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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

If I Tell

If I Tell by Janet Gurtler

Grade: / 5
Jasmine “Jaz” Evans is witness to something that could be the title of a Jerry Springer Show—her best friend Lacey making out with her mom’s boyfriend, Simon. Jaz wants to tell her mother, but finds out that she’s pregnant with Simon’s child. Keeping this secret inside her, Jaz goes about her life trying to deal with school, work, and trying to fit in as a biracial teenage girl. Even when hot Jackson Morgan insists she open up, Jaz doesn’t quite know how to let her barriers down.
As I was reading, I put little notes, a little less than 40. 3 of them were actually bookmarks. 4 more were typographical errors that my inner grammar freak found in the text (it’s an eBook, so it’s forgiven). All the others were me criticizing the characters or mentioning how creepy the love interest is or just asking myself why I thought this would be good. Good news: the majority of these notes were written during the first hundred pages of the book. More good news: they were “replied” to in the last half of the book. When I went back through to check my notes for the review, I realized I judged prematurely, which for me was an appreciated slap in the face.

Things I liked: the writing style (Jaz sounded like a seventeen year old), the plotline (no dull moments), some of the characters (favorite: Ashley the lesbian swimmer with dyed hair), and the characters’ hobbies (swimming, guitar playing, volunteering, etc).

Things I loved: the biracial-girl-trying-to-fit-in concept and the almost-rape scene. [Commence attempt to not spoil too much.] First, I think it’s important to know how a biracial person like Jaz feels about herself. When she argues with Tina, when she accidently explodes at Jackson, when she talks back to the nurse, even though she’s not necessarily doing the right thing, she is honest with herself for the first time. And maybe people like Tina and the nurse will read this novel and learn something and say “I really shouldn’t judge too quickly”. The second point I want to make is there’s a scene in this book that’s really important for teenage girls to understand. A boy can tell you he loves you, that you’re special and beautiful and the one for him, but that doesn’t mean you must open your legs. And if you don’t open your legs, and the boy gets mad and calls you a tease or whatever, do NOT blame yourself. It’s a piece of self-respect everyone should have.

Things I didn’t like: the main character, the love interest, the best friend and the believe-ablity. Jaz can’t handle her problems in a healthy way. The way Jaz avoided Lacey made me think she never liked her in the first place. Lacey, the BFF, just seems flat. When she tells Jaz her secret, I really think she could have mentioned that earlier. When Jaz asks Lacey why she didn’t tell her sooner, she says something like “I don’t talk about details” which is complete crap. I’m pretty sure if I had that secret, I’d tell someone like my best friend. But because Jaz doesn’t actually love her, they don’t have a true best friend relationship and the credibility of the story goes down the drain. I also dislike Jackson with a passion. Within days of meeting he’s super nice to Jaz, rescues her, pays attention only to her, gives her money for her guitar playing, drives her everywhere, and asks her to talk about feelings with him. He’s perfect. You know which other love interests are perfect? Twilight’s Edward, Fallen’s Daniel, and Hush Hush’s Patch. Perfect and not interesting. Also, like Lacey, Jackson has a secret that when he shares with Jaz and she asks him why he didn’t say something sooner, he says “I never got a chance to” or something. I went back to the beginning of the novel, pointed, and said “Here is where you mention it.”

The first half of the book bothered me, such that I wanted to give it 2 stars, but the second half was adventurous! So it gets a little extra overall. However, I won’t be recommending it to any one any time soon, and I’m probably not going to read anything else of Gurtler's.

Source: NetGalley, Sourcebooks eBook


  1. Hmm. It seems like a so-so situation. I did like I'm Not Her, and for some reason, I thought that If I Tell was a sequel to the book. The recent blog tour has proved otherwise :P

  2. I would be very surprised if it was a sequel. Most young adult contemporary novels are not. However, I wouldn't be surprised if there was a sequel to If I Tell, since there's still some unanswered questions.

  3. Hey there, new follower here!

    Though the premise sounds really interesting, I think I'm still on the fence on this one. Ditto that the grammar errors would tweak my internal editor too. But that aside, if the MC and supporting character aren't strong enough to carry a character-driven book, then the whole thing could be a mess. So, I might hold off on this one for a while.

    Thanks for the honest review!