26 October 2011

YA Book Review: If I Tell by Janet Gurtler

Release Date: 1 October 2011
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

Goodreads description:
Jasmine Evans knows one thing for sure... people make mistakes. After all, she is one. Jaz is the result of a onenight 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?
My Thoughts...

As someone who is generally wary of contemporary YA reads, simply because it's not a genre that I widely enjoy, I was incredibly intrigued by this story and began rather cautiously.  What I discovered: Ms. Gurtler's writing is phenomenal.  Her skill with words creates a realistic image of a teenager struggling through a crisis and pulls you along for the ride.  I noted early on that this book had the "train wreck" effect--you know that something terrible is going to happen yet you can't make yourself look away.  I found myself so incredibly immersed in the story that this was definitely true--I couldn't look away and I had to keep turning the pages.

Jasmine is a more complex character than I expected from the book's description and throughout the course of the story, she is dealing with a lot more than "just" seeing her mom's boyfriend kissing her best friend. She perpetually engaged in a sort-of inner battle about what it really means to be half-black, half-white in a very white school/town.  This search for a self-identity really comes to a head throughout the book and is compounded by the event she witnessed because until then Simon, the boyfriend, was there for her, helping her come to terms with her identity.

One of the things that bothered me a little was the way that Jasmine treated her friends, and I'm not talking about the friend who made out with her mom's boyfriend.  I'm talking about Ashley and Jackson.  Ashley, IMO, is Jaz's REAL best friend. She's a tough chick and I found myself wishing that she would just up and b*tch slap Jaz for me--more than once.  Jaz doesn't treat her like the awesome friend that she is, so I was definitely happy to see their friendship take more of a forefront as the story came to a close and Jaz left behind a dysfunctional friendship with Lucie.  Jackson is a majorly cute love-interest with a history all his own. I was cheering for him from basically the second that I met him.  He goes to such great lengths to really connect with Jaz and he's simply fabulous.  Yet here again we have Jaz pushing away a good friend.  She goes so far as to completley tear into him at one point and says some incredibly hurtful things.  I was so hurt for Jackson.

What really shines in this story, for me, is the emotions that Ms. Gurtler drags you through.  You'll experience hurt, hatred, confusion, empathy, sympathy, love--you name it and I bet this story can make you feel it.  These intensely real emotions combined with the well-craft, highly engaging story will keep you turning the pages with a real sense of urgency.


Brandileigh2003 said...

Great review. I liked too how their friendship grew and came to the surface more. 

Ivana Maric said...

I completely agree with your review, If I Tell is so much more than the synopsis may imply-and sadly, in many cases it's the other way round...I absolutely loved this book, glad you enjoyed it too :)

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