My Top 5 Book Buzzwords

Happy Tuesday! Today I thought it would be fun to share with you my top five book buzzwords. These are the words or phrases that, when used to describe a book, prompt me to pick it up as soon as possible. The cool thing about buzzwords is that they can fit into multiple genres. For example, you can find some of my buzzwords in fantasy, contemporary, science fiction, mystery, and more! This blog post will list my top buzzwords and provide a bit of an explanation as to why I get so excited to read books that fit into these categories. I will also share some books I recommend for each buzzword, so you can read them if you have not already.

My Top 5 Book Buzzwords!

5. Heart-wrenching Books

I love books that are extremely emotional, but it’s not enough for a book to just make me cry. If a book can provide me with well-developed characters who find themselves in really difficult situations, then I get sucked in easily.

4. Competition Stories

I will admit I’m a very competitive person, and I love to read about characters who are also battling against one another. The competition can be the central plot of the book, or one scene in a longer novel, but if there is any sort of competitive aspect advertised about a book, you bet I will give it a read.


3. Secret Societies

I am so intrigued with the idea of secret societies, whether they exist in a world like our own, or in a fantasy world. There is just something so interesting about this concept to me. Perhaps it’s the idea that they are hiding in plain sight and have so much power over mainstream society without anyone knowing it.


2. Cults / Fundamentalist Religions

Similar to secret societies are books about cults or fundamentalist religions. I haven’t read too many books in this category yet, but I love television shows and movies about this topic. I think it is fascinating to learn about people who grow up in fundamentalist religions, but I also like to learn about those who get sucked into a cult later in life. I have a lot of books on my to read list that fit this category!

1. Unreliable Narrators

Finally, my most-loved book buzzword is an unreliable narrator. I love when books are written in the first-person, and you don’t know whether you can trust the character and anything he may tell you. Sometimes it is apparent from the start that a narrator may be lying to you, but it’s even better when a plot twist comes in to show the narrator’s deceitfulness to you as a reader.


That wraps up my top five book buzzwords! I hope you enjoyed learning more about my reading habits, while at the same time getting some book recommendations from me. I would love to know in the comments if you have any book buzzwords. You can also let me know if you have any book recommendations that fit my categories of choice. I’m always excited to learn more about the books you all love!

This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. See my Disclosure Policy for more information.

Zoya Nail Polish Urban Grunge Collection for Fall 2016 | Creams

Happy Monday! Today I am beyond excited to bring you a review of the new Zoya Nail Polish collection for this fall. Grunge is super trendy this year, and Zoya made sure to put a modern spin on this old school style with the Urban Grunge nail polish line. The full collection contains six cream formulas and six metallic holographic formulas. I will be sharing swatches of the creams with you in this post, and make sure to stay tuned for the holographic polishes on Wednesday.

Zoya Nail Polish Urban Grunge Collection for Fall 2016 | CreamsZoya describes the Urban Grunge creams as one coat polishes. I agree that these polishes are highly pigmented, but I applied two coats of polish in all of the swatches seen here. If you use a thicker coat of polish, you will definitely be able to get away with one coat. However, I prefer to use two thin coats of polish to ensure a manicure that dries evenly. Either technique works, so choose what is better for you!

Zoya – Mallory Zoya – MalloryFirst up is Mallory, a bright blue polish that is definitely my favorite of the bunch. Mallory has an excellent formula that applies smoothly, but this richly pigmented polish will stain your nails, so make sure you wear a healthy layer of base coat. Mallory looks much lighter on Zoya’s website than it does in person, so keep that in mind. I used natural sunlight when photographing these swatches to ensure I got true-to-life pictures for all of you.

Zoya – August Zoya – August

Next up is August, a grey polish with blue undertones. August also has a great formula, and I think this grey shade will work well with many skin tones. Sometimes grey can be difficult to wear, but the blue undertones bring August to life. I can also see this paired with a glitter polish to dress it up a bit!

Zoya – Wyatt Zoya – Wyatt Another one of my favorites is Wyatt, a Hunter green shade. Wyatt has an amazing formula that is super smooth and shiny without a top coat needed. I absolutely love this polish color for the fall and winter months. It goes with all of the earthy clothing I’ll be wearing very soon!

