CM . . .
. Volume XIX Number 7. . . .October 19, 2012
If I Tell.
Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks Fire, 2011.
248 pp., trade pbk., $9.99 (US).
Grades 8 and up / Ages 13 and up.
Review by Courtney Novotny.
"You've been mad at me since you found out your mom and me are having a baby." Simon reached over and folded a hand over Mom's. She didn't pull away.
"You're an important part of the baby's life, Jaz. A big sister. I'm not going to come between you and your mom." He spoke in a soothing tone, as if I were a child.
I snorted. He already had. I pushed back on the chair and stood. I turned to my mom. "I could care less about you or your stupid baby. I feel sorry for it. You're the worst mother in the world. And Simon, bite me."
I rushed from the table. My best high heels flapped on my feet as I scooted past people eating dinner and looking up at me surprised.
I fled the restaurant, afraid that if I turned back and saw my mom's expression, I'd run back to say I was sorry, that I didn't mean it. But if I turned back, I might blurt out what I'd seen. Instead, I ran. Again.
Jasmine, 17, accidentally sees her best friend and mom's boyfriend kissing at a party. Then, Jasmine finds out that her mom is pregnant, and Jasmine struggles with whether or not to tell her mom and break her heart or to keep the secret and keep the peace. To complicate things, Jasmine lives with her grandmother as her mom was only a teenager when she gave birth to Jasmine and was unable to look after her herself. Now, with a new baby on the way, tension between Jasmine, her mom, grandmother, and the unborn sibling is surfacing.
As a bi-racial individual living in a largely white community, Jasmine also struggles with feeling alienated and alone until she meets Jackson, a rebellious, mysterious, and free-spirited young man who is also looking for meaningful connection in their small town. The two begin a rocky friendship, due to Jasmine's trust issues, having never known her father, and social anxiety about her skin colour. Fortunately, the two are able to find solace and comfort in each other while other parts of their lives are seemingly out of their control.
Jasmine's relationships with her family and friends ebb and flow with her teenage angst and insecurities, but, a new baby has the power to bring them all together, smooth out complexities, and let them all truly move on, together.
In this coming-of-age story, Gurtler has broached several tough topics, including teenage pregnancy, drug abuse, racism, and postpartum depression and manages to do so through a genuinely realistic story.
Gurtler does a good job of including the little, but important, details when describing female teenage angst through Jasmine. Despite the main focus being on Jasmine's insecurities at being bi-racial, she is easy to relate to, and her high school experience comes across as very genuine. Consequently, readers who do not relate to being bi-racial will likely still relate to Jasmine's thoughts, actions, and angst as Gurtler has written them in a way that portrays an honest and realistic teenage character. The opening dedication, "For everyone who feels alone. P.S. You're probably not." sums up this story, and readers may form a strong sense of connection to Jasmine right from page one.
The lingo and dialogue are also believable and quick-witted, making this story easy to get drawn into. Those who enjoy realistic contemporary YA fiction will appreciate the approachability and convincingness of Gurtler's writing.
Courtney Novotny is a brand-new MLIS graduate from the School of Library, Archival, and Information Studies at UBC and is now a brand-new Community Outreach Librarian at Calgary Public Library.
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