If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

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if-i-was-your-girlIf I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo
Flatiron, 2016

High school senior Amanda is starting a new life in Lambertville, TN. She moves in with her Dad, starts school, makes some close friends, and attracts the attention of dishy football player, Grant. But Amanda has a secret – she is a trans girl and this is the first time she has truly been able to live as she has always felt inside.

Meredith Russo, herself a trans woman, has written both an excellent novel about a teen trying to work out who she really is, and a sort of handbook for both trans teens and their allies (Amanda’s advice: don’t ask about my surgeries, don’t ask about my genitals, and don’t ask what my name used to be). In her author’s note, she is clear that Amanda’s situation is relatively unchallenging and stereotypical in order to make her as relatable to cisgender teens as possible.

None of this would be relevant if Amanda’s story wasn’t credible and meaningful. The flashbacks to her past – bullied and harassed, misunderstood by her family and, ultimately, a suicide attempt – put Amanda’s present in context, and readers will empathize with her depression and frustration about the mismatch between what she is and how she is perceived.

Many of the other characters are also hiding something from even their closest friends, and as their secrets are shared, Amanda starts to feel the need for her friends to know who she really is. Her initial acceptance in Lambertville, while she is still passing, feels a little speedy, but it does set the stage for the big scene and redemption that we all know is coming, and does it well.

Many teens will recognize Amanda’s search for a coherent identity, and this well-written, and hopeful, book should gain wide cisgender and transgender readership.

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