Zoya – Courtney Zoya – Courtney Next up is Courtney, a deep burgundy polish. Country’s formula is a bit different from the rest of the Urban Grunge creams, and is more of a “crelly” (cream and jelly) formula. This shade is perfect for fall, and will work for nearly every situation. Courtney is great if you want a twist on the traditional red manicure.

Zoya – Tara Zoya – TaraTara is up next, and this is a deep purple shade. If you are looking for a richly pigmented plum, you should definitely check out Tara. The formula is excellent, and it looks beyond gorgeous on the nails. I think Tara will look stunning on everyone, and I can’t wait to wear this one again.

Zoya – Noah Zoya – NoahLast but not least is Noah, a warm taupe polish. Noah has a good formula, but I did find it to be a bit tacky. I recommend thin coats with this polish so you can achieve an even finish. If you work in a professional environment, or simply love neutral polishes, Noah is a great option for you.

All in all, I am really loving the cream polishes in Zoya’s Urban Grunge collection. You all know I am a huge fan of cream formulas, and Zoya has done it again with this line. I know I will be wearing Mallory and Wyatt quite often, plus I need more Tara in my life! Honestly, I recommend all of these shades, and am loving the rich pigmentation. You can purchase the Urban Grunge collection on Zoya’s website HERE. Each polish retails for $10, but keep an eye out for sales and coupons! Let me know your favorite polish in the Urban Grunge Collection in the comments!

The products in this post were provided for my unbiased review. All opinions are my own. See my Disclosure Policy for more information. 

$300 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway!

Happy Friday! I am so excited to announce my participation in an amazing collaborative giveaway with fellow bloggers! This time it is for another $300 Amazon Gift Card, and I couldn’t be more excited for you to enter. Whether you’re buying textbooks for school, food for your pantry, or a treat for yourself, this gift card will give one of you a nice shopping spree. Please remember to read through the rules below, and best of luck!


Prize: $300 Amazon Gift Card

Co-hosts: Jenns Blah Blah Blog // Coupons and Freebies Mom // Pretty Thrifty // A Better Me // The Mommyhood Mentor® // Taffeta & Tulips // Top Free Mmorpg 2017 // SWEETHAUTE // Surviving Mommy // Lauryncakes // A Wandering Vine // Novelstyle // A Labour of Life // It’s Naptime Somewhere // Bill Hiatt’s Author Website // It Girl Accessories // Heartfully Heather // Misadventures with Andi // Purple Patch DIY // The Sophisticated Life // Fashion Fairy Dust

Giveaway organized by: Oh My Gosh Beck!

Rules: Use the Rafflecopter form to enter daily. Giveaway ends 9/16 and is open worldwide. Winner will be notified via email.

Are you a blogger who wants to participate in giveaways like these to grow your blog? Click here to find out how you can join a totally awesome group of bloggers!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

MAKE Beauty Product Reviews | Face Primer + Molten Shadow in Bronze

Happy Friday! Today I am excited to review for you two products from the brand MAKE Beauty. I’ve tried a few products from MAKE in the past, and have really enjoyed them. I find that the beauty products offered are quite unique, but I also enjoy the company’s mission. MAKE is created in New York City, and donates 10% of sales to the We See Beauty Foundation, an organization supporting women-led and worker-owned cooperative businesses in the Americas. MAKE is also a cruelty free brand that offers a selection of vegan options. It’s always great to find a company that creates quality products, but is also focused on doing good in the world! Without further ado, let me share my thoughts on the Face Primer and the Molten Shadow in Bronze.

MAKE Beauty Product Reviews | Face Primer + Molten Shadow

Face Primer

MAKE Beauty Face PrimerFirst up is the Face Primer with Broad Spectrum SPF 30. This primer is formulated to correct your skin’s imperfections while protecting against the sun. It can be worn alone, or used as a base before applying foundation, and dries to a velvet finish. I really like this primer for its sunscreen benefits. I noticed that the product does have a slight sunscreen scent, but it’s not too strong and I can’t smell it once I’ve completed my makeup. My skin does appear more even after applying the primer, but I do wish it smoothed out my skin a bit more. I have large pores, and typically use a pore-filling primer to smooth out the skin. With the MAKE Face Primer, my pores are still quite visible under my foundation. Thus, while I love using this product as an everyday face sunscreen, I do wish it aided with smoothing out my imperfections a bit more. I recommend this for those of you who are looking more for an SPF than a perfecting primer.

