RITA Reader Challenge Review

RITA Reader Challenge: I’m Not Her by Janet Gurtler


Title: I'm Not Her
Author: Janet Gurtler
Publication Info: Sourcebooks 2011
ISBN: 978-1402256363
Genre: Young Adult

I'm Not Her This review was written by Lindlee. This story was nominated in the Best YA Romance and Best First Book category.

The summary:     

“For the first time in my life, I didn't feel envy…”

Tess is the exact opposite of her beautiful, athletic sister. And that's okay. Kristina is the sporty one, Tess is the smart one, and they each have their place. Until Kristina is diagnosed with cancer.

Suddenly Tess is the center of the popular crowd, everyone eager for updates. There are senior boys flirting with her. But, the smiles of her picture perfect family are cracking and her sister could be dying. Now Tess has to fill a new role: the strong one. Because if she doesn't hold it together, who will?

And here is Lindlee's review:

I feel a bit guilty criticizing a book about cancer, but I wasn’t really crazy about I’m Not Her. I had two major issues while reading.

My first issue can be boiled down to two words: stock characters. The book was riddled with them. The dad is your stereotypical dad who can’t handle emotional stress and spends all his time at the office or golf course. The mom is obsessed with others’ opinions and keeping up the family image. She’s also a health nut and overly-invested in Kristina’s volleyball career. Kristina is the “perfect daughter”: athletic, beautiful, popular. And Tess, of course, is brainy, artistic and has only one friend. And these are examples just from the main family. I felt like I had wondered into a stock character convention or something.

The worst character portrayal by far was Tess’ best friend, Melissa. She turns out to be a terrible person (not a spoiler. It’s pretty much flashing at you in neon lights the first time you meet her). She has two defining characteristics. (1) She’s religious. Or at least we’re told she’s religious. Nothing relating to God or religion comes out of her mouth in the few conversations she’s a part of in the book (Too much tell, not enough show). But what really bothered me was (2) she’s overweight. Why did the author have to make such a point of Melissa being fat? And trust me, she belabored the point. Nearly every time Melissa showed up, we were reminded in some way that she was overweight. I think the author was trying to convey that Melissa’s bitterness was a result of her poor self-image but it just felt mean-spirited to me.

It wasn’t all bad. I do get why the book was nominated. There was some character development and characters did get more interesting farther into the book. A few characters introduced were likable and even quirky. If it weren’t for the stock character problem, I would have bumped the book up a letter grade. I’m Not Her is a debut novel so hopefully Gurtler’s characters will get less “stockish” in the future.

Another issue for me was that I’ve read Now That Andi’s Gone. Why is this a problem? Well, the two books have a very similar vibe. Now That Andi’s Gone is told from the point of view of Kimmie whose best friend is Andi. Like Tess, Kimmie is quiet and fades into the background. And similar to Kate, Andi is outgoing, popular and a cheerleader. When something happens to Andi, Kimmie suddenly finds herself thrust in the spotlight while trying to deal with her own pain. So even though the books are definitely different, they are similar in that the focus is on the journey of the quiet one who is suddenly no longer invisible. The problem is that I love Now That Andi’s Gone. I still have my copy that I bought in the 7th grade, and it still has the ability to make me cry. The similarities were always going to remind me of Now That Andi’s Gone, and any book was going to have a hard time living up to it. I get that that’s not really fair, but that was my experience.

This book is available from Goodreads | Amazon | BN | Sony | Kobo | All Romance eBooks.

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