If I Tell: The Decent Development Does Not Redeem The Unoriginal and Boring Characters

Merry Christmas, everyone! I’m back to my schedule of Tuesday posts!

If I Tell is written by Janet Gurtler. It was published in 2011 by Sourcebooks. Gurtler’s blog can be found here. Her blog can be found here.

Genre: Tough Read, Realistic, Young Adult


“IF ONLY…If only I hadn’t gone to that party. I never would have seen what I did. Jackson wouldn’t have driven me home. I wouldn’t have started to fall for a guy just out of reform school. I could go back to pretending everything was normal. I wouldn’t be keeping a secret from my mom that could blow our family apart…”

~Back Cover


I sighed. Didn’t she get it? Simon was almost family. Last year when some kid at the mall called me an Oreo, it was Simon I went to. He was the only person I could talk to about things like that.

“You’re a strong, beautiful girl with talents and smarts,” Simon had said when I told him. “Not a cookie.” He’d rubbed the top of my head. “No one can take away who you are inside or out. Don’t let other people make you feel bad about who you are.”

I’d dropped my head. “I look black on the outside. But I’m not.”

“You are black,” Simon said, standing straighter. “And that’s something to be proud of.”

I couldn’t look at Simon. I didn’t feel like I shared or deserved that heritage. That pride in being black. I wasn’t the real thing, one way or the other.

~Gurtler 31-32

Simon leaned forward, his broad smile mocking the rage inside of me. “Of course I can. Some of us guys are good ones. Let’s face it. You’re stuck with me now.”

Anger flushed my cheeks. Stuck with him and keeping his secret. I started to stand and Simon reached for me. Almost in slow motion, as if on its own accord, my hand lifted. Simon’s smile turned into a puzzled frown. Then a long bang like a gun being fired filled the air. My hand smacked against his flesh.

“Jaz, what’s wrong with you?”

~Gurtler 142

Cover Art

Warnings: Drinking, swearing, and Ashley’s character may be controversial to some.

Recommended Age Range: 16+

Rating: 2/5

What I Liked:

I liked the family dynamic portrayed (all angles of it) and how it affected Jaz and the secret she was keeping. Her struggle with her biracial identity led to some good character development, and her relationship with Jackson had its cute moments. The ending was (obligatorily?) hopeful and even happy.

It wasn’t bad. It was just very…formulaic and generic.

Janet Gurtler

What I Didn’t Like:

This book is overflowing with stereotypical (maybe “cliché” is a better word) characters. All the popular girls are nasty, because of course popular girls can’t be nice. Jackson is the stereotypical hot love interest/boyfriend (who also conveniently has something in common with Jaz that conveniently helps her through her crisis), who has a bad/mysterious/dangerous past to whom the main character is immediately attracted. Jaz’s mom is the stereotypical single mom who has her bouts of good parenting in between all her mistakes. Even Jaz herself is the stereotypical conflicted heroine.

Ashley was also stereotypical, in a way that I’m not sure I want to bring up. Let’s just say she was the stereotypical “good” person, or the stereotypical character that’s placed there to make a statement, not because she’s actually necessary. She was also simply an incredibly boring character. Heck, the town itself is the stereotypical “conservative” small town where everyone is racist and “intolerant” to people who are different (the nurse, even? Really? Really? Was it that necessary to bring the point home (again) that no one likes biracial relationships even though it’s been mentioned a kajillion times before by the protagonist and the obligatory nasty popular girls?).

Talk about excuse of behavior all over the place! Lacey’s behavior is excused, Simon’s behavior is excused. Granted, it’s handled better than most other books, especially the resolutions, but it was enough to make my teeth grind at first (I did like Jaz’s confusion with this, especially in her conversations with Jackson, her repetition of “Does that make it okay?”).

Overall Review:

The stereotypical characters and the at times almost exaggerated conflict mostly ruins the character development and the (obvious) family dynamic. If I Tell is just a little too formulaic and generic, with an almost appallingly convenient plot. The 10% that was good, however, was done fairly well.

You can buy this book here: If I Tell

Coming Up Next: The Night She Disappeared by April Henry

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