Molten Shadow in Bronze

MAKE Beauty Molten Shadow in Bronze
MAKE Beauty Molten Shadow in Bronze
MAKE Beauty Molten Shadow in BronzeNext up I have the Molten Shadow in the shade Bronze. This eyeshadow is really unique, because it is a cream gel formula that can be worn in a variety of ways. The Molten Shadow can be worn in a very defined manner, or it can be blended out for a more subtle look. The trick is in choosing the right tool. I find that when I use my finger I get a defined and pigmented application, but an eyeshadow brush helps to smooth out harsh lines and disperse the product a bit more. My biggest tip with the Molten Shadow is to use the tiniest bit, as this eyeshadow really packs a punch! Plus, Bronze is a stunning metallic shade with green, gold, and bronze shimmer. Whether you’re creating a look for day or night, you can make this eyeshadow work for any occasion!

All in all, I am really enjoying these products from MAKE Beauty. MAKE is a boutique brand, so the prices are a bit higher than I typically spend, but I love to support small businesses in the United States whenever I can. You can shop MAKE on the brand’s website HERE. Definitely let me know in the comments if you’ve tried any products from MAKE, or if you plan on doing so in the future.

The products in this post were provided for my unbiased review. All opinions are my own. See my Disclosure Policy for more information. 

Book Review | If I Stay (If I Stay #1) by Gayle Forman

If I Stay (If I Stay #1) by Gayle Forman

Published by Speak on April 2, 2009

Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Format: Paperback

Pages: 261

Source: Purchased

Goodreads: ★ 1/2

The critically acclaimed, bestselling novel from Gayle Forman, author of Where She Went, Just One Day, and Just One Year.
Soon to be a major motion picture, starring Chloe Moretz!

In the blink of an eye everything changes. Seventeen year-old Mia has no memory of the accident; she can only recall what happened afterwards, watching her own damaged body being taken from the wreck. Little by little she struggles to put together the pieces- to figure out what she has lost, what she has left, and the very difficult choice she must make. Heartwrenchingly beautiful, this will change the way you look at life, love, and family. Now a major motion picture starring Chloe Grace Moretz, Mia’s story will stay with you for a long, long time.



I was hesitant to pick up If I Stay by Gayle Forman for a very long time after hearing such mixed reviews about this young adult novel. I finally got to it during this year’s Booktube-a-thon, and I am so glad I did. If I Stay follows teenager Mia when she and her family are in a devastating car crash. Her parents die in the crash, and her younger brother is critically injured. Mia is in a coma, but is having an out-of-body experience where she can see everything that is going on in the hospital, but cannot communicate with the friends and family members who come to visit her. Mia must decide whether she should stay and continue living without her parents, or whether she should let go and die. Readers follow Mia as she reflects on this decision, and shares moments of her life from the past to help make her choice.

When I first began the book, I was a little underwhelmed. I liked the characters and the story, but the writing seemed a bit simplistic. However, as I continued reading, I quickly became emotionally attached to the characters in the novel. Forman is an incredible storyteller. She has the ability to put so much feeling into the book without needing flowery writing. I teared up several times throughout If I Stay because of how well written the book is.

Similarly, I think the back-and-forth in time format works really well for this novel. It helped put me inside Mia’s headspace more, as I could understand her feelings by going into the past and reliving her memories. For example, I especially loved Mia’s grandfather, whom she calls Gramps. He is a quiet and gentle man, but one who plays a huge role in Mia’s life. I really connected with his character, and because we got to see him interact with Mia in her memories, what he does in the present is even more meaningful. Mia has a very special relationship with all of the people in her life, and it was really interesting to see these connections through her memories.

Moreover, I liked the way music plays a role in this novel. Mia is a classical cellist, and is very passionate about the music she plays. Her parents loved punk music, and her boyfriend plays in a punk band. Not only does music help the characters strengthen their relationships, but it also helps to build emotion in the reader. I think Forman used this element well in the book, because music is something many of us can connect with on a personal level, no matter what type of music we enjoy.

