Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Review: If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo
Series: Standalone
Published: May 3rd, 2016
Publisher: Flatiron Books
280 pages (hardcover)
Genre: Contemporary Young Adult/LGBTQ
Acquired this book: Library
Warning: May contain spoilers
{GoodReads || Buy this book: Amazon || Chapters/Indigo}

Amanda Hardy is the new girl in school in Lambertville, Tennessee. Like any other girl, all she wants is to make friends and fit in. But Amanda is keeping a secret. There’s a reason why she transferred schools for her senior year, and why she’s determined not to get too close to anyone.

And then she meets Grant Everett. Grant is unlike anyone she’s ever met—open, honest, kind—and Amanda can’t help but start to let him into her life. As they spend more time together, she finds herself yearning to share with Grant everything about herself…including her past. But she’s terrified that once she tells Grant the truth, he won't be able to see past it.

Because the secret that Amanda’s been keeping? It’s that she used to be Andrew.

I’m going to be perfectly honest: I read If I Was Your Girl because I knew it was an important book’. I’ll read just about any LGBTQ+ book, and since a) I hadn’t read any books with a main character who’s trans, and b) this is an own voices book, it felt like something I should read so I’d be able to recommend a book with a trans MC if anyone asked.

What I’m basically trying to get at is something Dahlia Adler said better than I seem to be able to: “You know books people say are great just because they're so necessary in concept and premise, but then the execution and/or style kinda suck but no one wants to admit it?

This is not that.”

I’ve read those books. Those books that fill a gaping hole in publishing, that some people truly do need, but that end up falling flat on a personal level for whatever reason. If I Was Your Girl was truly not that. I went into it expecting I would probably like it and knowing I’d learn a few things, but I didn’t expect it to resonate so deeply and on so many levels.

Amanda is a fantastic, layered character. She’s smart, she’s funny, and she wants what most girls want: to be safe, to be loved, and to have healthy relationships with family and friends. There was so much more to her than just being a trans girl. I’ve read my share of books where the main character’s sexuality or ID was the main focus of the book and there was little plot or character development, but I felt like I got to know who Amanda was and I was proud of her strength and growth throughout the story. The flashback chapters were a nice added touch. It was interesting and insightful to see Amanda as a child - as Andrew - wanting to be a girl when she grew up, certain there had somehow been a mistake somewhere along the way, and then bits of her transition and what led her to moving in with her dad.

There were great secondary characters in this book, from Amanda’s parents to her new friends to Grant, the love interest. I appreciated how we got to see Amanda’s parents before, during, and after her transition. It was raw, it was painful, and it was honest. It wasn’t easy for any of them, and I was glad we got to see their struggle, but also that they were trying. There were some beautiful, real, emotionally-charged moments with her parents that I loved. Amanda’s group of new friends were the exact type I like to see - very different personality wise, but they love each other unconditionally even if there are certain things about each other they don’t understand.

Before reading this book, I was aware of some of the obstacles trans people face, but this book really opened my eyes. I learned so much, and while Russo mentions in the author’s note that her goal wasn’t to educate but to tell a story, I really did feel like my eyes were opened to a lot of things. Amanda’s story could have easily been filled with even more heartache and pain, abuse, and worse, but I appreciated so much that we got to see a trans character forming relationships, finding love, and being happy. There are enough tragedies for LGBTQ+ people in real life - abuse, suicides, murders, mental health issues - that it was refreshing to see a girl like Amanda get the happy ending (or more aptly, the happy beginning) she deserved.

If I Was Your Girl made me run the gamut of emotions - sadness, anger, happiness, hopefulness. It’s a story I think so many people will connect with, whether they’re cisgender, trans, gay, straight, or anything in between. At the heart of it, Amanda is just a regular girl, and this is a beautiful story about friendship, first love, family, and self-discovery. A definite must-read for teens, and for anyone else who enjoys well-written, heartfelt, emotional contemporary YA.

Have you read If I Was Your Girl? What did you think? If you haven't read it, do you plan to? Do you have any recommendations for books with trans characters?

Friday, November 11, 2016

Bookstagram Weekly Digest #14

Bookstagram Weekly Digest ~ Every Friday or Saturday I'll share the pictures I posted on Bookstagram the week before. If you'd like to follow me on Instagram and see my daily bookish pictures, I'm SweetMarie_83!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Review: Semi-Scripted by Amanda Heger

Semi-Scripted by Amanda Heger
Series: Wanderlove #2
Published: November 8th, 2016
Publisher: Diversion Publishing
224 pages (ARC)
Genre: Contemporary New Adult
Acquired this book: From the author in exchange for honest consideration
Warning: May contain spoilers
{GoodReads || Buy this book: Amazon || Chapters/Indigo}

Marisol Gutierrez has come to Los Angeles with a single goal: win the prestigious grant that will save her family's struggling medical clinic back in Nicaragua. But, when a cute guy invites her to sit in the audience of a hip-but-failing comedy program, Marisol figures she'll get a little entertainment out of her otherwise stress-filled trip.

Evan Abramson thought an internship at "The So Late It's Early Show" would be the start of a long television-writing career, but their ratings are sinking. With every show, his plans seem one step closer to collapse. When a backstage crisis throws him into an onstage encounter with a gorgeous and charming audience member, Evan and Marisol become overnight sensations. And soon their made-for-television romance is the only thing keeping "So Late" from cancellation.

As things heat up onscreen and off, Marisol and Evan are caught between their careers and their growing feelings for one another. Being together in front of the cameras puts Marisol's grant at risk, but keeping their romance offscreen means Evan's show is sure to fail. Together they have to decide whether to stick with the script and save their careers or improvise their way toward a happily ever after.

