Sunday, October 30, 2011

Review: If I Tell by Janet Gurtler

If I Tell
by Janet Gurtler
October 1, 2011
Received from NetGalley
Goodreads Page
Amazon Page
Grade: A

Jasmine Evans knows one thing for sure... people make mistakes. After all, she is one. Jaz is the result of a one-night stand between a black football player and a blonde princess. Having a young mother who didn't raise her, a father who wants nothing to do with her and living in a small-minded town where she's never fit in hasn't been easy. But she's been surviving. Until she sees her mom's new boyfriend making out with her own best friend. When do you forgive people for being human or give up on them forever?

I read Gurtler’s I’m Not Her and enjoyed it, but I wasn’t blown away.  (And since it’s a cancer book, I didn’t review it.)  Still I was looking forward to If I Tell and was terribly excited when I received permission to read it through NetGalley.

Let me tell you, if Janet Gurtler improves upon If I Tell as much as she improved from I’m Not Her to If I Tell, that third book is going to be the best book ever written.  If I Tell absolutely blew me away in every sense.  The main character, Jaz, had an amazing, incredibly believable character arc, the supporting characters all read as real, fully-developed people in their own right, and the writing was searing and honest that a way we don’t often get to see.

Jaz is a good example of a character that I didn’t always like but I loved anyway.  The book begins as she’s possibly just witnessed the straw that may cause her to wall herself off from people forever - the utter betrayal of her mom’s boyfriend making out with Jaz’s best friend, and the rest of the story is her deciding how to react.  I can’t say I enjoyed watching her reactions because some of it was so very painful, but they were very realistic and just made my heart hurt. 

I also appreciated the examination of her race and the repercussions of both being biracial and the only biracial girl in her school.  Jaz’s feeling of never really belonging anywhere was clear, and her discomfort in her own identity came through in a sometimes uncomfortable reading experience.  I probably say this every time I get to read a book with a non-white protagonist, but young adult lit is so whitewashed, that I’m always happy to see someone addressing issue.  To have Gurtler really examine the issue in such a skillful way is an even bigger bonus.  Someday I’d like to read a book with a non-white protagonist and feel like it happens often enough that I don’t even need to comment!

In a less weighty issue, I adored adored the love interest in this book.  Jackson is both a great character and utterly wonderful.  He reminded me in the best ways of one of Sarah Dessen’s love interests.  And that’s a high compliment from me because I love me some Dessen boys.  He also is more than “just” the love interest.  He’s definitely a three-dimensional character who’s respectful, totally sweet to his mother, and someone trying to rebuild his life after his own mistakes.

So yes, this is seriously a great book.  It’s not always the easiest to read because of the emotions brought up, and Jaz probably will make you want to shake her as she works through her plot (seriously, Jaz, call your friends! That’s what they’re there for!), but it’s really, really good.  I’d recommend it to anyone looking for an excellent contemps read with very interesting and relevant themes.

Thank you to NetGalley and Sourcefire Books for allowing me to read this book!

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