Meredith Russo’s If I Was Your Girl is the powerful and poignant story of Amanda Hardy, a transgender girl completing her senior year of high school in Tennessee. The chapters alternate between Amanda’s past and present as she struggles to chart her future. Hopeful for a fresh start in a new town, Amanda boards a bus to live with a father she hasn’t seen in years. Soon after arrival, she makes friends with Bee, an artsy outsider, and with a group of girls she meets after missing the bus on her first day of school. Despite these friendships and the attentions of a charming boy named Grant, a layer of fear and doubt, built up over years of abuse from her peers and stranger, dog her steps. The relationships Amanda has with her mother and father are like night and day and form an important part of the story. Russo paints a rich emotional landscape as Amanda journeys towards her unassailable truth that she deserves to live and deserves to love and be loved.
It is important to note that Russo includes an author afterward to address her cisgender and transgender readers/listeners. She explains why she wrote Amanda’s story the way she did and warned against using it as a guide to trans people. Everyone’s story is different and important. Russo, herself a transgender woman, promoted the inclusion of trans people in the publishing and production of the book. She also provides contact numbers for people who are contemplating suicide.
Great narration transports readers into other worlds and into other lives. Poor narration can derail even the best stories, detaching the listener from the experience altogether. As an audiobook, If I Was Your Girl combines engrossing storytelling with a well-cast narrator, Samia Mounts. Her youthful voice is perfectly suited to a teenage girl. She delivers an engaging and emotionally charged performance. Amanda’s fears and doubts, excitement and joy, hopes and dreams. Scenes in which Amanda is afraid or nervous or disappointed vibrate in my headphones: words quiver, tremble, whisper, and soar. When Amanda is out on the town with her friends, Mounts raises her voice in excitement and adds a teasing tone to the dialogue, as well as other layers of expression. The narration for Amanda’s thoughts about and dialogue with her boyfriend Grant, are a complex mixture of doubt and fear, happiness and flirtation.
This audiobook is hard to put down!