overcome and find acceptance, love, and hope, is equally important.

IIWYG was an emotional tug-of-war from beginning to end. Amanda is a character I will never, ever forget and her story is one I want to share with everyone who has ever struggled with suicidal thoughts and finding acceptance. It's heartfelt, hopeful, and just a really good read.

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