March 24, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Teens Review Meredith Russo’s “If I Was Your Girl” and More

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From the latest summer romances to the much-anticipated If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo, SLJ’s resident teen reviewers tackle teen angst, first love, and gender issues in their latest reviews.

suffer loveBLAKE, Ashley Herring. Suffer Love. HMH. May 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780544596320
Gr 8 Up–The romance of Hadley and Sam is beautifully. However, Suffer Love isn’t just a romance novel (no matter how wonderful the romance is); it has more substance to it and is mostly an emotional yet stunning story of betrayal and how you move on from it. Suffer Love is an amazing and enlightening tale of young love that anyone will stay up all night to finish (like I did) and not be the least bit disappointed. Even through the ups and downs, in the end Suffer Love is a heartwarming book.

The cover was okay, but it was also kind-of that classic, cheesy-romantic-novel type of cover which is not very appealing to me.

The most compelling aspect of the book was the character of Hadley. Hadley is smart, funny, and interesting to read about, but the reason that I would say she’s one of the strongest parts of the book is that she is very real. Hadley is a character that is portrayed as very raw and emotional which is nice to see when written about well (as it is here) and when the author can really let that be a big part of the book in an enlightening way. Hadley is dealing with a lot of problems in her life, and you just can really understand what she’s going through even if that is unfamiliar to you. Blake is a genius as she tells the story of Hadley’s recovery with herself and her family.

After reading Suffer Love, everyone will be singing praises for the author’s masterful hand with words. Throughout the whole book, everything is in exactly the right places to make you laugh, smile, and even cry.—Charlotte L., 14

holding smokeCOSIMANO, Elle. Holding Smoke. Disney-Hyperion. May 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781484725979
Gr 7 Up–Smoke isn’t like the other felons at the Y, a dangerous correctional facility in Colorado. He has been wrongly accused of killing two people: one of them he didn’t, and one of them he didn’t do on purpose. But this isn’t the only reason he is different: a near-death experience leaves him with the ability to leave his physical body behind and travel beyond the prison walls. He thinks the prison is the only home he deserves, until he meets Pink, a girl who sees him and wants to clean his slate. With thrills, danger, and an overhanging mystery that keeps your wheels turning, you won’t want to put it down. You will constantly ask the same question: Who did it?

I think the cover did reflect the contents because of the smoke making the letters disappear, just like how Smoke’s hope is disappearing. I did like the cover because it is mysterious and makes you want to know what it was about.

I loved the suspense and danger. When he was pulled back into his body right when something bad is happening, it kept me going because I had to know what had happened to the person. It was also a great mystery that had a very unexpected twist at the end. This book was great and I couldn’t stop reading it!—Eleanor C., 14

inquisitionMATHARU, Taran. The Inquisition. Feiwel & Friends. May 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781250076311
Gr 7 Up—The book starts out with Fletcher on trial and he is about to be convicted of two things. Then BAM we find out that he is a nodal and the king judges him indecent. When he gets out of the pelt he meets up with his old friends and they go on a mission into the orc’s jungle to destroy the goblin eggs. On the way they find another salamander and the coordinates to the orc’s part of the either. They get trapped in a pyramid and are forced to go into the either to save their lives.

I liked the cover. It explained a lot about what was going to happen in the book. The jungle showed where a lot of the book was going to take place.

I think the most compelling aspect of the book was that it really opened up the view into the lives of the orcs because up until now we did not know much about them. I was surprised when the orcs had stronger demons that we were led to believe. This is just a prediction, but I think Igneous is just a baby and has a lot more to grow. The only disappointment was that the book was not longer.—Sam C., 15

RUSSO, Meredith. If I Was Your Girl. Flatiron. May 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781250078407.
Gr 8 Up–If you are confident with who you are, you can put up with people’s ridicule. If you are not, you slip farther and farther away into self-doubt. This book is about a young boy named Andy becoming the person he knew he was all along, but mostly it is about a girl named Amanda, living a life she knows is right for her. The most compelling thing about this book is the topic it covers. Being transgender is not understood by everyone. This book gives readers insight into what it means to be transgender. I was not disappointed in this book at all.—Grace D., 13

if i was your girlANOTHER TAKE

Amanda Hardy is moving to a new school, and all she wants is to fit in and make friends. However, Amanda is keeping a secret—at her old school, her name was Andrew, and her life was absolutely miserable. But then she meets kind, goofy Grady, and she wants to tell him everything. However, as their romance blossoms, being true to herself and keeping life the way she wants it to be might become harder than Amanda ever thought.

I wasn’t hugely fond of the cover for If I Was Your Girl. It’s kind of bland—just the usual portrait cover for a YA novel. However, I do like the way that the title text was arranged and the lighting on the image is also very nice. The font used for the title and author’s name is also appealing and readable. While as a whole the cover is nothing particularly special, the individual elements are all very nice. In all, the cover is pleasing to look at and not mind-bendingly awful, the way those of some other YA contemporary novels are.