As for the ending of If I Stay, I did really enjoy it, but it also stops quite abruptly. I would have really liked just a bit more, perhaps in the form of an epilogue. There is a second book called Where She Went, and I will be reading that very soon to see if I get any answers.

Overall, I am surprised by how much I loved reading If I Stay. It is a short book, but it packs an emotional punch. I did watch the movie adaptation on Amazon Prime shortly after reading the book, and I liked that a lot, too. I highly recommend picking up the book first, though, as you get to know the characters a lot more. If you liked The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Album, I think you’ll enjoy this book as well. It created the same feeling within me as a reader, and gave me an inspirational and hopeful message on life. I will definitely be reading more books from Gayle Forman in the future!


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When you buy a book through the Amazon or Book Depository links above, I earn a small commission through each website’s affiliate program. All opinions are my own. See my Disclosure Policy for more information. 

Yes to Blueberries Age Refresh Intensive Skin Repair Serum Review

Happy Wednesday! Today I want to share my review of the Intensive Skin Repair Serum from the brand Yes to Blueberries. I’ve tried a handful of products from the Yes to brand in the past, and I’ve always really loved the results. After testing some of the new Yes to Coconut products earlier this year (see that blog post HERE), I decided to purchase some other skincare products I needed during a sale event at Target. I’ve now used the Intensive Skin Repair Serum for a couple months, and thought I would share my interesting experience with you.

Yes to Blueberries Age Refresh Intensive Skin Repair Serum ReviewThe Yes to Blueberries Age Refresh Intensive Skin Repair Serum is formulated to help reduce the look of fine lines and wrinkles. The serum includes 99% natural ingredients, such as organic cotton thistle, blueberries, and black current, to nourish and soften the skin. While I am in my mid-twenties, I purchased this serum because my skin can be quite dull and I do get fine lines due to dryness in certain ares of my combination skin. I also really like that I found an anti-aging product that doesn’t contain a lot of harsh chemicals.

Yes to Blueberries Age Refresh Intensive Skin Repair Serum ReviewWhile the Intensive Repair Serum can be used both day and night, I typically use it in the mornings only. I love that there is a pump top on this product, and I find that I only need about half a pump to get enough product to cover my entire face and neck area. The first thing I noticed about the serum is that it is a bit on the thick side. Less is definitely more with this serum, and I recommend giving it a few minutes to dry on your face before applying a moisturizer.

The first time I used this serum I ended up having a bad reaction. My skin broke out, and was extremely oily. I decided to discontinue use, and waited until my skin cleared up before testing it out again. I’m not sure what went wrong, but the next time I introduced the product into my skincare routine I didn’t have any issues whatsoever. I now use this serum about 3-4 days per week, and I love how hydrating it feels. I often don’t apply a moisturizer after this serum because my skin feels so smooth with just this product. I can’t say that any wrinkles or fine lines have been reduced by this product, but I can tell that my skin is glowing more and feels plumper. Thus, if you have dry or dull skin I think this is a good serum for you.

All in all, I am enjoying the Yes to Blueberries Age Refresh Intensive Skin Repair Serum. It is not the best serum I’ve ever used, but it a nice option from the drugstore. The full size 1oz bottle retails for just $13.59 at Target HERE, but keep an eye out for extra discounts via the Cartwheel app. I notice that Yes to shows up on Cartwheel quite frequently! I really like that Yes to provides not only affordable skincare, but skincare that is more natural as well. I know I will continue to try out more Yes to products in the future, so please share your favorites from this brand with me in the comments!

This post contains an affiliate link. All opinions are my own. See my Disclosure Policy for more information. 

Book Review | The First Time She Drowned by Kerry Kletter

The First Time She Drowned by Kerry Kletter

Published by Philomel Books on March 15, 2016

Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 352

Source: Library


Cassie O’Malley has been trying to keep her head above water—literally and metaphorically—since birth. It’s been two and a half years since Cassie’s mother dumped her in a mental institution against her will, and now, at eighteen, Cassie is finally able to reclaim her life and enter the world on her own terms.

But freedom is a poor match against a lifetime of psychological damage. As Cassie plumbs the depths of her new surroundings, the startling truths she uncovers about her own family narrative make it impossible to cut the tethers of a tumultuous past. And when the unhealthy mother-daughter relationship that defined Cassie’s childhood and adolescence threatens to pull her under once again, Cassie must decide: whose version of history is real? And more important, whose life must she save?

