If I Was Your Girl
YA F RUSSO
Place a hold.
Amanda is a girl like any other. She’s a senior in high school trying to get good grades so she can go to college in New York. She loves to read and draw and hang out with her friends. She wants to be loved. She gets nervous talking to cute boys.
But Amanda is also not like the other girls. She went through months and months of therapy.
She has had numerous surgeries. She has to remember to take her estrogen pills. Because when Amanda was born, her parents named her Andrew and called her their son. Because Amanda was born male.
At age 15, she knew she couldn’t live with this lie anymore. She tried to take her life. It was at the hospital, after the stomach pump and around-the-clock surveillance that she finally said the 6 words that give her back her life. “I should have been a girl.”
After being bullied and brutally beaten in a public restroom, Amanda moves to her father’s small Southern town, begins a new school year at a new school, and tries to start fresh. She makes new friends and even meets a cute guy who’s totally crushing on her. Can she make this work? Can she be happy here? Or is she doomed to relive the violence she encountered at her old school?
What I love about this book is that the protagonist here has already transitioned. There has been a wellspring of great, recent YA fiction aimed at trans* youth that focuses on the basics. They let questioning teens and kids know that they’re not alone and reaffirm that it’s okay to be different. These books speak to the young person who’s realizing “I don’t feel like a boy/girl/whatever. What do I do now?” It also speaks to the ally who wants to be supportive but doesn’t know how. And that is absolutely where YA fiction needs to start. But it’s not the end by a long shot. This book is for teens who already know who they are. They’ve figured out their gender identity and maybe even started to change their gender presentation or begun a medical transition. Their questions are “What now? Can I do this? Can I live a ‘normal’ life as my authentic self? What does being trans* mean for me?” If I Was Your Girl may not answer all these questions for every teen, but it depicts a girl who has discovered herself and is now struggling with the next hurdles, just as every trans* teen must. The novel concludes with a wonderful author’s note that also addresses transmen and boys and genderqueer or non-binary youth.
Regardless of the subject matter, I enjoyed this depiction of teen life, the quest for love (from others and for oneself), and the complicated relationships between characters.