A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that If I Was Your Girl is the story of Amanda, a transgender teen. After being bullied and beaten in her previous high school, she goes to live with her father in a small Tennessee town, leaving behind her old identity as Andrew. In her new school, she finds close friends, her first boyfriend, and acceptance. But her life is now built on a secret, and she fears she may lose everything if it's discovered. The author, Meredith Russo, is herself transgender, and her debut novel is compassionate, believable, and never sensationalized. There's some strong language ("f--k," "s--t," and the slur "faggot"). As most of Amanda's experiences are universal ones for teens -- falling in love for the first time, adapting to a new school, being "different," having divorced parents -- her story will be relatable to many readers.
What's the story?
When Amanda arrives in a small Tennessee town for her senior year in high school, she's perceived only as the pretty new girl. Boys flirt with her, and she quickly finds herself with three close girlfriends. Only her father knows that Amanda is transitioning from male to female after being harassed and tormented for years in her life as Andrew. IF I WAS YOUR GIRL flashes back to several pivotal points in her life -- to her being a small boy who knew he was a girl, to her being a junior high student who was constantly bullied, and her suicide attempt three years ago. Keeping her secret becomes increasingly difficult as Amanda's friendships deepen; she shares her first kiss with Grant, her football player boyfriend; and is even nominated for homecoming queen. Will her new friends stand by her when her secret is revealed?
Is it any good?
This poignant and believable coming-of-age love story resonates with a powerful message of tolerance and acceptance. Never preachy or forced, If I Was Your Girl focuses on Amanda's evolving relationships with a new group of friends, her parents, and her boyfriend. Because of that, the storyline is a comfortable one for readers and allows Amanda's story to unfold without "she's transgender" always being at the forefront.
In the end, this is a story about an enormously likable teen whose hopes for her senior year are just like those of any reader: spending time with good friends, feeling accepted by peers, falling in love, and being loved in return.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about being different. What makes someone "different" in your school or community? Has someone ever made you feel as if you didn't fit in?
If If I Was Your Girl were made into a movie, do you think a transgender actress should play Amanda? Would the message of the book/movie be diminished if a straight actress played the part?
How would you react if someone in your class decided to transition?
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