A bold, literary story about the fragile complexities of mothers and daughters and learning to love oneself, The First Time She Drowned reminds us that we must dive deep into our pasts if we are ever to move forward.


The First Time She Drowned by Kerry Kletter is one of those rare books that I think everyone should read. It follows eighteen-year-old Cassie as she checks herself out of the mental hospital where she’s lived for the past two-and-a-half years, and embarks on what she hopes will be a normal college life. Not only was I extremely intrigued with this premise, but I was immediately sucked in upon discovering that Cassie claims she doesn’t belong in the hospital. Instead, Cassie says, her mother put her there against her will for no reason.

I was absolutely sucked into this book from page one because of this gripping story. Part of me thought Cassie was hiding something, for what kind of parent puts her child in a mental hospital if there is nothing wrong? The other part, however, wondered if Cassie’s mother was truly the one with mental health issues. I flew through this book trying to piece together the truth.

In addition to the story, I fell in love with Kletter’s writing style. The First Time She Drowned is carefully crafted, and written both in the present and in flashbacks. The author paid very close attention to the role of water in this novel. Many of the metaphors have to do with water, and I am amazed with how well she used this tool to her advantage. The writing is quite lyrical, and at times very haunting. It created the perfect atmosphere for the story.

Moreover, The First Time She Drowned is a true family tragedy. Readers get to know Cassie and both her immediate and extended family as the story evolves. While there are many characters that I didn’t like, I empathized with them. I won’t go into detail about the family history, as I think it is better discovered through reading the book, but what I will say is that every character is suffering in his own way. My heart broke not only for Cassie, but for her mother as well.

Finally, the ending of the book took a different turn than I was expecting. However, that is not a bad thing. While The First Time She Drowned isn’t wrapped up in a pretty bow at the end, it left me hanging in a way that made me think. This is a very rereadable book, as the next time I pick it up I will have an entirely different mindset from the start. I truly appreciate how The First Time She Drowned discusses mental health in a raw way, and demonstrates how important it is to care for those around you while also taking care of yourself.

As you may be able to guess, I highly recommend picking up The First Time She Drowned. It is one of the best young adult contemporary novels I’ve read this year, and one of my few five-star ratings. If you love emotional books with unreliable narrators, then you will absolutely love this book. I know I will be reading whatever Kletter writes in the future.


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When you buy a book through the Amazon or Book Depository links above, I earn a small commission through each website’s affiliate program. All opinions are my own. See my Disclosure Policy for more information. 

ELF Cosmetics Luscious Liquid Lipstick in Pink Lemonade | Review & Swatches

Happy Monday! Today I have a review of a lip product I received as a free bonus item in my last ELF Cosmetics order (see everything I got HERE). I’ve never tried a lip product from ELF before, so I was really curious to see what the formula and quality of the Lucious Liquid Lipstick line is like. These lip products retail for the fabulous and affordable price of $1.00 each, so if the formula is good, I will definitely be purchasing some in the future. Let me share my thoughts and some swatches with all of you!

ELF Cosmetics Luscious Liquid Lipstick in Pink Lemonade | Review & SwatchesThe Luscious Liquid Lipstick line is formulated to provide a rich pigmentation along with lip hydration. Each shade comes in twist up packaging with a sponge-like applicator. I’m not the biggest fan of the applicator on this lip product. While it makes applying the lip color quite easy, it also traps a lot of product. I need to twist up the bottom several times to get a good amount of product out of the tube. It’s not too much of a hassle, but something I thought is worth mentioning.

ELF Cosmetics Luscious Liquid Lipstick in Pink Lemonade | Review & SwatchesI received the shade Pink Lemonade, which is a berry mauve shade with red and gold shimmer. While this is called a liquid lipstick, it is definitely more of a lip gloss. The product provides a nice pigmentation, but is definitely on the sheer side, and not opaque like a liquid lipstick. It also has a shiny formula that feels like a gloss. I really enjoy the feel of this product on the lips, but it is very helpful to know it is more of a gloss than a liquid lipstick. I also want to point out that the swatch of Pink Lemonade on ELF’s website is very different from the product in person. I recommend going to check out the products in-store before ordering online if you are looking for a particular shade.

