Thursday, September 29, 2011

Review: If I Tell by Janet Gurtler


If I Tell
by Janet Gurtler

Pages: 256
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Published: October 1st, 2011
IBSN: 9781402261039

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? 

Jasmine catches mother's boyfriend making out with her best friend just after finding out about her mother's pregnancy. With her own issues with being abandoned by her father, she's caught between exposing her dirtbag almost-step-dad and keeping it from her already stressed-out mother.

It's not as much of a daytime TV drama as the blurb makes it out to be. Now that's out of the way...

Jas has a lot on her plate, certainly, but sympathising with her isn't easy. I couldn't become emotionally attached to her -- or any other character. The narrative voice felt...bland. Jas is reserved, and the voice dedicates itself to portraying that trait without combining it with a compelling or interesting tone.

Jas's issues with her race didn't seem realistic. The only people who bullied her did it such unnatural dialogue ("Who says that? WHO?") that I didn't take their taunts seriously. The setting, a supposedly close-minded town, didn't come across how it was intended. We were told several times that the place was typically close-minded, but we weren't shown it in any depth. But then again, I live in a very mixed-races town and no one really cares what you are here, so I don't know anything much about this. I just wasn't convinced.

For me with contemporary novels, connection to the characters is one of the biggest aspects. They aren't typically plot-driven, but character-driven. I didn't feel anything for the characters of If I Tell, so I didn't feel much for the book overall.

The plot couldn't redeem it for me, with so many chaotic sub-plots I couldn't see what the characters' goals were. This book attempted to tackle many issues, but it just created this tangled plotline.

I'd recommend If I Tell to fans of Janet Gurtler's first book, I'm Not Her, but not to any devout contemporary fans.

I give If I Tell a 2 out of 5.