Review – If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

I’m reviewing this book as part of the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge 2016. This book is what I read for #12 read a book by or about a person who identifies as transgender.

I was really excited about reading this book. I love YA fiction (if there is such a thing) and I thought that making the main character trans would add a new dimension that I hadn’t encountered before. I have a few trans friends so I’m broadly familiar (from an outsider perspective at least) with some of the issues that they face, not just from a transphobia perspective but also on a practical level (which bathroom do I use? Where do I buy clothes that will fit? What if I don’t want to wear makeup?) etc. I was expecting this book to touch on some of those areas – but it didn’t. Instead, it glossed over the entire transition process, assumed the young trans female ‘had won the genetic lottery in terms of passing’ (as female), took for granted that she would want (and indeed, could afford) all of the surgery and medical procedures to transition and that she would be a straight female who would move to a new town where no one would be able to tell.

In fairness, I read a note from the author at the back of the book, and she explained that she was terrified that cisgender readers would take the story as gospel, but that she wanted her readers to have no barriers to understanding the main character ‘as a teenage girl with a different medical history from most other girls’. I get that. I also understand that as this book is aimed at a younger audience that it may be a lot of readers first experience of a transgender person (real or imaginary) and that this is just a story about a girl meeting a boy. However, to me this came across as a little too simplistic. I think the character could have been much more interesting (and perhaps believable) if they had discussed some deeper issues. I don’t think that readers would have had any trouble understanding that the main character is just a teenage girl if, say, they were bisexual or hadn’t undergone all of the surgical procedures. Perhaps I’m just viewing the book from my liberal UK viewpoint though.

Having said that, I did enjoy the book. I liked that what could have been quite a formulaic story was given such a twist and that the overwhelming message was one of positivity and acceptance. I liked that the characters had flaws and the story was fast paced, sweet and thought provoking. I think this book is definitely worth a read – providing you accept that it is a work of fiction.

Overall rating: 7.5/10.

Footnote: I would also like to add that I’m well aware that as a cisgender reader I’m viewing this book from an outsider perspective with no real experience of the subject matter. I hope that I’ve conveyed my thoughts clearly and I’m always happy to discuss/learn more!

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4 thoughts on “Review – If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

  1. I liked this book too and pondered over the same thoughts you have upon completion. Yes it is simplistic, and I would have liked to have read more about the dysphoria and difficulties in the process of becoming and accepting her real gender – but then that would have been a very different book and not one about a boy and girl. Merideth wanted to write an emotional story about relationships where the main character just happens to be transgender, and show how similar it is to a cisgender experience. Highlighting that there really is no difference at all.

    Yes, maybe a little overambitious, but it makes the important point that we are all the same no matter what body parts we have.

    For YA is does it’s job, and I think every reader will feel like there was something missing, because the reality is, transgendered people will never have the same experience as cisgendered people in love and life, because they experience different challenges. Just as people from different races, religions, socio-economic backgrounds experience obstacles to overcome.

    As a romantic, ‘If I Was Your Girl’ is all that; but as a realist, it failed to take in the bigger picture and highlight the real issues trangendered people live through every moment. But I’d choose the light, happy version any day because living as a transgendered teen, with all that doubt, anxiety, pressure and confusion can be a really dark place at times. And everyone deserves a happy ending, acceptance and trouble-free existence. And that is what ‘If I Was Your Girl’ was for me.

    It’s doing it’s job though, in getting people to talk about transgender issues and educating readers. I think that is pretty cool.

    Thanks for sharing your review – and sorry if I went off on some rant. I have some transgendered people in many family and as friends and it is an issue close to my heart.

    Happy reading. 🙂

    Like

    1. Hi Casey!

      Thank you for your comment. I think you’ve made some really interesting points about the ultimate focus of the novel. Like you, I’m really pleased that this book is getting people talking about transgender issues, especially in such a positive way. I completely respect the way that the story was told and I think Meredith has done a fantastic job in educating young readers and “normalising” (perhaps that’s not the right word) trans people and the relationships that they have with non trans people – and I can completely see why she chose to make that story as straightforward as possible in order for readers to accept it as a simple love story. I have a huge amount of respect for the author herself and I think that the book itself plays a really important role in changing the way that people think about the trans community in general.

      With that said, I think that as a story some representation of the real world struggles that the main character would have faced would have added to the narrative, not detracted from it. I just found it all a little bit too perfect and unrealistic for my tastes.

      I didn’t see your comment as a rant, I welcome all feedback so I thought it was great that you got in touch 😀 Happy reading to you too!

      Liked by 1 person

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