Natasha's Reviews > If I Tell You

If I Tell You by Alicia Tuckerman
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Rep: f/f romance, lesbian mc, Vietnamese side character 

Trigger warnings: homophobia, lesbophobia, lesbophobic slurs, homophobic slurs, homophobic and abusive mother

Content warnings: mild sexual content 

Arc provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review 

If I Tell You is set in rural Australia, following Alex Summers, a closeted lesbian. She has known that she is a lesbian for a few years but has kept it secret, fearing backlash from her town and her parents, mostly her mother. When the book begins, she meets a girl named Phoenix Stone, the daughter of a popular musician. Her moving to the town sparks gossip, everyone suspecting that she is a lesbian. This is a correct assumption and it reveals a lot of homophobia held by Alex's family and friends. Alex however, befriends her and starts to develop feelings for her. This isn't the best thing that could happen while living in a rural town with close minded ideas. 

I'm not sure how to talk about this. I understand what the book was trying to do, and I think in retrospect it did those things well. It wanted to show how close minded rural towns can be and how you don't need to conform to them. I also liked Alex a lot, she was a really well developed character. I liked her passion for music, showing some insecurities with her singing skills but she still sang in front of Phoenix. I also think it was well written and made the rural setting seem authentic (especially as someone who is from a suburb in Melbourne with no experience living in a rural area). I also really liked Alex's best friend Lin and her dad, who were both supportive when she came out to them.

What didn't work for me was mostly the homophobia. I knew there was homophobia going into this but it was far more vicious than I expected to the point it was distressing for me to read. Again, I do understand why it was in there but it was so hard to get through. For example, her mother doesn't want her to go anywhere near Phoenix just because of the suspicion she is a lesbian. Then there's her friend Justin who was far to vicious. He would go on and on about how wrong it was to be gay, even after Alex tried to shut him up. It's later revealed he had romantic feeling for her, and after Alex comes out to him he blurts to his sister that she's gay (essentially outing her) and she is furious at Alex. This specifically felt odd. She was angry that Alex was gay when Justin was in love with her? As if she had some sort of control of his feelings or her sexuality? I could understand general homophobia but I kind of don't believe she would respond in this sort of way.

Phoenix also deals with some homophobia, quite extreme sorts too. Aside from general gossip and looking down on her, the fence at her family's house gets vandalised with the d-slur in paint. Later, the same thing happens to her car but it was carved in. Again, I get the authorial purpose but it felt far too vicious. Phoenix also seemed to be rarely hurt by the homophobia, which was kind of strange since it could be very vicious and she came from the city, where people would generally be more accepting. 

Maybe this next point is a tad bit of a stretch but she came off as a manic pixie dream girl at times. For example, Alex mentions something about going sky diving. What happens later? Phoenix surprises her by going skydiving. Alex talks about wanting to be a music teacher? Phoenix encourages her to dream bigger and try to get signed to a label, telling her that the stability she wants was limiting. Again, maybe calling her a manic pixie dream girl is a stretch, but that's how she came off at times. 

Slurs were definitely overused. I can handle slurs once or twice but every time a character was homophobic some sort of slur was used. There were also the typical references to religion and a woman's role, things like that. It felt like it was following the stereotypical formula of the character dealing with homophobia book. Maybe I'm just at a point where I'm burnt out on this narrative, I don't know. I also just didn't like the ending. It felt cliche in some ways, and didn't give me the ending I wanted either.

If you can handle homophobia, maybe pick it up but with caution. I was hoping I would love this but I unfortunately didn't. 
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Reading Progress

November 15, 2017 – Shelved
November 15, 2017 – Shelved as: not-yet-released
November 15, 2017 – Shelved as: anticipated-2018-releases
November 15, 2017 – Shelved as: aus-lit
November 15, 2017 – Shelved as: lgbtqiap-all
January 29, 2018 – Shelved as: lgbtqiap-f-f
January 29, 2018 – Shelved as: lgbtqiap-lesbian
January 29, 2018 – Shelved as: arcs-and-review-copies
January 29, 2018 – Shelved as: to-read
February 2, 2018 – Started Reading
February 2, 2018 –
page 23
7.08%
February 3, 2018 –
page 99
30.46%
February 5, 2018 – Finished Reading

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