ELF Cosmetics Luscious Liquid Lipstick in Pink Lemonade | Review & SwatchesPink Lemonade definitely has a metallic sheen in person that was difficult to capture on camera. While I personally don’t like to wear shimmery lip colors, this is a really nice product. The texture is a bit sticky, but not in an uncomfortable way. Instead, it stays put on the lips and doesn’t slide around. The color is also quite long-lasting. I’m very impressed with the nice quality of this $1.00 lip product!

All in all, I’m so glad I got the opportunity to try Pink Lemonade from the ELF Cosmetics Lucious Liquid Lipstick line. I definitely think this is a great lip gloss to have in your stash if you are looking for something uber affordable. I will be checking out the other shades in the collection to see if there are any I enjoy. Please let me know in the comments if you’ve tried any of ELF’s Luscious Liquid Lipsticks and your thoughts on them in the comments!


Sephora Haul | Just the Basics

Happy Friday! Today I’m excited to share with you what I ordered from Sephora this past week. If you’re like me, you sometimes put off those big purchases you need to make because you just don’t want to spend the money. I have desperately needed to replenish some of my basics from Sephora, and kept delaying the purchase for a couple months. Luckily, I got a surprise email from Ebates and decided it was time to shop! Let me show you what I picked up at Sephora, and how I got some extra shopping money!

Sephora Haul | Just the Basics

I use Ebates to earn cash back on most of my online purchases, and every few months I get a check from the company with my earnings. However, every once in a while Ebates will let me trade in the cash back for a gift card to one of a few retailers, and even earn bonus cash back in the process. Ebates made this offer to me this past week, and when I saw I could get a Sephora gift card plus 10% added to my total, I decided it was time to finally make the Sephora purchases I’d been putting off. If you are new to Ebates, please sign up with my referral link HERE, and you’ll get a $10 bonus upon making your first purchase through the site!

Sephora Haul | Just the Basics

The main reason I placed this order was for new BeautyBlenders. Mine desperately needed to be replaced after being used and washed so often! Luckily, Sephora currently offers a value set called Two.BB.Clean where you can get two BeautyBlender Original sponges plus a full size BlenderCleanser liquid for just $40. In essence you are getting the cleanser for free, since a BeautyBlender retails for $20! This is such a great deal, and it felt awesome to throw away my old BeautyBlenders once the new ones arrived.

I also wanted to repurchase the Urban Decay De-Slick Makeup Setting Spray because I can tell my bottle is getting low. This is definitely my setting spray of choice, as it is formulated to control oil. My face naturally gets greasy throughout the day, and I notice a huge difference whenever I use this product. It is a must have for me, and 100% worth the price tag because one bottle lasts me about 10 months.

Finally, it was also time for me to get a new pair of tweezers. I’ve been using a solid pair from the drugstore for years now, but it’s definitely time for an upgrade. I purchased the Tweezerman Pink Perfection Slant Tweezer because it is a highly rated product, and I know Tweezerman is a trusted brand. It always stinks to pay over $20 for a beauty tool, but I’m hoping this one will last me for a few years at the very least.

Sephora Haul | Just the Basics

Of course, no Sephora haul is complete without some freebies! For my three free samples, I picked out some products from Hourglass: the Ambient Light Correcting Primer, and the Immaculate Liquid Powder Foundation in shades Shell and Nude. I was surprised when two packets of each sample arrived! I’ll be able to test them a bit better now. I also used a coupon code from the Weekly Specials page, and got the Cover FX Clear Cover Invisible Sunscreen. I’m always up for trying out a new sunscreen, so this is a great bonus product!

That’s all that I picked up at Sephora this time around! It was really nice to be able to buy the basics I needed without spending a lot of money. My total for the order was $93.00, but luckily I only paid about $20 of my own money thanks to my Ebates gift card! Of course, I even earned some cash back on my order, too. Make sure to let me know in the comments what basics you buy at Sephora. I would love to know what you are always repurchasing! As always, if you would like a full review of anything I shared in this haul, please let me know in the comments.

Shop the products I mentioned using the widget below and I’ll earn a small commission. All opinions are my own. See my Disclosure Policy for more information.

This entry was posted in Makeup.

