If I Tell
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Publish Date: October 1, 2011
From the author's website:
It was like watching a train wreck. I wanted to look away but couldn't take my eyes off them.
Her best friend and her mom's boyfriend. Locking lips. This is the secret Jasmine Evans has to keep at all costs. Because her mom is pregnant, and Jaz doesn't want to ruin her life-again (just being born did it the first time). But the harder Jaz tries to pretend everything is okay, the faster her life spins out of control. Until Jackson. He doesn't care about the popularity of her friends or the color of her skin. But can she really trust a guy who just transferred in from reform school? She might be willing to chance the heartbreak, but telling him everything and risking the truth getting out is a whole other level of scary.
If I Tell is the story of Jaz Evans, a young, biracial girl who catches her mother's boyfriend, Simon, kissing Jaz's best friend, Lacey. Jaz has convinced herself to tell her mother what she saw, then her mother suddenly announces she's pregnant. Jaz is torn between telling her mother and keeping the secret. She's devastated that Simon, someone she looked up to and trusted, could betray her mother, and, in a round-about way, he betrayed Jaz too. So now she's lost Simon and her best friend, and she's angry and hurt. While she's trying to work through it, there's a new guy, Jackson, hanging around, and Jaz thinks she could like him, but he's bad news, so she really should stay away from him. But she can't. And between Jackson and her new friend, Ashley, Jaz finds that life is full of surprises, some good and some not so good, but it is the choices you make that ultimately determine who you are.
While If I Tell starts off with a secret, it ultimately spirals into so much more. In only 244 pages, it touches on several difficult subjects: race, teenage drinking, pregnancy, betrayal, homosexuality, depression, rape, and "second generation parenting". The problems that teenagers face today are realistically portrayed, and the actions of the characters are not cookie-cutter solutions where everyone gets along and goes home happy.
While at times I was frustrated with Jaz and felt like she was feeling sorry for herself, I thought to myself, "What teenager doesn't, really?" Add to that her mother left her for her grandparents to raise and is now having another baby, she doesn't feel like she fits with either the black or white community, and the two people she confides in have betrayed her. Who wouldn't be feeling sorry for themselves?
The secondary characters were varied and interesting and each character had their own story to add to the reader's perception of all the things going on in Jaz's head.
If I Tell was a wonderfully written journey of self-discovery: for Jaz to realize she does have a place where she fits in, to understand what you see isn't always what you get, and to know that it's okay to ask for help.