I loved Amanda Heger’s debut, Without Borders. It was funny, touching, and compelling, and it featured memorable characters. One of those characters was Marisol, who gets her own turn in the spotlight in Semi-Scripted.

Marisol goes to LA from Nicaragua to attend conferences and interviews in the hopes of winning a grant for her family’s clinic, which provides medical brigades into isolated parts of Nicaragua. Evan moved across the country with dreams of becoming a TV writer, but his internship at a late-night talk show involves little more than rounding up game-show rejects to fill the audience of a show whose ratings are so low, they're kept on air on a week-to-week basis. Seemingly as different as can be, Marisol and Evan have a few things in common: neither of them wants to disappoint their families, and they both have big dreams that they’re willing to work hard for. Thrown together by chance and kept together by strange circumstances, the pair form a bond that slowly builds from friendship to something more.

Semi-Scripted is such a fun, different book. It had me giggling from the beginning, and it was easy to root for Marisol and Evan, both separately and as a couple. Their interactions were hilarious and adorable, and at times really touching. I loved how Evan reignited a spark in Marisol - a lust for life that she’d tucked away in her drive to help keep her family’s clinic afloat. Through adventures, strange situations, and Evan’s openness, Marisol remembers what it’s like to laugh and have fun. I loved how strong and driven both these characters were, and that they each had their own unique side stories that gave the book extra depth.

Semi-Scripted, like Without Borders, is different from anything I’ve read. This book is fun and funny, a mixture of wild scenarios and real-life emotions. Amanda Heger is definitely an author to watch. I can’t wait for more from her!

{My review of Without Borders}

Have you read Semi-Scripted or Without Borders? What did you think? If you haven't read them, do you plan to? Have you ever dreamed of being on a game show? Which one? What's the last book that made you laugh out loud?

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Bookstagram Weekly Digest #13

Bookstagram Weekly Digest ~ Every Friday or Saturday I'll share the pictures I posted on Bookstagram the week before. If you'd like to follow me on Instagram and see my daily bookish pictures, I'm SweetMarie_83!


Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Review: The Best Possible Answer by E Katherine Kottaras

The Best Possible Answer by E Katherine Kottaras
Series: Standalone
Published: November 1st, 2016
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
272 pages (eARC)
Genre: Contemporary Young Adult
Acquired this book: Via NetGalley in exchange for honest consideration
Warning: May contain spoilers
{GoodReads || Buy this book: Amazon || Chapters/Indigo}

AP Exams – check
SAT test – check
College Application – check
Date the wrong guy and ruin everything you’ve spent your whole life working for– check

Ultra-high-achiever Viviana Rabinovich-Lowe has always had a plan—and no room to be anything less than perfect. But her quest for perfection comes to a screeching halt when her boyfriend leaks racy pictures of her to the entire school. Making matters worse, her parents are getting divorced and now her perfect family is falling apart. For the first time, Viv feels like a complete and utter failure.

Then she gets a job working at the community pool, where she meets a new group of friends who know nothing about her past. That includes Evan, a gorgeous guy who makes her want to do something she never thought she’d do again: trust. For the first time in her life, Viv realizes she can finally be whoever she wants. But who is that? While she tries to figure it out, she learns something they never covered in her AP courses: that it’s okay to be less than perfect, because it’s our imperfections that make us who we are.


Viviana is having a rough few months. Her ex-boyfriend spread her nude selfies around the school, she’s feeling an immense amount of pressure to do well in school, her dad has moved out and barely contacts them, and her relationship with her mother is strained. She hopes for a quiet, relaxing summer, but between her anxiety, a job that’s more stressful than she anticipated, and the fact her best friend is moving away and they spend half the summer fighting over a boy, things aren’t going as planned.

On the surface, The Best Possible Answer is a fun, light summer read, but it balances out the lightness with some serious issues like mental illness, lies, cheating, bullying, and school/parent pressures. While I appreciated that this book tackled so many big, real-life problems, at times it felt like there was too much going on. For such a short book, I think it was ambitious to address such huge issues but do it quickly and with a healthy dose of fluff in between. If it had focused more on a few of the issues instead of so many different things, it wouldn’t have felt like such a hodge podge of ‘big issue’ elements thrown together.

That being said, I liked Vivi a lot and found her easy to relate to and sympathize with. She wanted to make everyone happy - her parents, her little sister, her best friend, her teachers - and it left her anxiety-ridden and struggling to cope. I think a lot of people, especially teens, will be able to relate to this. I liked that the story featured a strong female friendship. Vivi and Sammie fought and had disagreements and misunderstandings, but they loved each other unconditionally. If one needed the other, even during a fight, they were there for each other without question. This is the type of female friendship I’d love to see more of in YA. I do wish we’d learned a bit more about Sammie since she was such an important part of Vivi’s life, and it would have been nice to see more from them other than just talking about Evan, but it really was great to see such a strong friendship.

The Best Possible Answer was a fun, thought-provoking read. It was different from anything I’ve read, and I appreciated the overall message of not letting your past or your mistakes define you or hold you back. Vivi had plenty of growing pains through the course of the story, but she came out stronger and smarter, and with the knowledge that it’s okay not to be perfect - what matters is that you remain true to yourself.

{Read my review of How to be Brave}

Have you read The Best Possible Answer? What did you think? If you haven't read it, do you plan to? Did you feel a lot of academic or parental pressure during high school?
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