Author: Meredith Russo
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Summary: Although not my usual type of book, I loved the authentic characters and the heartwarming, edifying story.
“Amanda Hardy is the new girl in school. Like anyone else, all she wants is to make friends and fit in. But Amanda is keeping a secret, and she’s determined not to get too close to anyone. But when she meets sweet, easygoing Grant, Amanda can’t help but start to let him into her life. As they spend more time together, she realizes just how much she is losing by guarding her heart. She finds herself yearning to share with Grant everything about herself, including her past. But Amanda’s terrified that once she tells him the truth, he won’t be able to see past it. Because the secret that Amanda’s been keeping? It’s that at her old school, she used to be Andrew. Will the truth cost Amanda her new life, and her new love?” (Source)
Although I don’t often pick up contemporary, YA romances or YA where high school bullying is a potential topic, knowing that the author, main character, and cover model of this book were all transgender women made me decide I had to read it. I’m very glad I did! Since personally I am not transgender, I can’t speak to the accuracy of the author’s depictions of the main character’s experiences. However, as a human being I can say that her characters were some of the most realistic, authentic characters I’ve ever read, especially in YA. They all had normal, teenage concerns and while they sometimes made decisions I felt were a product of youthful stupidity, they were believable and so didn’t frustrate me.
I found the number of characters the author included who were of various sexual orientations realistic as well, given estimates I’ve seen of the proportion of the population that is LGBT. I think this is something we should see in every book. I also liked that being LGBT didn’t define these characters. Most of the characters were very well developed and all had challenges in their lives that were independent of their sexual orientation, including Amanda. For instance, families and friendships and the struggles they bring played a prominent role in this book – another component of this book that I’d like to see more of in other books.
In some ways, I liked that the author focused in on one major challenge transgender individuals might have to deal with – how to share that they are transgender with friends and potential love interests, especially when the fact that they are transgender may be not be obvious from their physical appearance and when revealing that fact may actually put them in danger. I think the fact that Amanda was dealing with one main challenge related to her transgender identity made it easier to fit in some of the usual high school challenges she faced as well, made it easier not to define her solely by the fact that she was transgender. It probably helped keep this a quick read too. However, I did feel that some parts of the book worked out a little too neatly and in particular there is an assault that I’m not convinced was dealt with so that it wouldn’t happen again in the future.
The structure of the plot was fantastic. I liked jumping back and forth in time, slowly learning more about how Amanda became the person she is in the present story. Each new snipped of Amanda’s past added emotional depth to her current story. I also liked that the jumps to the past gave me some understanding of what it’s like to transition to a new gender, while still keeping the story focused on one main challenge Amanda is facing in the present.
I debated a bit about how to rate this book. I love what it is and that makes me want to give it five stars, but I think the writing was of fairly average quality and my reading experience was more “really liked it/4 stars” than “loved it/5 stars”. That said, I will be recommending this with the frequency and fervor I usually reserve for five star reads, because I think it’s a unique and important read. I believe strongly in the power of books to increase empathy and I think this book in particular has the potential to do that for a lot of people.
This definitely sounds like the kind of book I’d like to read more of. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.
Absolutely! I really am excited to promote this one.
Sounds worth checking out! Great post!
Thanks Kailana! I’d definitely recommend it.
I also love that books can increase empathy; I loved how you worded that. I am definitely interested in reading this book. Thanks for letting us know about it.
Thanks Jennifer 🙂 That’s one of the main reasons I think who read about and whose books we read really matters.