Publication Date: October 2011
Publisher: Sourcebooks Inc.
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Pages: Paperback, 256pp
(Received for an honest review from Sourcebooks Fire)
Purchase: Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound
Janet Gurtler on the WEB: website, blog, facebook, twitter
"It was like watching a train wreck. I wanted to look away but couldn't take my eyes off them."
If only... if only I hadn't gone to that party. I never would have seen what I did. Jackson wouldn't have driven me home. I wouldn't have started to fall for a guy just out of reform school. I could go back to pretending everything was normal. I wouldn't be keeping a secret from my mom that could blow our family apart...
Author Janet Gurtler's second YA contemporary novel is just as emotionally gripping as her first. If I Tell focuses on a young girl who is struggling with a secret that threatens to tear her life apart. Gurlter is a writer who has a gift for getting into the teenage mind. She is able to voice the angst and heart felt betrayal that Jasmine feels and to show readers the depth of Jasmine's inner struggle. Gurtler's writing is very provocative and will cause readers to really think about what they are reading. She deals with some heavy issues but is able to keep the book feeling light, though full of emotion.
Gurtler's characters are very well fleshed out and take center stage in this character driven novel. Jasmine isn't the easiest character to like. She has some pretty big stumbling blocks to overcome and she is somewhat defensive and raw. Being a bi-racial teen in small town America is anything but sweet and Jasmine has not had it easy. From being bullied in school to the even more hurtful situation of her mother's abandonment, this is a character that is real and honest. One thing that I truly appreciate about Gurtler's writing is that she doesn't shy away from the hard issues and racism is certainly a tough one. Jasmine's struggle to find her own identity is even more skewed when she witnesses her mother's boyfriend Simon, someone who has a had a big influence on her, kissing her own best friend. The betrayal she feels is palpable and gives this book a very authentic and real feel to it.
Finding out her mother is pregnant with Simon's baby prevents Jasmine from telling her mom about what she has seen. But it grinds away at her and starts to effect every relationship she has in her own life. Secondary characters that really shine in this book include, Jasmine's love interest, Jackson. When Jasmine starts to withdraw is becomes obvious that she and Jackson will have trouble. He goes out of his way to show the depth of his feeling for her, but when she continues to push him away it's hard to know how to feel toward Jasmine. A couple of times I wanted to shake her out of this funk she gets herself into, but I think that attests to how much Gurtler is able to make the reader feel in this novel.
The racial issues are written about with great dignity and clarity. Gurtler isn't trying to point fingers or call certain groups out. She is just mirroring the inner struggles of this young girl against the struggles society has with tolerance, acceptance and just getting along. I thought the author was very open and forthcoming about how her racial heritage affected Jasmine and the struggles she faced on a daily basis. Being bi-racial Jasmine had a hard time with where she fit into the scheme of things. Though there are also issues with her mother and how she is basically abandoned by her and some issues with friendships and romance, the major focus of the novel is on how Jasmine learns her place in this world and I think YA readers and adults alike will appreciate Gurtler's attention to detail, snappy dialogue and overall grasp of the subject.
I recommend this one to YA readers and adults who love good character driven contemporary stories that don't skirt the issues but let them take center stage. This is an emotional story. It will definitely make readers do some soul searching and thinking about how they get along with others and how they view people of mixed races. The characters are well drawn and full of insight into today's teenage world. I liked it a lot and I think you will too.
If I Tell is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.
I'm giving this one 4 out of 5 apples from my book bag!
Janet Gurtler lives in Calgary, Canada, deliciously close to the Canadian Rockies, with her husband, son, and the memories of a sweet little dog named Meeko. Janet does not live in an igloo or play hockey, but she does love maple syrup and says "eh" a lot.