Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Publish Date: October 1, 2011
Genre: Young Adult
Synopsis: 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?
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I saw If I Tell as I was browsing NetGalley. The synopsis grabbed me and I felt that the story of Jasmine would be one that I could relate to. But what I got out of the story was much more than I had ever hoped. This is not your average book about a girl who falls in love. It’s not even about a girl who discovers she has magical powers. More than anything, this book is about truth, knowledge, and how it will set you free.
If I Tell by Janet Gurtler is about Jasmine Evans, or as she prefers, Jaz. Jaz lives in a town where diversity is not greatly appreciated. She doesn’t feel like she belongs anywhere, nurturing her behavior to be an outcast. Jaz doesn’t have many friends; she only has two, and one of them has betrayed her. Jaz now has to keep a secret to herself. She can’t tell anyone, especially not her estranged mother. Her world is already hanging by mere threads, and if the secret got out, even that could unravel.
Everything is against Jaz, and because of that she has a lot of frustration and hatred that has built inside of her. She doesn’t know how to properly love or trust anyone, and she doesn’t let anyone inside. No wonder she is so full of angst. I would be too if I went through what she has been through.
Her mother had Jaz at a young age, a popular blonde beauty who loved the popular football player. And even though I didn’t want to say it, race plays a big part in this story. Jaz has a white mother and a black father. She is ostracized because of it. She does not know her father because of it. And while her mother didn’t disown her, neither did she raise Jaz, her grandparents did.
Jaz was so easy to relate to. I grew up as a minority when I was young, and while I do not experience that now as much as I did back then, it still hurts. And the pain and sorry that I felt, Gurtler captured each moment with beautiful words. Jaz is strong, but so vulnerable to everything around her. But could I blame her? Definitely not. She was alone, and the only one that she felt she could turn to, had betrayed her.
I really liked this story. It was sad and emotional in all the right moments, and light and funny in others. There was a good balance of emotions felt throughout the book, so I didn’t feel like I needed to cry it out. Well, I did cry, but all for the right reasons. The pacing of the beginning was a little slow, but it quickly picked up to this quick and comfortable pace. The lessons that are weaved in the words on the pages were strong but not overpowering.
All of the supporting characters played important roles to the development of Jaz’ character and personality. I wish I had a grandma as strong as Jaz’. I’m glad that Gurtler wrote her the way she did. She is the tough love that I wish a lot of protagonists have. Jaz’ mom was someone who I didn’t particularly love, but I’m sure that is the role that she was supposed to play. Gurtler described her as a princess and I suppose she never grew out of the role. And then there is Jackson. Jackson isn’t the white knight that scoops Jaz up and whisks her away. Instead, Jackson is the peek into reality that Jaz so desperately needs. He is the voice of reason trapped inside a hot, young boy.
If I Tell talks about a lot of serious topics but is told in a very beautiful way. Keep an open mind when you read this book. Put yourself in Jaz’ shoes and imagine the town and mentality of everyone. And before you start making assumptions and judging, finish the story and then gather your thoughts. It is a great read and will give young readers something to think about.