TITLE: If I Was Your Girl
AUTHOR: Meredith Russo
PUBLISHER: Usborne Publishing Ltd.
GENRE: Contemporary, Young Adult, LGBT, Romance
RATING: 3.5/5 Stars
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.
What I Liked:
- The message behind this book was heartwarming and lovely. I'm a big fan of LGBT+ fiction, especially if it's an #ownvoices book. Russo did a great job with this one because all the way through I felt warm and fuzzy and couldn't stop smiling. There's some great moments in this story, especially between Amanda and her friends (great girl gang by the way) and Amanda and Grant. Very cute and guaranteed to melt away most bad moods.
- Russo did a pretty good job with the characters and their biases. Amanda was a nice MC viewpoint (a little dull perhaps, but kind and likeable) and I really liked Layla, Anna and Chloe too. Bee was very interesting and I liked that Russo didn't go with the 'all LGBT characters are automatically friends and understand each other's pain) route'. Grant was a good romantic interest too, adorable and well-meaning but with his own hypocrisies and ignorance.
What I Disliked:
- Russo includes a message at the end of the book which explains that in many ways, she played it safe with this story. Amanda is conventionally attractive, has it easy 'fitting in' and spends most of her life knowing her feelings on her own gender. It's a smart move to help the book appeal to more cisgendered readers and get 'educated' but also a little disappointing. I was left feeling as if the characters and plot lacked development in many areas, especially due to skipping forwards in fairly large chunks of time. Backstory could have definitely been expanded upon in a lot of cases.
- Some of the social interactions in this book seemed a little off for me. Amanda fit in so easily despite being new to the school. In her first day two guys had a crush on her. She also managed to be best friends with the most popular girls in school and the misfit which kind of wouldn't happen in a real life situation. At least, not in that way. I also liked the romantic scenes, but didn't really feel any initial chemistry between Amanda and Grant so was actually pretty surprised when they hooked up.
This was a good contribution to LGBT+ novels, especially in the YA age range and I was glad to see it making Zoella's book club list! Honestly, I liked it despite my reservations listed above. It doesn't just educate on the trans community, it covers mental health, bullying, sexism and friendship too. It definitely deserves all the attention it received for those reasons, I just wish Russo had been a little more adventurous and given some extra page space for characters like Bee and Grant, and even Anna's home life! Still, it was nice to read a 'happy ending', as not every LGBTQ+ story needs to be horrifying.