Book Review: "If I Tell" by Janet Gurtler

Summary from 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?

I can now declare that Janet Gurtler is one of my top five favorite YA contemporary writers of all time. Seriously, after reading her two books, I am totally in love with her writing. She pushes issues that teens deal with and need to be brought out in the open. Since I read a lot of Christian fiction, one thing that I have major problems with that market is that it tends to be very few POC (person of color) main characters in the story. While Christian YA does tend to feature more POCs, it's still nowhere where it should be. That's why I turn to general market YA. This book clearly takes the subject of race and all the issues that come with it, from a teenage girl's perspective.

There's so much to discuss in the book but racial issues are the biggest one. Jasmine is a biracial teen that grew up in a very white environment. Luckily for her, her grandparents that raised her loved her unconditionally. Her relationship with her mother is on shaky terms but she does try to keep a good friendship with her. I felt for Jaz a lot in this book. I know what it's like to stand out and be teased for your ethnicity, which is something you can't control. I totally understood how hard it was for her to accept who she was because she had been unplanned and eventually unwanted by her parents. It's sad at the way her biological father chose to treat her and while there may have been reasons for his choice, I found it unfair and a bit selfish. Either way, his actions clearly have affected Jaz and caused her to have this anger, bitterness and low self esteem about herself. Her relationship with her own mother doesn't help much. Her relationship with Simon, her mother's boyfriend, seemed to help her until she catches him doing something that almost destroys their relationship.

There were times when I did get a bit annoyed with her as well. I wasn't really a big fan of how she treated Jackson sometimes. There's a lot of teen angst with her. It's accurately done. I just wanted her to snap out of it. I really wished she had discussed with Simon her fears earlier but I understand why she couldn't. It just would have saved a lot of trouble. Then again, her waiting so long probably helped to understand things better.

In addition to all this, there's also some romance, a near rape situation, Jaz's lesbian friend and her own difficulties, mean girls, postpartum depression, coffee shops and guitar playing. There's something for everyone! Overall, I really loved this book. There were times when I honestly forgot that an adult wrote this book. I truly felt like I was in Jaz's world as if I was reading her diary or seeing things through her eyes. Gurtler handles her situation with class and authenticity. I really enjoy her writing style as it is engaging and thought provoking. If you are searching for more contemporary YA books, I highly recommend her books. The problem now is that I want more and will have to wait. This book is just tops. HIGHLY recommended.

If I Tell by Janet Gurtler is published by Sourcebooks Fire (2011)

This review copy was provided by the publisher


  1. Anonymous8:20 AM

    I have not read books by this author yet, but I have this one on my Kindle. It sounds like something very worthwhile.

  2. Anonymous10:27 AM

    I agree that Jasmine's teen angst got irritating at times. I am anxious to read Gurtler's other book!

  3. This is a new to me author but the book sounds so good and timely. Thanks for the review and the intro to this author.
    Love & Hugs,

  4. Why do you think it is CBA is still light on POC? Not enough POC authors hooking up with them?


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