The most compelling aspect of the novel is definitely the main character and her voice. Amanda is wonderfully portrayed and her voice is clear and distinct. Additionally, If I Was Your Girl manages to be an issue book that doesn’t read as a thinly veiled lesson as so many do. Yes, Amanda is a trans girl and this is the entire point of the book, but it’s also a very sweet love story and a story about friendship and familial love. I adored this about the book, because it’s hard to find a book about anything that’s vaguely ‘issues-ish’ without it reading something like a print version of the Lifetime movies we have to watch in ninth grade health class. Props to the author for writing a book about an important topic without making it overly didactic or preachy, but allowing it to stand alone as a love story and a story about family and finding your place in the world.

I was incredibly disappointed with this novel for several reasons. The first was that few characters besides Amanda got much, if any, development. While I am aware that the story revolves around Amanda and her struggles, it would have been nice to see the supporting characters get fleshed out as more than “the nice guy,” “the supportive and unconditionally loving parent,” “the parent who’s learning to be supportive”, “the jock who’s secretly a lesbian,” “the jealous quirky artist,” “the nasty homophobic guy,” “the fashionista,” etc. My other, larger complaint about the novel was the treatment of the supporting character Bee. [SPOILER] To spoil the climax of the novel, Bee, Amanda’s first friend at her new school, develops a crush on her and outs Amanda in front of the entire school at Homecoming when Amanda rejects her advances. This is not the only thing Bee does, but I’m going to be quite vague so as to not spoil things. This would be less of an issue for me plot-wise if Bee’s treatment by the author didn’t swing so close to the Psycho Lesbian trope. Bee outs Amanda because she’s been rejected by the other girl, and considering some of her other actions, she pretty much perfectly fits this trope. The only thing that keeps her from fitting is that the narrative states that Bee is pansexual. However, she’s only ever shown in-story to be attracted to girls, so it still sits uncomfortably close to this trope. For a novel about acceptance, belonging, and LGBTQA+ issues, use of this trope, however unintentional it may have been, really rubs me the wrong way.

While I was not hugely fond of this book, there were parts I really loved, and it is a good read until the climax of the story. For similar books, I point people in the direction of Wandering Son, a manga which follows two trans kids from the end of elementary school to the beginning of high school. Fans of that series would probably also enjoy If I Was Your Girl. –Ella W.,16


Amanda is the new girl in town, and boys seem to be all over her as soon as she walks into the hallways of her new high school. But Amanda has a secret, a secret that might just keep her from starting a relationship with the boy she likes. Because only two years earlier, Amanda had been an Andrew, and had looked not a bit like how she looked now.

I liked the cover. It kinda gave me a sense of mystery, and I wanted to know more about what was inside.

The plot was awesome. I loved the story, and I liked how it informed kids of the topic of being transgender. I thought the characters were pretty well-rounded, although I wish they had all been a little more unique and different from each other. I also liked the writing style, but at some points throughout the book, things were a little confusing, but they were shortly cleared up further into reading, which was nice. I also liked how Russo switched from the present to the past, adding new pieces of the story to complete a full picture of Amanda’s life before she came to her new home.

I was only confused with how Amanda’s father knew where Grant lived, because I don’t recall Amanda ever telling him where Grant’s home was, and I’m pretty sure Grant said Amanda was the only one who had ever seen his house. So that was just a little unclear, I might have missed something earlier on, though. –Zoe D., 13

SCHNEIDER, Erin. Summer of Sloane. Disney-Hyperion. May 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781484725252.
Gr 8 Up–If you are looking for a fun and flirty yet compelling story, Summer of Sloane is just what you should read. Sloane’s story is something that brings readers in, and as they get further and further into it, they won’t want to put it down.

I thought it was a good all-around book. I loved the dynamic between the characters. I thought the development of Sloane was awesome and very realistic.

I think the cover of the book is fun, and flirty… like the book. But I think the book has more depth than you would originally think by looking at the cover. I think it needs to be said that this is more than a fun book, it also has depth! –Mackenzie C., 16       

summer of sloaneANOTHER TAKE

This book really told the story of the healing process that had to take place with the main character, Sloane, when her world is shattered. It just shows how your life can take a real turn and the people that you thought you knew can really hurt you and leave a big scar. Healing doesn’t just happen in a matter of moment or days, rather months being away to think it all the way through. This book does a really good job of showing the healing Sloane had to work through in her summer away from home.

The cover definitely was not right for this book. It wasn’t very eye-catching, and while it somewhat had to do with the story with the broken wrist, surfing wasn’t a major part of the book. This story is about heartbreak and healing, and I don’t feel that the cover reflected the solemnity of the book. I would have preferred a girl looking out at the sunset without seeing her face.

I liked how the story line was unpredictable. The way it ended really surprised me, and I really enjoyed seeing the healing process the main character had to go through. The pain and the heartbreak were definitely expressed in this story, and it made it really easy for me to connect with, and empathize with the main characters. It taught me the importance of not jumping to conclusions, and being responsible for your actions and the repercussions they could lead to. This story was inspiring about how you have to heal yourself, and how healing takes time—it doesn’t just happen overnight.

There were times where it felt a little over dramatic, and I thought we could have gotten to know a little bit more of Mick and Tyler’s side to the story.

The ending was really good, I just wished the author would have given a little epilogue of how Mick turned out, and Penn, and Sloane.—Jane E., 13          


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