By: Hannah Rapp, Young Adult Librarian
If there’s one thing I love more than reading a good book, it’s finding a book I would love anyways, and then loving it even more thanks to stellar narration on the audiobook. Today’s What I Just Read fits the bill, and while I always recommend reading in any format, if you’re up for an audiobook, this is a good one.
What I Just Read: If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo
What’s It About (Jacket Description): Amanda Hardy is the new girl in school in Lambertville, Tennessee. Like any other girl, all she wants is to make friends and fit in. But Amanda is keeping a secret. There’s a reason why she transferred schools for her senior year, and why she’s determined not to get too close to anyone.
And then she meets Grant Everett. Grant is unlike anyone she’s ever met—open, honest, kind—and Amanda can’t help but start to let him into her life. As they spend more time together, she finds herself yearning to share with Grant everything about herself…including her past. But she’s terrified that once she tells Grant the truth, he won’t be able to see past it.
Because the secret that Amanda’s been keeping? It’s that she used to be Andrew. Will the truth cost Amanda her new life, and her new love?
Do I Like It: Loved the book, loved the audiobook even more!
Thoughts: This book just ticked so many of my boxes, it was practically guaranteed to be a favorite. Strong and complex main character? Check. Sweet romance? Check. Lush setting (a hot Tennessee summer and beautiful fall)? Check. Well written and realistic parent-child relationships? Check. And of course, always my favorite, incredible and complex relationships between friends? Check, check, check.
Don’t let the description of If I Was Your Girl fool you—this is not a romance, although there’s some good romance in it. This is Amanda’s story through and through, and honestly, her relationships with her parents and her friends are every bit as important to the story as her relationship with Grant. The story is told mainly through a linear narration, but interspersed with flashbacks to Amanda’s life and journey before coming to Lambertville (which is where we get some of my favorite scenes, between Amanda and her mother). This gives us a much fuller picture of who Amanda is, and how she became that person, than we would get just with her Lambertville life. It also lends a harsh reality to what is—as the author admits—an overall rosy picture of life as a transgender teen in the South. While things go pretty decently for Amanda in Lambertville (with exceptions, of course, including a particularly harrowing scene near the end), what brought her there in the first place was a lifetime of bullying culminating in a brutal assault.
But it is her Lambertville life that the book is really focused on. It’s beautiful to see Amanda forming normal high school friendships and relationships for the first time, as well as repairing her estranged relationship with her father. Her group of girlfriends are all interesting characters in their own right, who never fail to surprise the reader as much as Amanda when they defy stereotypes and demonstrate deep friendship. Amanda herself grows in confidence as she experiences what it is like to live, not without fear, but with less fear, and with support that she never had growing up. And of course, there’s Grant—like every other character, there’s more to him than we see at first, and as the book goes on it’s easy to see why Amanda falls for him. Despite that though, the highlight of this book for me is by far and away Amanda’s relationships with her new friends.
Not only was this book a joy, but Samia Mounts’ narration was impeccable. Her Southern drawl brought the setting to life, each character had a distinct voice and inflection, and she absolutely nailed every nuance of Amanda’s voice—all in a spot on teenage girl voice. So if you’re in the mood for a book that will leave you feeling uplifted, for incredible character development, for amazing parent-child relationships, for sweet romance, for a great audiobook, or for some seriously awesome and heartwarming friendships, If I Was Your Girl is a perfect pick.