*I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and do not represent the publisher or author.*
If I Tell You by Alicia Tuckerman is a recent enjoyable read for Australian LGBTQ young adult fiction. To me, it felt like a lighter, Australian version of The Miseducation of Cameron Post (a classic LGBTQ novel, though I’m sure you all know that) but instead of the story getting too bogged down in a critique on the way LGBTQ people are treated and viewed by society (though this is definitely in there), it is more about finding the courage within yourself to be yourself, and that is something that is relatable to all people, no matter their identity.
Alex is a 17 year old girl living in rural Australia, who is caught between her feelings for the new girl in town and wanting her sexuality to remain a secret. Will she be able to push through her fear and take a leap of faith? Even when she feels as though she is spiralling through the freefall?
1) The Voice.
The writing was the first thing that sucked me into this book. It was the perfect mix of lyrical and colloquial, and the voice was so undeniably Australian – more specifically, teenage Australian – that it made it all the more fun to read (being an Aussie myself.) Even the choice of metaphors somehow managed to sound Australian, and it was awesome that the author somehow managed to do that!
2) Well-written Characters.
The characters were another strong point of this book. Too often in fiction, homophobic characters feel as though they are either just voices of ignorance that linger in the back of the protagonist’s thoughts, or incredibly aggressive, almost exaggerated characters that are terrifying, but don’t feel too real. The homophobic characters in this book, though, were well captured and their actions felt so authentic and specific that their role as antagonists was frightening. The protagonist and her friends were well balanced against that, with each of them having issues of their own and unique backgrounds that only furthered the idea of growing up and being true to yourself. For the characters who were redeemed, their arcs felt organic and empathetic, and coupled with the arcs of the main cast, a feeling of inspiration and hope was created by the end of the book.
1) Dealing With Phoenix’s Flaws.
The pressure that Phoenix put on Alex to come out was uncomfortable to read sometimes, and though I love the idea of Phoenix being the person who helps Alex find her courage, she came across as very aggressive in some scenes. I do believe that this was one of her character flaws (because it makes sense when considered with certain spoilers) but I would have liked to see Alex fight back a little more, just to reinforce that every decision she made was hers entirely.
2) That Ending…
I feel very conflicted about the ending of this story. I won’t say too much about it to avoid spoilers, but it seemed very sudden and caught me off guard considering the tone of the book. I liked that it was a strong reinforcement of everything Alex had learned throughout the book, but it was also one of the biggest (and worst) tropes for LGBTQ characters in mainstream books, TV and movies, and I was shocked to see it happen. Perhaps if it weren’t already such a renowned and disliked trope, the ending could have been more enjoyable, but unfortunately, this isn’t the case in our world. I also would have liked the resolution to be a little longer, just to allow for the whirlwind of feelings and shock to settle a bit.
I gave If I Tell You by Alicia Tuckerman…
This book deserves a 4-star rating because it is a light and enjoyable book that deals with LGBTQ issues in an inspiring, funny and uniquely Australian way. It is by no means a revolutionary piece of literature, and it uses a lot of common YA tropes, but I never found myself feeling bored from the story or feeling that it was cliche. It is an enjoyable coming of age, LGBTQ story with a enough romance, drama and humour to keep you wanting to read more.
Thanks for reading! Let me know what you thought about this review or this book in the comments! 🙂