31 pages 1 hour read

Meredith Russo

If I Was Your Girl

Fiction | Novel | YA | Published in 2016

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Summary and Study Guide


Meredith Russo’s 2016 young adult novel, If I Was Your Girl, focuses on the experiences of Amanda, an 18-year-old trans girl going through her senior year in a new school.

A few critics point out what Russo herself acknowledges in an author’s note that follows the text: the novel glosses over some of the obstacles faced by most trans teens—the protagonist has no issues passing, is able to get gender-confirming surgery at a very young age without financial difficulties, and finds a completely accepting community in the rural south. Nevertheless, the book addresses the trans experience with sensitivity and the first-person knowledge that comes from the author’s own experiences with her trans identity. The novel is considered a landmark work for the trans community. If I Was Your Girl won the Young Adult Stonewall Book Award and the Walter Dean Myers Award for Outstanding Children’s Literature in 2017.

Plot Summary

Eighteen-year-old Amanda Hardy moves from Atlanta, Georgia to the small town of Lambertville to live with her dad just before starting her senior year in high school. The novel follows two time frames: Amanda’s life before the move, and her present day.

Amanda was born Andrew, but by the age of eight realized that she is trans. With the help of her understanding and supportive parents, Amanda gets hormone therapy early enough to offset the effects of puberty. Eventually, her parents take out a loan for Amanda’s gender confirmation top and bottom surgery.

In some ways, Amanda is quite lucky: unlike her friend and trans mentor, Virginia, she has “won the genetic lottery when it comes to passing.” But, by high school, her parents are divorced, and Amanda has been living with her mother in Atlanta where she is subject to horrible bullying. After a particularly vicious attack in a mall bathroom, Amanda becomes so depressed that she is at risk of suicide. Her parents decide that she should move away from Atlanta to Lambertville, a place where no one will know her history.

Eager for a fresh start, Amanda decides not to tell anyone in her new school that she is a transgender girl. At the beginning of the year, she makes friends with Anna, Layla, and Chloe, a group of popular girls delighted by how pretty and fun she is. She also becomes close to Bee, an openly bisexual girl with whom Amanda feels an LGBTQ kinship. Bee is the first person in Lambertville High School that Amanda tells about her transition.

Amanda starts dating Grant, a handsome and kind football player. As they fall in love, Grant shares his own secret: he works several jobs to support his poor family. Unable to tell him about herself in person, Amanda writes Grant a letter explaining that she is trans. After reading it, he tells her that he loves her so much that nothing could change his feelings about her.

Despite all of these positive interactions, Amanda’s father is worried that she will end up trusting the wrong person with her truth. Amanda sticks up for the love she and Grant share, Grant has asked her to homecoming with a complex “promposal.” She goes shopping for homecoming dresses with the girls. Before the dance, her new group of friends nominates her for homecoming queen.

The dance is lovely, and Amanda wins homecoming queen. Later in the evening, she is confronted in the bathroom by a drunk Bee who comes on to her aggressively. After Amanda rejects her, Bee runs out into the dance and announces to the whole school that Amanda was born Andrew.

Shocked and heartbroken, Amanda runs away from the dance, followed by a tongue-tied Grant. Walking home alone, she is attacked by another football player, Parker, who mocks her and then sexually assaults her. Chloe and Layla find them and scare Parker away before taking Amanda home. There, Amanda’s dad assumes that it was Grant who hurt Amanda, and he storms away to Grant’s house to confront him. The girls follow and witness Amanda’s dad yelling at Grant, and Grant’s mother threatening to call the police.

Horrified by the whole situation, Amanda returns to Atlanta. But there, she realizes that she wants to finish out her senior year in Lambertville. When she returns to school, she is welcomed back warmly by her friends. The novel ends as Amanda and Grant discuss the future of their relationship, unsure of what it will be.