Is anyone on earth still unaware of how much I loved this Persian mythology-inspired bisexual f/f YA fantasy? Probably not, but if you thought I was going to miss a huge chance to recommend it every day of the month, you were sorely mistaken! If you are at all into YA fantasy, Sapphic books, mythology, or Things That Are Very Good, I think I’ve said all I need to say. Go do yourself a favor.
There was and there was not, as all stories begin, a princess cursed to be poisonous to the touch. But for Soraya, who has lived her life hidden away, apart from her family, safe only in her gardens, it’s not just a story.
As the day of her twin brother’s wedding approaches, Soraya must decide if she’s willing to step outside of the shadows for the first time. Below in the dungeon is a demon who holds knowledge that she craves, the answer to her freedom. And above is a young man who isn’t afraid of her, whose eyes linger not with fear, but with an understanding of who she is beneath the poison.
Soraya thought she knew her place in the world, but when her choices lead to consequences she never imagined, she begins to question who she is and who she is becoming…human or demon. Princess or monster.
This month’s new release spotlight is one of my absolute favorite reads of the year, and if you haven’t already heard me gush to death about it, well, here I am doing it again!
Russo’s debut centers around Amanda, whose new life at her new school sees her finding cool friends and a great boyfriend, none of whom know her secret: that she used to be Andrew. One of my favorite things about the book is the way flashbacks are integrated, taking the reader back through the milestones of Amanda’s emotional and transitional journey, but the present day is excellent too. Rather than me babbling on and on about it, though, I’ve asked Meredith Russo to answer some interview questions, so, here she is to do just that!
If I Was Your Girl is your debut novel; what have been the coolest and most surprising parts of your debut experience so far?
The coolest thing by far has been the people I get to talk to. I’ve become friends with one of my idols because of this book, for one, and I’ve met loads of other amazing people I never would have met without the book. I think the most surprising thing is that a lot of my job right now isn’t writing fiction! I’m always thinking about promotion, I just finished recording some things for the audiobook, I’m making travel plans for conferences, and, well, doing interviews.
What’s the first queer representation you saw in any medium that really stuck with you, for better or for worse?
Lieutenant Einhorn in Ace Ventura, Pet Detective. In case you haven’t seen it (don’t see it), Einhorn, the villain, is a trans woman who used to be a pro football player and had a nervous breakdown after losing the Super Bowl, after which she transitioned and went stealth. She kills someone because they discover her “secret” (watching it now I guarantee it was probably self defense because a guy freaked out or whatever) and then when Ace reveals she’s the killer at the end of the movie he tears her clothes off, exposes her genitals in front of all her employees (while the song from The Crying Game plays and the men she slept with puke), and beats her senseless. Needless to say that movie screwed me up as a kid.
What’s something you’ve seen in LGBTQIAP+ lit that’s really stuck with you, for better or for worse?
A huge number of trans books I’ve read aren’t really about the trans character but, rather, about a cis narrator’s feelings about the trans character’s transition or existence, and I hate it. Maybe it’s because I’m trans, but I care way more about how the trans character feels than any cis characters.
You’ve got a gorgeous cover, the first I know of in YA to feature a transgender model. What was the process of creating that cover like?
I wasn’t super involved, but when I met with Flatiron they actually asked for my advice on ways to make the book as positive as possible, which blew my mind, so I suggested we keep trans people as involved as possible at every step and they actually listened, which is how we got Kira Conley for the cover and Samia Mounts for the audiobook!
What are your favorite writing snacks?
I’m a total pickle lesbian (well, bi, but whatever). Look it up, it’s a Thing.
What do you do when you’re not writing?
Parenting, of course, but I also play a lot of video games, board games, and D&D, as well as consuming way too much anime when I should be, you know, reading like a real grown-up.
What are your favorite LGBTQIAP+ reads?
Two of my favorite books of all time are Nevada by Imogen Binnie and A Safe Girl to Love by Casey Plett. They’re both adult fiction, so maybe not appropriate for my audience, but if you want to know what it’s like to be trans in your twenties these are the books you read.
What would you still love to see in LGBTQIAP+ lit?
I want to see queer trans people. I feel like we’re still in a place where people are only ready to grapple with the idea of trans girls who like boys and trans boys who like girls but, I mean, trans people self-identify as bi much, much more than cis people do, and that’s way underrepresented.
What’s next for you?
I’m working on two new books! They’re both about trans girls; one is a YA romance, while the other is a darker, more adult examination of what it means to be bitter, lonely, and burned out as a trans woman in her early twenties.