Author: Meredith Russo
Narrator: Samia Mounts
Publication Date: May 3, 2016
Publisher: Flatiron Books
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Amanda Hardy is the new girl in school in Lambertville, Tennessee. Like any other girl, all she wants is to make friends and fit in. But Amanda is keeping a secret. There’s a reason why she transferred schools for her senior year, and why she’s determined not to get too close to anyone.
And then she meets Grant Everett. Grant is unlike anyone she’s ever met—open, honest, kind—and Amanda can’t help but start to let him into her life. As they spend more time together, she finds herself yearning to share with Grant everything about herself…including her past. But she’s terrified that once she tells Grant the truth, he won't be able to see past it.
Because the secret that Amanda’s been keeping? It’s that she used to be Andrew.
If you're a regular reader of my reviews, I know what you're thinking. "Tracy, what is this? You don't read contemporary." And yeah, you're right, I usually don't. My contemporary reads are few and far between. I came across If I Was Your Girl while reading reviews for Beast (review to come). This author had reviewed that book and I was intrigued, so when I had the chance to get the audiobook through my library I took it!
If I Was Your Girl is about Amanda, a trans girl who has relocated to live with her dad after having issues with her last school after her transition. Her plan is to keep her head down to make it through senior year, graduate, and move to New York where she's sure she'll be accepted. Unfortunately her plan got a little derailed, and by a guy, no less! (It happens to the best of us.) I loved Amanda! She's a very relatable character, the kind of girl who somehow manages to get along with everyone. Literally. She's friends with the class-skipping stoner and the girl who goes to church three times a week.
Her love interest, Grant, falls for her without knowing that she used to be Andrew and I loved their relationship! There was such a contrast between how simple it was on his end, just getting to know her, and how complicated it was for Amanda, who was often unsure of whether she should open up to him about her past. I really enjoyed watching them slowly get to know each other while Amanda let her guard down a little bit at a time. I will admit that the romance was kind of insta-lovey, but that's okay because it honestly wasn't the main focus of the story.
So yes, the characters are awesome, but so is this story! I think this is an incredibly important book because it's one of the first books of its kind in the YA genre and perhaps the first book about a transgender teen girl written by a transgender woman. In the midst of all the diversity discussion lately, I'm glad that this book exists and I really hope that we see more like it in the industry. I appreciated being able to experience what Amanda went through, seeing how it might be for a trans teen in America. I think Meredith Russo did a fantastic job of writing Amanda in a way that made it easy to step into her shoes and see things from her perspective.
My main issue with If I Was Your Girl is that it is somewhat unrealistic. The acceptance she found in small town Tennessee was amazing and heartwarming! But I do have a hard time believing that everything would be quite that smooth in Bible Belt USA, having been raised there. Still, I've seen people say ask, "Why shouldn't a trans girl get a happily ever after?" and I have to agree. I'd like to think of this book as a portrayal of the way things should be.
If I Was Your Girl was a really good read! I enjoyed it for the most part, although there were times when the story dragged and I got a bit bored (yay for audiobooks!). I really loved Amanda and her romance with Grant, even though it was much... sweeter(?) than what I'm used to reading. Like I said, contemporary is not my genre but I still enjoyed this book a lot! I'd definitely recommend If I Was Your Girl to anyone who loves contemporary romance or are on the hunt for good LGBT fiction.