Saturday, March 30, 2019

Mini Reviews: If I Was Your Girl || Dear Martin

If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

Genre: Young adult contemporary
Pages: 280
Publication date: May 2016
Content warning: Surgery, bullying, mental illness, violence against LGBT+ teens

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?

Likes: I read a trope-filled romance book. And I enjoyed it immensely. What is happening to me?

I don’t normally read romance, but people were raving about this one, so I thought I’d give it a try. If I Was Your Girl is an #Ownvoices novel. The author is a transgender woman who’s writing about a transgender character. Even the model on the cover is transgender! That’s rare in publishing, and I hope it’s part of a movement that won’t ever stop. I’d love to see more authors writing about people and subjects that they understand deeply. I’m not transgender, but I can confirm that Meredith Russo knows what it’s like to be bullied in school. I feel exposed.

Anyway, Amanda is the new girl in high school, and (of course) she quickly becomes interested in a kind boy named Grant. Amanda is sweet and easy to love. I could see myself being friends with her if I was a teenager and she was real. She badly wants to be honest with Grant about her mental illness struggles and her gender conformation surgeries, but she’s terrified of how her classmates will react if the news gets out. Normally, I don’t care about the relationships in books. This book was different. I really wanted Amanda and Grant to work out and was thrilled whenever they took another step in their relationship. They should be happy! This is a hopeful story about friendship, starting over, and learning that everyone should be loved.

If I Was Your Girl is a fairly typical young adult romance. There are no plot twists. Actually, it’s a bit cheesy. Amanda is beautiful, Grant is handsome, and a romantic relationship comes easily to them. At first, I was slightly disappointed with the bland plot, but the author’s note helped me understand the reasons behind it. Transgender girls aren’t usually the stars of love stories, and they deserve to see themselves in roles that are normally given to cisgender people. The plot may be overdone, but it’s brand new for transgender girls.

'You can have anything,' she said, 'once you admit you deserve it.'If I Was Your Girl

Dislikes: I sometimes got confused about the blocking of scenes. It was hard to picture where the characters are in relation to each other. The dialect also felt inconsistent to me. The characters are from the southern US. Sometimes they have accents; sometimes they don’t. I kept forgetting that they’re southern. Then the dialect would pop up and remind me.

I was mostly okay with the predictability of the plot, but the ending disappointed me. I knew exactly what was going to happen. Whenever a bullied girl walks into a dance, you know that something traumatic is about to go down. I think Stephen King’s Carrie ruined dances for all young adult book characters. Sorry, YA girls. Just avoid homecoming, okay?

The Bottom Line: A usual love story with an unusual protagonist. I recommend giving it a try, even if you’re not a romance lover.

Dear Martin by Nic Stone

Genre: Young adult contemporary
Pages: 224
Publication date: October 2017
Content warning: Racism, murder, gangs, police brutality, gun violence

Justyce McAllister is top of his class and set for the Ivy League—but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. And despite leaving his rough neighborhood behind, he can't escape the scorn of his former peers or the ridicule of his new classmates.

Justyce looks to the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for answers. But do they hold up anymore? He starts a journal to Dr. King to find out.

Then comes the day Justyce goes driving with his best friend, Manny, windows rolled down, music turned up—way up, sparking the fury of a white off-duty cop beside them. Words fly. Shots are fired. Justyce and Manny are caught in the crosshairs. In the media fallout, it's Justyce who is under attack.

Likes: I love Justyce! He’s smart and trying hard. I appreciate that he’s attempting to make himself a better person with his “Dear Martin” project. He idolizes Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and wants to become more like his hero. I haven’t read many books about teenagers who are actively trying to make themselves better people. Most teen book characters seem to learn lessons by accident. I love that Justyce is intentional about it. There’s no shame in admitting that you don’t have all the answers and taking steps to educate yourself.

This is one of those novels that play with your emotions. Justyce is an ambitious kid who gets caught in a bad situation when his friend is murdered in a road rage shooting. I was sad for Justyce, and then happy for him, and then sad for him. I would have gladly read a much longer book about his life. This one is too tiny!

What isn’t tiny is the amount of thinking this book made me do. Justyce is trapped between worlds. He goes to a mostly white school. Many of his friends and his love interest are white. Justyce definitely is not white, but he doesn’t have the same values as the black kids he knows. I think his struggle to find where he belongs is relatable for some readers and eye-opening for others.

You ever consider that maybe you're not supposed to 'fit'? People who make history rarely do.Dear Martin

Dislikes: Most of the characters are awesome and complicated, but there are a few that exist only to be racist asshats. I wish those characters had been more complicated, especially because Justyce is friends (frenemies?) with them. I don’t like when characters exist to teach readers a lesson. I think this book would have benefited from being longer. I wanted more description of the setting and more development of the side characters.

I listened to the audiobook while following along in the physical book. It took me a while to get used to the audio narrator’s voice. He puts. Weird pauses between. Words for. Absolutely. No. Reason. Everything sounds. Choppy and I. Got. Pissed off quickly.

The Bottom Line: My complaints are minor. I love the main characters and wanted them to succeed. I recommend reading this too-tiny book.


  1. These are both on my TBR and sound like ones I will enjoy. Glad you enjoyed them!

  2. I have not read either of these, though I have seen many raves for both. Though I have seen what you are talking about in Dear Martin, with one dimensional characters being inserted for the sole purpose of teaching a lesson. I would like to think that most people, even asshats, are more complicated than that.

    1. Yeah, I always get irritated when I feel like an author is trying too hard to teach me a lesson. This is probably why I was so bad at school. I get bored with lessons.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

  3. I also don't read a lot of romance, but If I Was Your Girl definitely sounds like a fresh take on it.

  4. I read an enjoyed If I Was Your Girl when it was first out. I have Dear Martin on my TBR. My weekly updates

  5. These are actually new to me, they look fun reads!

  6. I loved Dear Martin and If I Was Your Girl is hanging out on my shelf waiting for me--need to get to that one soon!! Glad it won you over to the romance side. :-)

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    1. Haha, I don’t think I’ll stay on the romance side, but it was fun to be there for a while.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

  7. I've seen many positive reviews for both of these. I rarely read contemporary YA, but either of these could tempt me to give it a try.

  8. Yay, I'm so glad you enjoyed Dear Martin. I really adored Justyce. I still need to read Nic Stone's latest book too.

  9. Both of these are ones that I want to read! I want to read Dear Martin and it sounds like it is a very intense and well thought out novel. I know what you mean about wanting even the villainised characters to be complex though. And I also really like the sound of If I was Your Girl. I haven't read many - if any - books with trans characters so that is one of my main motivations. But if you didn't mind the tropes, I don't think I will either!

  10. I have wanted to read Dear Martin for quite a whike. Thanks for sharing your revuew. 👍✨