While many books elicit a wellspring of emotion, few make me cry actual tears. This one did.
We follow Amanda, a trans teen whose life has gotten so hard and dangerous in her hometown that she has to move and start over in a new place where no one knows her history. The threat of being found out is always present, though, and Amanda carries the trauma of her past with sadness and fear.
The author, Meredith Russo, is careful to point out that Amanda, our main character, represents a seemingly ideal picture of a trans person. She’s absolutely sure of who and what she is, and has been from a very young age. There’s none of the ambiguity thatâ€™s often present. Sheâ€™s already had the surgery, one which realistically her family wouldnâ€™t have been able to afford. Sheâ€™s pretty and sweet. She’s a victim rather than a warrior. She has a support system.
This isn’t short-sightedness on the author’s part. Russo did this on purpose to make Amandaâ€™s character more accessible for those not as familiar with trans people. Amanda is sympathetic and likeable; someone the reader can imagine befriending. Someone a boy could easily fall for.
Recent news shows a fractured path to acceptance for trans people. It’s controversial for them to use the bathroom. It’s controversial for them to be in the military. Let’s just admit what itâ€™s really about: some people are uncomfortable with trans people’s very existence.
Discomfort is not an excuse for discrimination.
And it’s certainly not okay when discomfort turns to outright hostility or violence. Trans people are still just people, with all of the insecurities, faults, triumphs, and different personalities that come with that. They have to deal with so much more, though. If I Was Your Girl is a great portrait of that.
Put simply, it’s a story about a small-town girl looking for friendship and acceptance.