I’ve actually seen people disregarding this book BY THE TITLE ALONE. The technically incorrect grammar is actually common for Southern American vernacular, this narrative’s language. “If I Was Your Girl” actually gives the reader a glimpse of the voice before they even pull it off the shelf, which is pretty handy for any local color book set in the south.
Meredith Russo’s YA Trans bildungsroman starts with a bruised Amanda Hardy riding the bus to live with the father she hasn’t seen since childhood.
She’s been beaten up in the bathroom very recently but she’s actually looking at a nice set of privileges from this moment: she gets a new start in a new place where only a very select few know her past identity, she passes and is conventionally attractive, both her parents are at least passively supportive of her, and she’s had hormones and treatments to transition before her life even begins.
Her story would be quite a bit different without those things, and glimpses of her former support group not only show us that she’s aware of her blessings but also gives us visibility and acceptance of other Trans folks without those privileges.
Being from a southern small town myself, I smell all of what she’s stepping in setting-wise. Everyone knowing everyone else, being in their business, the nearly non-existent arts electives, trailer houses and beat up trucks and friends with religious strict parents and everyone attaching themselves to the new kid cause they don’t already know everything about them yet.
And of course the one or two LGBT people who huddle together for safety before they all even know that’s what they’re doing.
While this wasn’t necessarily a coming-out or transitioning book, it was covered in flashbacks. I particularly enjoyed the complexities of each of Amanda’s parents reacting to the changes their child was going through. The supportive mother who still longs for younger versions of her child but completely loves the girl that child became, the father who wasn’t a good father to his younger child but is actively working to repair their relationship and do right by her.
4/5 Stars. This book is an easy read and I definitely recommend it. It gets a bit dark in places but it’s important to show the reality even when it’s tough. Trigger Warnings for Suicide, Transphobia, Homophobia, Sexual and Non-Sexual Assault, and Bullying.