If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo (proof) - Amanda Hardy is the new girl at school.
Like everyone else, all she wants is to make friends and fit in. But Amanda is holding back. Even from Grant, the guy she's falling in love with.
Amanda has a secret.
At her old school, she used to be called Andrew. And secrets always have a way of getting out.
A book about loving yourself and being loved for who you really are. From Goodreads.
When I first heard about If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo, I was so eager to read it. A YA novel featuring a trans protagonist by an #OwnVoices author? Sold! And it was such a good story!
Amanda Hardy has moved in with her father to start a new life at a new school, after years of bullying and abuse. Now she can be herself without worrying how people react; here, they will only ever have known her as Amanda. She quickly makes friends and even starts dating a guy, but how much of her past should she tell them? For Amanda was once known as Andrew. As she gets to know and trust the new people in her life, the more Amanda wonders about whether or not she wants to tell them she's a transsexual, but her father continually warns her to be careful. She tries to, but the closer she gets to her boyfriend Grant, the more she wants him to really know her. But secrets don't stay secret for long. How will her new friends and boyfriend react when they discover the truth?
If I Was Your Girl is such a great story! Amanda is such a strong and brave character; she's had to go through so much just to get to the point where she feels she can be herself, but life doesn't stop being complicated once she's living the life she was always meant to. If I Was Your Girl is written mostly in the present day, but there are a number of scenes from back when Amanda was Andrew, showing us what her life was like before, the abuse she had to suffer, the hopelessness she felt, the certainty that no-one, including her parents, would want her if they knew the truth. We also get to see how things change once she receives the help she so desperately needs, and is able to begin transitioning with the support of such wonderful people.
That's the story we're used to when it comes to YA novels with a trans protagonist, but If I Was Your Girl, for the most part, tells us Amanda's story after her transition is complete. Russo states in her author's note to cisgender readers that, "I have taken liberties with what I know to be reality. I have fictionalized things to make them work for my story. [...] [Amanda] had a surgery that her family should not have been able to afford, and she started hormones through legitimate channels before she probably could have in the real world."* (p299-300) Amanda probably wouldn't have had completed her transition by 18 in real life, but I still feel it's important to have this story. The story of life for a trans person after transition. Although Amanda's story isn't reflective of every trans person's story of transition, I think it's important for trans teens to see what life could be like.
Even though her transition is complete, and - being straight, feminine and a trans woman who passes - Amanda now has things fairly easy for the most part, there are still difficulties ahead. She struggles with how much to tell the people she now loves. She wants to share something so important about herself with these people who are so important to her, but she's so terrified about how they will react. She knows from before just how cruel and violent people can be when they know the truth, and doesn't want to not only lose the new people in her life, but lose the life she currently has; with passing so easily, no-one has any clue about Amanda's past, so as long as no-one knows, she can simply be. Life at her new school could be so different if people knew she's transsexual, and right now, her life is going so well - it's the life she always wanted.
I'm not going to talk much more about the plot, because I don't want to spoil things, but this is such a beautiful and moving story. Amanda is such an incredible character, and I loved everything about her; her strength, her bravery, her acceptance and love of herself. There is such a beautiful, gorgeous scene where Amanda comes to love the body she is in, a scene where she realises this body she has hated for so long is a body that can bring her such joy. It's completely wonderful! My only issue with the book is that Grant felt a little two-dimensional to me; he has his own story and background, but personality-wise, he felt to me like the cookie-cutter nice guy. He felt flat and unbelievable to me, which is a shame as his and Amanda's romance is a pretty major focus of the story. But the rest of the story is incredible, so I can forgive it!
If I Was Your Girl is an amazing, important story, and one I highly recommend!
Content Warning: This book contains scenes of sexual assault and a failed suicide attempt.
*Please not that I have read a proof of If I Was Your Girl, so this quote may not have made it to the finished copy.
Thank you to Usborne for the proof.
Published: 1st June 2016
Meredith Russo's Website