Review- If I Was Your Girl

If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

261569875/5 stars

“A dishonest life is a life half-lived, brothers and sisters, and it’s a life with one foot already in the Pit.”

Amanda is starting at a new high school and just trying to keep her head low—her goal is to graduate with good enough grades to get into NYU. Unfortunately, going under the radar is hard when you’re the new girl, especially when random boys seem very interested in you. Amanda quickly finds a group of friends who seem to really love her, but still keeps her past a secret from them. Amanda must make a decision: to tell her friends about her transition from a male to female and try to educate them OR continue hiding and have this secret eat her alive.

I am ecstatic that this book is doing so well; it always makes my heart soar when a book with an LGBTQ protagonist gets the recognition it deserves. What I love about this book is that it educates people about queer youth and mental illness. These are things that need to be talked about. We must start conversations about mental illness in LGBTQ youth, bottom line. Studies show that LGB youth are twice as likely to attempt suicide and 41% of trans or gender non-conforming individuals attempt suicide. Books like If I Was Your Girl begin these crucial conversations, and I’m so thankful that I came across it.

I like LGBTQ books that are realistic. You can tell when a book was marketed for heterosexual, cisgender people because the queer characters are just walking stereotypes. This is not one of those books. Amanda is a very dynamic protagonist and I loved getting to know her. Her somewhat awkward relationship with her dad after her transition and her mom hurting while coming to terms with her daughter’s identity felt very real to me. A big part of coming out is seeing your loved ones understand and accept at different paces and it was refreshing to see that in Amanda’s story.

I really liked the flashback portions of If I Was Your Girl. Yes, those are the uncomfortable parts in which the reader learns about the severity of Amanda’s mental illness and her past hospitalization, BUT those are the parts that are the most important. Young adults need to know that they can speak up about mental health issues and not be ashamed to seek help, and books are a great way to teach this to them. I truly wish every high school student could read this book because it has such an important message.

If I Was Your Girl has officially made it to my list of “must reads” for young adults. I’m going to recommend this book to every library I know because it’s just that crucial to spread awareness about mental health and LGBTQ issues to young people (and older people too!). Please, take the time to read this book.

(Sidenote: I read this book as a prompt for a diversity reading challenge on Instagram. You can check out what others are reading for this challenge in the tag #diversitydecbingo. My username is @hedgehogbooks if you want to keep up with my reading list!)

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Review: The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

51zzix78yrl5/5 stars

Rosemary must escape her human life on Mars, for reasons she keeps to herself, and discovers that working on a traveling spaceship is the perfect opportunity to get away. She finds herself aboard The Wayfarer, a multi-species ship with a human captain. The Wayfarer’s crew is trained in tunneling wormholes through the fabric of space and welcomes Rosemary with open arms. They embark on a journey to a small planet in need of a wormhole and, thus, the adventures begin.

I didn’t realize I needed this book until I was 25 pages into it. I’m so glad The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet found its way to me.

To begin with, this is the best science fiction book I’ve read all year (and I read A LOT of science fiction). If you’re a fan of Star Wars or Star Trek, I’m positive that you’ll fall in love with this book just as I did. Becky Chambers truly does the genre justice; she lays out a universe in which humans travel through space alongside other species from neighboring planets. What more could you want?

To answer my own question, what I want to see in science fiction books is not only different species getting along, but different species setting up a dialogue for ideas that reflect on humanity today. Becky Chambers did just that. Rosemary and The Wayfarer‘s crew don’t just interact, as that’s the bare minimum for science fiction, they have deep conversations that create an environment for readers to reflect on themselves and their own society. To me, this is true science fiction.

I read an interview with Becky Chambers that included a discussion about her identity and how it affects the way she writes. She talked about being gay and wanting to write a world in which she, as a queer person, would be welcome. This is possibly my favorite thing that an author has ever said. The way Becky Chambers included queer individuals and relationships in The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet was not just to check the minority box off of her list, like many writers do, it was to include them in fiction because they are normal in real life. If you can’t tell, this book means a lot to me.

I am so blown away with this book and I want to share it with the world. I want to thank Becky Chambers for such an amazing science fiction read that reminded me why I love this genre so much. Please, read this book and put its sequel on your wishlist for next year.