If I Was Your Girl is a very readable, quick contemporary YA book about a trans girl starting over in a new town. As someone that is relatively ignorant about transgender people, not knowing anyone personally, I wanted to pick this up to understand these individuals more. I am glad I did because this was an enjoyable book that I read in two sittings. Amanda is starting a new school where her father lives. When Amanda was a young boy, she was bullied badly, and always thought that she was a girl; but because of the pain of trying to please her parents and the bullying, she tried to take her own life. She then went through transitioning as her mother realized that she wasn’t going to have a child if she wouldn’t let her son be her daughter. At this new school she makes a ton of friends, gets a boyfriend, and her life is fantastic, but she feels torn by the decision to tell people her past or not.
A running theme in this book is that when Amanda was a boy, she pictured herself with no future, or a future as a girl. This connects with a lot of other media I’ve watched or read when it comes to transgenders, they see themselves as the other gender even though their outside doesn’t match who they really are. I think that after reading this book, I believe these stories with much more validity and less ignorance.
What Meredith Russo, the trans author, does really well in this book is giving Amanda a normative life as a transgender. Sure, she goes through really hard times, but there is a glossy coating over the book, to encourage possible trans people reading the book because Amanda’s journey is possibly easier for her than many other trans people that don’t pass as well as Amanda does. Russo even says in the afterword, which must be read, that she “even bent the rules to make Amanda’s trans-ness as unchallenging to normative assumptions as possible.” I feel that this approach was done to make as wide of an audience as possible be comfortable with reading a book about a transgender and she succeeds admirably in this goal. This is a great stepping stone into the life and thoughts of trans individuals.
One important thing that I took away from this book are the 3 big no-nos when talking to a trans person. The first is under no circumstances should you ever ask a trans person what their genitals are. This is the biggest mistake anyone can do when talking with a transgender. The second thing is to not ask any questions about surgeries and the final one is to not ask their previous name. Curiosity about other people’s privates is just something that needs to be wiped from everyone’s mind.
Even though I liked this book, the writing is a bit meh in a lot of places. The plot of the book is relatively safe on purpose. The character’s relationship is very shallow at times and their communication was not that good. Most of the characters didn’t do a whole lot for me except for Amanda. The setting in the book is really generic and very underutilized.
This book is a great start to having a trans person as the main character but other books will overshadow this in the future; however, as of this moment, this book will speak to a lot of people looking for a voice like theirs, and it cannot be denied as being an important book in 2016 for trans individuals.
TBR Priority Rating: 7/10(If you like YA Contemporary, read this soon.)
14/25 Possible Score
3 – Plot
3 – Characters
2 – Setting
2 – Writing Style
4 – Heart and Mind Aspect