Everyone in the seemingly sleepy southern town of Lambertville has secrets: Amanda's could get her killed.
Meredith Russo's multi-award-winning If I Was Your Girl is a stunningly direct, tightly written, and painstakingly specific story about the unintentional, unasked for, and sometimes unavoidable "bravery" of being who you really are.
Amanda is ready to start what she hopes will be a quiet year of keeping her head down and biding her time until she can leave for NYU (and people she hopes will understand her). But life with her estranged father in Lambertville is not what she expected: immediately marked as the pretty but mysterious new girl, Amanda gets drawn into friendships with farm girls, Christians, and former beauty queens, as well as... flirtations with a football player who has secrets of his own. As she starts to actually enjoy her life in Lambertville, Amanda wonders: is it possible to have everything she wants, or will the truth about her gender designation at birth destroy the safety her secrets have given her?
Reading this book was STRESSFUL! But it was also sweetly awkward, warm, funny, and informative (in a way that usually felt more like reading people's tumblr tags than a straight-up Educational Pamphlet). I was scrunched-shoulders-worried for Amanda the whole time, but I also enjoyed her journey and loved her sensitively nuanced thoughts.
Amanda is an empathetic, self-reflective, risk-averse girl. Amanda has every reason to be cautious--to mistrust football players, Christians with homophobic bumper-stickers, and boys who call her pretty. She knows the statistics and she's already survived some of them. But one of my favorite things about Amanda is that even while she's telling herself to pull back, keep her secrets, and be careful, she can't resist the thrill of living the life she's always dreamed for herself. So she quells her fears and goes dress shopping with her friends, mudding with her boyfriend Grant, and attends homecoming in a purple dress.
As much as I enjoy Amanda, what I really love is the way Meredith Russo directly addresses the reader in her preface: Amanda's story is a very specific, purposefully simplified, and SINGULAR story. And it reads that way. This is just Amanda's story--hers alone. Her father is in it (and I love the way he flitters in an out of scenes being a simultaneous source of extreme pressure, fear, anxiety, and love), but it is not HIS story. Her mother is in it, but it is not HER story. This is not the sprawling story of All Trans People or All Southern High Schools. This is Amanda's story. The various diversities of the world enters into it in a relatively realistic way, but this is the story of one teenage girl. It cannot and should not be taken as universal. Thank you for reminding us all, and offering Amanda's tight time capsule of a story anyway.
TThis book would be EXCELLENT for:
Classroom Considerations: This story includes instances of homophobia, transphobia, bullying, assault, and cursing as well as mentions of genitalia and sex education. Just a heads up.