Thursday, October 6, 2011

If I Tell by Janet Gurtler

If I Tell
Janet Gurtler
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Released: October 1, 2011
Genre: Contemporary
Pages: 256
Source: Netgalley
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?
Janet Gurtler first made it onto my radar earlier this year around the time of her debut release, I'm Not Her. The cover caught my eye, but the synopsis had me hooked. And while I still haven't gotten the chance to read it, I jumped on the opportunity to read her second novel, If I Tell. Jaz has a rough time fitting in at school - being the only biracial teen in town sort of does that to a person. Jaz's closest friends are Lacey, an older wild-child, and Simon, her mother's boyfriend. Lacey is in no place to judge her, and Simon, being black, understands what it's like to be surrounded by racial prejudices. But Jaz's world comes crumbling down when she finds the two people she's always turned to making out at a party.

Jaz finds herself alienated from the only two people who really "get" her. While Jaz's secret is certainly a large part of this story, it is more importantly a journey of self-discovery - which the synopsis unfortunately doesn't imply. If I Tell is more about Jaz's struggle with being different, being alone, and feeling betrayed by those closest to her, and not just Lacey and Simon.

This is the first book I've read that deals with a biracial teen and the struggles she faces. I think it's a very important point of view for today's teens, and I hope to see more of them. I would recommend this for anyone with a similar ethnic background, although one doesn't need to be mixed or even a minority to relate to Jasmine. She is a very empathetic character who would appeal to most. Her personal journey is pretty incredible - the growth she shows is great yet realistic. I was impressed by this story's authenticity - something that is über important in contemporary lit.

Gurtler's writing is spot-on. She beautifully captures Jaz's self-loathing. I must admit this was laid on a little thick at times, but I just had to remind myself that teens are often dramatic and prone to pity parties. (I was.) I didn't love this story as much as I'd hoped, but it was an engaging read that brought light to some important issues. I'm still looking forward to reading I'm Not Her along with Janet's upcoming title, Just Breathe.

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