If I Was Your Girl is a YA novel written by Meredith Russo. It follows Amanda Hardy as she moves to a new state, falls in love, and attempts to hide the fact that she is transgender.
Meredith Russo (an own voices author) has talked a lot about their decisions about Amanda – most significantly, the decision to have her easily ‘pass’ as cis, and to be almost stereotypically attractive. (In my copy, there was a very interesting interview with Russo, which I would highly recommend reading.) I was really impressed by Russo’s thoughts, and I think that the inclusion of the interview will give a lot of hope to young trans readers, and increased understanding to cis ones.
The novel was split in two: alternating between Amanda’s past (as she realised she was trans and went through the process of becoming her true self) and her present. This allowed there to be a quite frank discussion and depiction of the psychological process of changing gender. There was far less about the physical changes, such as top and bottom surgery. I thought this was a hugely insightful decision, as many cis people focus upon the whole ‘what do your genitals look like’ question, rather than other aspects of being trans.
I was hugely enjoying the novel until my least favourite LGBT+ trope struck – this was another case of the Big Bad Bi. I really can’t state how angry I was about this. There were so many other characters who could have taken up the ‘villain’ role. There was a huge emphasis about how conservative and Bible-belt Amanda’s new town was. This could have been a really interesting statement about conservative Christianity. There are a number of Christian characters, so there was little chance of making all-encompassing statements, or implying that all conservative Christians are transphobic. But no. The Big Bad Bi had to come into play.
Other than that, I found If I Was Your Girl to be a wonderful starting-off narrative about transgenderism – neither Pollyanna-ish in its hopefulness, nor incredibly depressing, I think that it is another important step towards LGBT+ inclusivity in YA literature.
(Also, if I have misused any terms or spoken inappropriately, please let me know.)