Quill and Quire


« Back to
Book Reviews

If I Tell

by Janet Gurtler

Let’s say you see your best friend kissing your mom’s boyfriend, and then you discover your mom is pregnant by said scumbag. Do you tell your mom about the kiss? This is the dilemma facing Jasmine “Jaz” Evans in Calgary author Janet Gurtler’s latest YA title, which poses the question: what’s a girl to do?

Mope, apparently, and watch while her world falls spectacularly apart. Gurtler packs Jaz’s life with so much detail that much of it goes under explored. Jaz’s lip-locking best friend, Lacey, has some crazy, sad issues; Jaz’s memories of her recently deceased grandpa surface every now and then to guilt her into doing the right thing; she’s got a new, gay best friend; she has trust issues stemming from a pool accident in Grade 4 that nearly killed her; she writes moody music and is into a mysterious boy with a shady past; she’s biracial and her small-minded small town isn’t particularly inclusive. That’s a lot to carry in one book, and Gurtler doesn’t quite harness all of it to create an emotionally complex character at the heart of the story to pull it off.

For example, the pool accident is mentioned a couple of times to reinforce Jaz’s outsider status, and again in the very last scene. Though clearly intended to be a formative incident, it feels forced and predictable. And the popular kids who witnessed it are standard issue: blonde, ambivalently slutty mean girls who travel in packs and hunt the weak. It’s hard to believe their disdain would still bother Jaz five years after the event.

Beautifully drawn, however, is Jaz’s reconciliation with her mother after the birth of her little brother. Gurtler zeros in on Jaz’s experience of her mother’s post-partum depression, treating it with raw clarity, sensitivity, and thoughtfulness, and showing – rather than telling – Jaz’s calm, kind heart. It’s here where Jaz’s relationships seem the most authentic, loving, and real, and where it’s easy to empathize with her conflict about whether or not to tell mom about the cheating boyfriend. It’s a shame this redemption comes so late, but better late than not at all.


Reviewer: Katy Pedersen

Publisher: Sourcebooks/Raincoast


Price: $11.99

Page Count: 256 pp

Format: Paper

ISBN: 978-1-40226-103-9

Released: Oct

Issue Date: 2011-11


Age Range: 12+