If I Was Your Girl – Meredith Russo

If I Was Your Girl

If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

I struggled a lot with this book and how I felt about it. I chose if I Was Your Girl because I had only read a handful of books about trans* individuals, so I was looking forward to experiencing a new book and learning more. Throughout the book, I was concerned about the representation and some of the ways in which Amanda’s life was portrayed. It made it challenging to feel that it was a healthy and honest representation of her (obviously fictional) life. After reading the author’s note after the book’s conclusion, I felt better about her reasons for writing the book the way that she did, although I still worry about the representation and how that might affect teens who are trying to understand themselves, but not quite sure how society might react.

Honestly, I feel as though this book should be recommended to cisgender readers of all ages. Despite my slight issues with the way Amanda was represented throughout the book, the author wrote her that way in order to make her understandable to the reader, who may not have met a trans* individual before. Russo (2015) even wrote “I have fictionalized things to make them work in my story. I have, in some ways, cleaved to stereotypes and even bent rules to make Amanda’s trans-ness as unchallenging to normative assumptions as possible.” (p. 267). I appreciate that aspect of the author’s intentions more than anything because it makes me much more likely to want to recommend it to readers. It is incredibly important to be aware of what other people go through when society looks at them and sees something different, even if it is beautiful and unique. I hope that people will read this, learn, and become better, more accepting people as a result.

Although Amanda’s life is challenging, she is able to transition and live her life much more easily than one would in the real world – and that’s expected, this is fiction – but it’s also why I worry about recommending it to teens who are trans* or nonconforming in some fashion. She is able to get hormone drugs and undergo a surgery that is unbelievably expensive – so her story isn’t relatable in that way and I fear that it will foster unrealistic expectations. The other concern I have was the obsession with her beauty, as almost every character she interacted with in the story commented about how she was the prettiest or most beautiful girl that they had ever seen. I love the idea that someone could embrace who they truly are and that society would be able to see that self-confidence as their utter physical beauty, but it just ended up feeling (to me) as though the author was trying to reinforce Amanda’s beauty so much at the expense of who she was.

Ultimately, I would recommend this book to cisgender readers, but I would like to know if this representation is more positive than negative overall (from the trans* community) before I wanted to recommend it to those teens. As it is not my community, I can only speak to how well I think it can educate readers who go into it with an open mind and an open heart.

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