Title: If I Tell
Author: Janet Gurtler
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Pages: Paperback; 256
Release Date: October 1, 2011
Intended Reading Group: Young Adult
Content Screening: Mild language
HDB Rating: 5 Keys to My Heart
Recommended to: Readers who enjoy realistic fiction with a lot of heart.
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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?
Jaz has secrets. Deep secrets that she is afraid to share with anyone else. After all, she has been let down and ostracized before. Who's to say that by letting anyone new in it won't happen again? Cue a story that is stunningly written, and heartrendingly intriguing. From page one I was involved in Jaz's life. I read long into the night, unwilling to stop until I flipped that very last page.
One of the reasons I've fallen in love with contemporary fiction is how amazing and real the characters can be. In If I Tell, Janet Gurtler shows this beautifully with each character that she builds. Jaz and the people around her are all vivid depictions of teenage life. In fact, Jaz herself is a character that I don't see very often but hope to see more of. Raised by her grandmother in a small, and rather racially prejudice, town Jaz has it tough. She constantly feels bullied by her peers, and doesn't feel like she really fits in anywhere. For Jaz, being biracial isn't something to be proud of. It's just another bump in her road to fitting in and leading a "normal" life.
To add it it all, her life happens to be populated with some rather interesting and unique people. There's Lacey, an older girl whose promiscuity and drinking habits hide a dark past. There's Simon, the boyfriend that Jaz isn't sure her mother should have, especially after what she witnessed. Then there is sweet Jackson. The boy who is labeled a "bad boy" by all the people around him, but who doesn't quite seem to fit the bill. Each one of these characters leads Jaz on her road to self-discovery, and helps her learn that what is on the outside is only a small part of what a person truly is.
Truth be told, this book deals with a lot of really tough themes that I think need to be addressed for teens. Janet Gurtler doesn't sugar coat anything at all, which I really admired her for. Racial prejudice, broken families, and isolation are all addressed in this book. Jaz's life isn't easy, and it's through this struggle that we get to see her grow. However things aren't all stormy. There are also themes of love, self-worth, and even understanding woven in as well. If I Tell is a delightfully balanced book from start to finish. It's the type that will have you smiling one moment, and tearing up the next.
Overall this was a quick, sweet, and amazing read. As I said I read it straight through and loved every minute of it! Jaz is a character that I really fell in love with. I hope to see more like her, and thank Janet Gurtler for letting me meet her in the first place.
FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.