Book Reviews

[review] If I Tell – Janet Gurtler


Release Date: October 1, 2011
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Age Group: Young Adult
Pages: 256
Format: Paperback
Source: ARC from Raincoast Books

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?

Discovery: I’d been eyeing this book for a few days when the lovely Raincoast Books publicist sent it to me for review. I don’t tend to come across books with non-white characters (and that’s an issue that would take another long blog post to address), so I made a point to set aside time for this one.

+     Character development. Jasmine is a prickly character, and so are many of her family members and friends. No one in this book is a straightforward “goodie” or “baddie,” though Jasmine discovers that in the course of the story. A writing professor once told me that a good story is one in which change occurs naturally, because the characters learn to integrate it into their lives. Jasmine doesn’t have an easy time of it, but she tries, and that’s what drives the story forward. She is a curious and brave girl, who can’t seem to see her own self-worth, which I will admit made the story a little difficult to read. However, I did see her potential and I’m glad that I stuck around to see her grow into a more mature young woman.

+    Themes. I address this issue a bit reluctantly, because I don’t want to get into the whole mess surrounding racial discrimination and prejudice. That’s something I’m not comfortable discussing on the internet, because words on a screen can’t project actual expressions or tone. It’s too easy to fall into awkward situations or involuntary rudeness.

That said, I will tell you–in the interest of full disclosure–that I have experienced racism. I am very familiar with the walls that Jasmine builds around herself and the fears that she pretends she doesn’t have. There were times when reading this book became really uncomfortable, not because of the characters, but the emotions that their experiences dredged up in me. Not every reader is going to be as affected as I was, but Jasmine’s story will ring true for anyone who’s “different” and is treated that way.

I also loved how Gurtler wrote about loyalty and its importance in Jasmine’s life. She places stock in kindness and compassion, though like any other human being, Jasmine doesn’t always make the right decisions. Above all else, this book is about a girl who is trying, step by step, to figure out who she is regardless of colour, family and friends.

Recommendations: Readers of any age will appreciate Jasmine’s signature voice and clear-eyed view of the world around her.

Rating: Very good.

Go visit Janet Gurtler at her website and follow her on Twitter @janetgurtler.

You can check out If I Tell onGoodreads and order it over at Amazon and Book Depository.

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2 replies »

  1. Glad you enjoyed it! I really thought it was well written. I’ve had that kind of personal reaction to a few different books before and it’s almost painful, but amazing at the same time because you know someone else has felt that way at a certain point and it’s good that it’s out there for teens to realize the same thing, and also to make people aware that things like racism or bullying (or whatever the issue is) do happen.

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