Title: If I Tell
Author: Janet Gurtler
From the Publisher: Her best friend and her mom's boyfriend. Locking lips. This is the secret Jasmine Evans has to keep at all costs. Because her mom is pregnant, and Jaz doesn't want to ruin her life--again. (Just being born did it the first time.) But the harder Jaz tries to pretend everything is okay, the faster her life spins out of control. Until Jackson. He doesn't care about the popularity of her friends or the color of her skin. But can she really trust a guy who just transferred from reform school? She might be willing to chance the heartbreak, but telling him everything and risking the truth getting out is a whole other level of scary.
I hereby declare November the “coming of age” month! It seems everything I’m reading right now is a coming of age story.
If I Tell, by Janet Gurtler, was yet another book I read in a single sitting. Jaz’s story is one I can’t really relate to personally – I’m not biracial, though I am intimately familiar with living in a conservative town (I was born and raised in the Bible belt), and I wasn’t raised by a grandparent (though interestingly enough, my brother was). Despite the obvious disconnect between myself and the main character, I found myself feeling as if I were in her shoes repeatedly throughout the story. That is the mark of a great writer, to me. When I can disappear from reality and wholly enter the world in the novel, I know the writer has done an amazing job.
Despite those high marks of praise, I chose to give If I Tell only 4/5 stars because there were times where I was thrust back into the real world with thoughts of “her struggles are really just over the top”. But then I felt guilty for thinking such things because I’ve never actually had to experience the things she has – maybe they were entirely realistic and my life of privilege covers my eyes. Though the summary leads you to believe that the secret Jaz is keeping to protect her mom is the main theme in the book, it’s not. Jaz’s race and ethnicity is definitely the focal point. As a biracial teenager, she feels alone and as if she doesn’t belong. Some of these feelings are justified, but Jaz often distances herself from people because of things that happened to her in the past. That’s a feeling I certainly understand.
I’m also a big sucker for happy endings, which definitely contributes to the 4/5 rating.