Monday, November 07, 2011

Review: If I Tell by Janet Gurtler

Title: If I Tell
Author: Janet Gurtler
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Release date: October 1st 2011
Pages: 256
Genre: Contemporary YA
Source: NetGalley - thank you to the publisher and to NetGalley for providing a free eGalley of this book!
More info: Amazon ; Goodreads
Goodreads description:
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?

First sentence:
My heart raced as I stumbled down the steps.

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

I loved Janet Gurtler's debut, I'm Not Her, so I was really excited for If I Tell. (Also, I'm kind of in love with Sourcebooks Fire. Their covers and their whole design is gorgeous.) But even though everything about If I Tell is good, I couldn't really connect to Jaz, the main character, and that made it hard for me to get into the story.

The writing, like in I'm Not Her, is great. Janet Gurtler has a way with words that works really well in contemporary YA, and I love her style.

The plot is good too - much better, in my opinion, than the description makes it out to be. Honestly, the description sounds kind of soap-opera-y, but that's not the case at all. If I Tell is not only about Jaz not knowing whether or not to keep Simon and Lacey's secret or to tell her mother - there are loads of interesting storylines. There are so many issues addressed in this book - alocoholism, sexual abuse, homosexuality, racism, and many more I don't want to list in order not to spoil it for you. They're all addressed with great subtlety, which is something I always love.

The secondary characters are great. They're multi-dimensional, flawed and realistic.There's Lacey, Jaz's ex-best friend who deals with her issues by drinking and sleeping around; Ashley, a spunky lesbian swimmer who tries to get Jaz to see herself for who she really is (I really loved Ashley); Jackson, whose issues I don't want to talk about because I don't want to spoil it for anyone, but whom I also loved (he's adorably sweet to Jaz); Simon, who starts out seeming like an ass but whom I could kind of understand later on; and Jaz's mom, who's also an interesting character, but again, I don't want to spoil the book for you guys so I won't say anything more about her. All of the secondary characters have their own issues, making this a realistic and interesting set of characters.

The only character I had a problem with is Jaz. That's not to say she's a bad character - she's well-written and fully-developed. But I just couldn't connect with her. Yeah, she's had it rough, but I couldn't really connect with her issues with being biracial. I don't want to sound mean or ignorant or anything, but... Is it really that big a deal? I know there are places where people are less tolerant than where I live, but it can't be the only thing people notice about someone, in today's world, can it? Yes, having to deal with that for all her life must have been difficult for Jaz, but I got kind of annoyed by how she let that define her whole person, how she just assumed no one could like her because of her color. Her immaturity in general kind of annoyed me - I got upset reading about how she couldn't deal with her issues and lashed out at everyone else because of it.

Maybe giving this book 'only' three stars is unfair, since the only real problem I had with If I Tell is my lack of connection with the main character. (Honestly, though, I'm kind of sick of star ratings in general...) But not being able to connect with Jaz made me feel somewhat removed from the story throughout, which means I couldn't enjoy it as much as I would have liked to. Still, I recommend you give this book a try - the writing, the plot, the characters, everything about it is good. And connecting with a character is different for everyone. So, I do recommend If I Tell, but since I liked I'm Not Her better I'd recommend reading I'm Not Her first, if you haven't read anything by Janet Gurtler.


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