If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo
This review will contain spoilers. Also, there are mentions of suicide in this review.
If I Was Your Girl follows Amanda, a girl who moves to live with her father in the south of the USA. At first it appears as if this story is just another typical ‘girl moves schools, falls in love, blah blah romance the end’ novel.
Except there’s another layer to the story. Amanda is a transgender woman – or trans mtf.
As a cisgender person with many transgendered friends, I care a lot about transgender issues and rights, although I know I’ll never truly understand the problems that non binary and transgender people go through on a daily basis.
Books like If I Was Your Girl are a blessing for me, as they give me a perspective that I can’t experience myself. Reading them makes me feel like I’m coming closer to getting to fully grasp transgender issues.
“But something had to change. Because I had changed.” This was one of the lines that stuck with me throughout my time reading this novel. Exposing your gender identity to the world is a massive change, one of the biggest you can do. It’s something that also takes an infinite amount of bravery, especially in a world that barely respects people who don’t identify with the gender they were assigned at birth.
Russo writes about the physical abuse that Amanda suffers due to her gender identity – such as being beaten up for using a female bathroom and her suicide attempt after reading about the changes that puberty bring to a person with an XY chromosome body. I feel like the author including the sense of hopelessness surrounding those changes really helps the reader understand how much of a turning point puberty is for transgender/gnb people.
Another segment of the story focuses on Amanda’s relationship with Grant, who’s a strictly heterosexual male living in the town that Amanda moves to. When Amanda’s secret is outed, Grant has an overall positive reaction, getting past his initial wariness.
Grant’s positive reaction is a reminder that even if people are initially reluctant to accept your true gender, they can easily come around to the idea. The whole idea of transgender people is becoming more and more accepted in society.
My favourite character in this story was Chloe. Chloe’s very much almost exactly like a stereotypical lesbian – good at sports, a ‘jock’. However she’s also very kind and smart and a good friend to Amanda.
I didn’t like Bee all that much. Even though she was a good representative of bisexuality (an orientation that is often overlooked) she was a little too much like the fiction trope ‘bad girl’ for her characterisation to sit well with me. Also I hated how she outed Amanda to the school at Homecoming, especially as Amanda had so inherently trusted her with it before.
Virginia is Amanda’s ‘trans mentor’, a role model that most trans people need. Many people think that transgendered people are freaks, and write them off as such. As Russo describes, it could change someone’s life if they have positive role models like Virginia.
As Russo explains in an afterword, If I Was Your Girl contains a lot of wishful thinking. The treatments that Amanda goes through often cost too much money for regular families to afford, and she received more support than most transgender teens usually get. Still, this book is still an accurate one. Meredith Russo is a transgender woman herself, and she wrote If I Was Your Girl with what she needed as a teen in mind.
Overall, this book is a solid five stars. I loved the main character, the story flowed well and it has given me so much perspective on the transgender community as a whole.