If I Tell – Janet Gurtler

“My heart raced as I stumbled down the steps. I needed to make sure I wasn’t having a horrible hallucination, but I really wished that someone had spiked my soda and that drugs were distorting my reality. Like I was witnessing a train wreck, I wanted to look away but couldn’t take my eyes off them.”
Jaz’ life is a bit of a train wreck. She’s seventeen; the same age her mom was when she was born and she’s just found out her mom is pregnant. However that’s not all, she’s also witnessed something terrible, two people locked in an embrace, two people who shouldn’t be together; her best friend and her mom’s boyfriend. Struggling with her own identity and her place in a small town where people still struggle with the fact she’s mixed race and was brought up by her Grandma, this is just another thing to add to her growing problems.

I really liked If I Tell; I thought it was an amazing story with a strong message of love, loss and identity. It came along, ripped my heart out, smashed it to pieces and put it back in again, and to be honest it was near perfect, however I did have a few niggles.
There was nothing wrong with this story whatsoever which is why I’m starting here. It could come off as slightly predictable but there was none of this insta-love crap and the whole story was built around identity, growing as a person, gaining and losing friendships and learning from your mistakes. There is a lot to learn from this book and it teaches well. I had tears in my eyes through a lot of it and even though I wanted to slap Jaz a couple of times I did really respond to her as a character because I think I would have done and said all the same things if I were here.
The other thing that really stood out in this book was the character. Jaz is amazing, she’s stupid like most 17 year old girls, but really strong and herself, even if it’s for all the wrong reasons. Even the characters I hated, Tina, Nathan, etc stood out because of how well pictured they were in my mind and how strong a character they were on the paper. Lacey, Jaz’ Granma and mom, Simon and Amber were all brilliant characters that jumped out of the page at me, even if they were all the nicest of people. Then we get to the most important ones. Ashley; Jaz’ best-ish friend after Lacey was the one I warmed to the most and the quickest. I loved the description of the tips in her hair and how they change, I got it instantly and I really would have loved to have a friend like Ashley! I liked watching the friendship between Ashley and Jaz, and Ashley and Jackson, grow and I loved that it did. Then Jackson, oh Jackson, I knew from the start he wasn’t a drug dealing bad boy, or was he? He was a great character and lit up the pages whenever he was on them. You don’t meet guys like Jackson in real life often but let me tell you, they are amazing when you do, and they do exist!!
I did have two major niggles with this book; one was the writing/editing… It was great in most places and I really thought it was fast paced and just right for what I like, I loved the way the book started (the quote above) and it actually carried on most the way through like that… however – and I’m going to try and explain this in an as unspoiler-y way as possible – when Jaz’ mom goes into labour, Jaz had been doing her volunteering, which is a Wednesday night, this is stressed throughout the book… however EVERYONE referred to the night her mom went into labour as a Friday, and Jaz wasn’t at school the next day, or meant to be or anything… and that really stressed me out. I tried going back over the pages to check to see if I’d missed something but I’m certain I didn’t, it was normal karaoke night! It was a Wednesday! ARGH! Little things like that get to me… I’m sorry.
The other thing was a bit more plot based. If I Tell is based in the modern day as far as I could tell. So when Jaz was fourteen, when the major “thing” happens to her (sorry to be so vague but trying not to spoil!) it would have been well after 2000 and I can’t believe the horribleness of her fellow high schoolrs, her town or her old “friends” it shocked and appalled me that there might be places as racist and sexist and homophobic like this around… and I’m not talking just one or two people, it was EVERYONE! It really got to me and thought it was a little extreme, but maybe I’m wrong and I’m just fortunate as I haven’t come across a place like that before!
If I Tell was released in the US by Sourbebooks Fire in Oct 2011. My copy was received for review via netgalley.


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