If I Tell by Janet Gurtler

Jasmine is carrying around a big secret, and it’s threatening to destroy her life and friendships in Janet Gurtler’s If I Tell. Her relationship with her mom has always been tense. Jaz is the result of her mother’s teenage interracial relationship with a talented high school football player. Jaz’s father and his family abandoned her to protect his future as a professional athlete, and she is raised by her maternal grandparents when her mother abdicates responsibility for the child she feels too young to handle. Jasmine is full of angst about many things – her biracial appearance and identity in a mostly white town, her abandonment by her father, and the recent death of her beloved grandfather- and they figure largely in her inner turmoil. She had been relying on her mom’s boyfriend Simon, for balance and a way to connect with being black, but when she sees him kissing her best friend at a party, betrayal and anger threaten the closeness they once shared.

If I Tell is one of those books that sucks you right in. It deals with hosts of issues relevant to both teenagers and adults – teenage pregnancy, identity (racial identity in particular), keeping secrets to protect a loved ones, post-partum depression- but I never felt like I was reading a book to address those things, only deeply immersed in the life of an angry teenaged girl. Jaz doesn’t think that she has much in her life that can be relied upon, and her anger toward Simon and her best friend Lacey are thoroughly explored, as well as Jaz’s almost crippling identity issues. Further complicating her life at a the time when Lacey is no longer available to her, Jackson enters the picture with his determination to break into her heart, but he has a mysterious past of his own. There were times I wanted Jaz to chill out, but she definitely had a lot going on in her life and I liked that she struggled with the big questions she was facing and didn’t have easy answers, or always make the right choices. If you like you stories full of realistic angst, drama and a dash of romance, then give this one a try. Recommended.

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