If I Was Your Girl

Book review by
Lucinda Dyer, Common Sense Media
If I Was Your Girl Book Poster Image
Transgender teen finds first love in moving coming-of-ager.

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age 12+
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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Amanda's journey gives readers a realistic window into the emotional life of someone who knows they were born into the wrong gender. There's a short chapter that describes Amanda's visit to the doctor, who starts her on medication to block testosterone and replace it with estrogen. The doctor explains the very serious consequences of these meds -- she will grow breasts and become sterile -- facts that emphasize the enormity of any teen's decision to transition. 

Positive Messages

Teens can change or possibly even save a life simply by offering friendship to a classmate who has been labeled "weird" or "different."

Positive Role Models & Representations

The new friends Amanda makes at her Tennessee high school decide to stand by her after her secret is revealed. Amanda's parents -- while terribly concerned about the challenges she faces in her transition -- are proud of their daughter and make certain she knows it. 

Violence

Amanda is bullied and beaten up. There's an attempted rape, and it's revealed that one character was raped in the 10th grade. A teen is threatened with a gun by another teen. An adult transgender person commits suicide.

Sex

While gender identity and sexuality are at the core of the novel, it concentrates on the emotional aspects of awakening sexuality. What passes for sex scenes in the book don't go much beyond kissing and some nudity. 

Language

Words such as "shit hole," "damn," "f--k," "Jesus Christ," "faggot" sprinkled throughout.

Consumerism

Lots of references to musicians (from Taylor Swift to Daft Punk), films, video games (Final Fantasy), and books. Both Amanda and her boyfriend are huge Star Wars fans, and there are several references to the films and the characters in the series.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters occasionally get stoned and drink beer at parties. Amanda tried to kill herself with an overdose of her mother's prescription painkillers. 

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.

User Reviews

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Teen, 14 years old Written byIndigoviolet April 17, 2017

Fantastic!

This book made a great read, I got through it in one day! It is never boring, never bias, never insensitive. Includes romance, family issues, Laughs and some gr... Continue reading

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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