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Reviews: Janet Gurtler's (142.) If I Tell and (143.) I'm Not Her

October 17, 2011
I have two reviews for you today--and both are contemporary YA fiction from Janet Gurtler. I also have a guest post from Janet! Now, how to fit it all into one post...

i'm not her
I'm Not Her was released in May, and tells the story of a girl whose sudden rise in popularity unfortunately coincides with her sister's cancer diagnosis.

"For the first time in my life, I didn't feel envy..."

Tess is the exact opposite of her beautiful, athletic sister. And that's okay. Kristina is the sporty one, Tess is the smart one, and they each have their place. Until Kristina is diagnosed with cancer. Suddenly Tess is the center of the popular crowd, everyone eager for updates. There are senior boys flirting with her. But, the smiles of her picture perfect family are cracking and her sister could be dying. Now Tess has to fill a new role: the strong one. Because if she doesn't hold it together, who will?

Janet Gurtler tests the bonds of sisterhood in this moving debut that readers of Jodi Picoult and Sarah Dessen will savor.

Title: I'm Not Her
Author: Janet Gurtler
ISBN-13: 9781402256363
Paperback: 285 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks, Inc., 2011
Purchase at IndieBound, Amazon, The Book Depository
Source: Sourcebooks

drey's thoughts:
Janet Gurtler's I'm Not Her is a moving story about a fifteen-year-old dealing with her older sister's cancer. And if dealing with a life-changing (and potentially life-threatening) illness isn't enough, Tess also has to deal with her parents acting like completely delusional dorks about it. (I totally understand that they were having a hard time with the diagnosis; however in my eyes it doesn't excuse their leaving everything in the hands of a fifteen-year-old because they "couldn't handle it"--they're the adults.)

And then there's school. School, where every one of Kristina's friends keep asking Tess where Kristina is and why she isn't in school (delusional parents didn't want anyone to know). School, where Tess has to skip class to accompany her mother to the hospital for Kristina's treatments (again, without being able to tell why). School, where Tess is now noticed (see above); and the other kids are making up stories about her and Kristina because they aren't getting any information. Not easy for a freshman to deal with, that's for sure.

I liked Janet's portrayal of Tess. She's resentful of all the negatives affecting her, and feels guilty for that resentment. She wants her life to stay the way it was, but she knows it's most likely temporary, whereas her sister's life is irrevocably changed. There's nowhere for her to go with this, without feeling like she's selfish. This is YA drama and angst as it should be.

drey's rating: Excellent!

If I Tell explores the ramifications of keeping secrets--your best friend's, your mother's, her boyfriend's--and the mess it can make of your own life...

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?

Title: If I Tell
Author: Janet Gurtler
ISBN-13: 9781402261039
Paperback: 244 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks, Inc., 2011
Purchase at IndieBound, Amazon, The Book Depository
Source: Sourcebooks

drey's thoughts:
Jaz is seventeen, and the only biracial kid in her small town. At least, as far as she knows. She doesn't have any friends in school, and is thrown into a whirlpool of emotions when she sees her best friend Lacey making out with her mom's boyfriend. And that whirlpool gets deeper and wider when she finds out her mom's pregnant. What a mess!

Jaz can't confide in anyone--the only two people she's ever felt comfortable talking to have betrayed her. So she keeps things bottled up, only to find out that she has too many emotions fizzing inside her all at the same time. And her anger leaks out in spurts and splashes as she lashes out at her (former) best friend, at Simon, and even at her mom.

The emotional roller-coaster Jaz is on pulls you along as it goes up (new boy) and down (facing Simon or Lacey) and up (new friend at school) and down (her mom's emotional state), so much so that you wonder when she's going to let it all out. Which will happen, of course. The only question is when. And where. And who's going to get hurt in the process... (ok, that's more than one question)

This is an addictive read--you can't put it down until you find out how Jaz fares. Excellent teen read covering topics far and wide, including racism, bullying, depression, self-identity, and trust.

drey's rating: Excellent!

Have you read either books? What did you think?


bermudaonion said...

Wow, they both sound fantastic! They sound like books kids can identify with.

drey said...

I know. But I feel bad for any kid who needs to identify with these stories. :(

Beth(bookaholicmom) said...

These both sound like great reads! They seem to cover subjects that kids have troubles dealing with. Bullying, popularity or lack of, racism, and depression are prevalent among teens and they really aren't well equipped to deal with it. I may have to check these books out.

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