Book Review | If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

Published by Flatiron Books on May 3, 2016

Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 288

Source: Library

Goodreads★ 1/2

Amanda Hardy is the new girl in school in Lambertville, Tennessee. Like any other girl, all she wants is to make friends and fit in. But Amanda is keeping a secret. There’s a reason why she transferred schools for her senior year, and why she’s determined not to get too close to anyone.

And then she meets Grant Everett. Grant is unlike anyone she’s ever met—open, honest, kind—and Amanda can’t help but start to let him into her life. As they spend more time together, she finds herself yearning to share with Grant everything about herself…including her past. But she’s terrified that once she tells Grant the truth, he won’t be able to see past it.

Because the secret that Amanda’s been keeping? It’s that she used to be Andrew.


If I Was Your Girl is a debut young adult novel following teenager Amanda as she moves in with the dad she hasn’t seen in years to start at a new school. She leaves her mom and everything familiar behind to escape the bullying she’s experienced throughout her childhood. Amanda hopes that she can stay undercover at her new school, because she doesn’t want anyone to know her secret – that she is a transgender girl. I picked up this book because I wanted to read an Own Voices novel, written by a transgender woman. While I really enjoyed the story and think it is a good debut, it did fall a bit flat for me in some places.

First, I want to talk about the writing style, which is the most important aspect of any book for me. I found Russo’s writing to be very strong and well done. I always appreciate when an author can write in a realistic and age appropriate voice without sacrificing quality. However, I did notice that the pacing of the novel seemed a bit off in some places. For example, one of the early scenes in the book features Amanda eating at a diner with her father. They leave the dinner with “half-eaten” plates, but the plates were just set down with no break in the dialogue. These rushed scenes occur in a few places throughout the novel, and need to be flushed out more to create better pacing for the story.

Moreover, I really loved the relationships we see in this book. Amanda builds and grows familial relationships, friendships, and a romantic relationship, too. I especially enjoyed seeing Amanda’s father learning to accept her, and provide support for her when she needs it most. Of course, it is also nice to see strong female friendships in young adult literature, and I really liked the scenes where Amanda is hanging out with her new group of friends. There are lot of interesting dynamics within this group, including some juicy secrets, that were fun to see played out.

In fact, secrets play a very important role in this novel. The entire plot of If I Was Your Girl revolves around Amanda keeping it a secret that she is transgender. As a reader, I was essentially waiting for this secret to be revealed for the entirety of the book. While I did wish that wasn’t the main point of the story, it did make me think about all of the secrets we each have in life, whether big or small, and how disclosing them is not always a simple thing do to.

I want to close out my review with what I hope will be a sensitive and respectful discussion of Amanda’s gender identity. I am so glad that this book is about a trans girl, and I picked it up to learn more about what someone like Amanda goes through in life. I know I cannot properly critique the choices Russo made while writing this book, as I am cisgender, but I am a bit uncomfortable with how If I Was Your Girl represents the trans community. Russo writes in her Author’s Note that she is a storyteller, and not an educator. However, I do think this book would be much stronger if it did include more educational aspects. For instance, there are some aspects with the trans experience that a cis reader may not understand, such as the role of hormones and dilation in a trans woman’s life. While Russo does not need to go into detail about these things, it would be helpful if she quickly explained what they are to the audience.

Moreover, I also think it is a bit damaging to write Amanda as the “perfect” and stereotypical trans girl on purpose. I can understand that Russo is trying to introduce cis readers to a trans girl that passes easily and is, in a way, easier to relate to, but I also think that readers cannot learn from this book if we are provided with the stereotypes we already see in pop culture. I think it would be better to provide readers with a true representation of a trans woman, and not one based on our false stereotypes. Of course, I know that all of us, whether trans or not, are extremely different, and there is not one “true” representation. Nonetheless, I wish Russo provided us with a character who she felt represents a more genuine trans story, and not the story cis people want to read. In the same way, trans readers might feel as if their experience isn’t being represented because Amanda is written in a stereotypical manner.

All in all, I did enjoy If I Was Your Girl, and I think it is a good debut for Russo. The book would be much stronger if it was longer, as more detail could be added to the story. Nonetheless, I do recommend it as an LGBTQIA+ read, and I look forward to what Russo writes next.


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