Books & Literature

Book Review: If I Tell You, by Alicia Tuckerman

When lesbian teenager Alex meets Phoenix, she must decide whether to come out to the people in her closed-minded town, or withhold her true feelings.

Alex Summers has a secret – she’s gay. Luckily for Alex, she’s managed to conceal who she truly is for her entire life because, in a town like Two Creeks, being a lesbian is severely frowned upon. Enter Phoenix Stone: a rebel, quirky, different, a lesbian. Now it’s up to Alex to make a decision: will she finally come out, or will she withhold her true feelings until she can finally leave the simple-minded small town?

Tuckerman must be absolutely commended on a fantastic debut novel. This book is extremely important and perfectly well-timed given the current political climate concerning the passing of the gay marriage Act. In recent years, novels which feature gay characters have been more forthcoming and, it must be noted, that the majority of these characters are male. It’s refreshing to read a story which shows the trepidations and heartache of two young girls.

The novel is set in a fictional country town in what is assumed to be outback Australia and, with that town, comes a herd load of stereotypes and traditions. Girls are expected to marry a farmer, make an amazing Victoria sponge-cake, and be a housewife. Tuckerman has built a connection between all the characters through music, which is an integral part of the plot. Music provides a mentor to Alex in the form of a teacher, a lover in the form of Phoenix, and the release of her soul to a community which doesn’t deserve her.

There are several clichés in this book which are arguably unnecessary. However, clichés are what reel young adults in. They want a place that they can escape to, a world where things are worse off for the characters which creates reader empathy, a world where there can be so many perfect fleeting moments. If I Tell You would definitely be categorised as Young Adult fiction; it reels you in, it makes you love the characters, it makes you annoyed at the characters, and then it rips your heart out. However, Tuckerman portrays this with exquisite flow and a fast-paced plot. The message in this book is a strong one, and though this story is in no way autobiographical, it is arguably a voice for the millions of girls that are thinking about, are currently in the process of, or have already braved society and “come out”.

If I Tell You is a story full of heart-wrenching hardships, sacrifice, and love. A modern love story featuring two young girls, it details the challenges they face from a community which is arguably fifty years in the past.

Reviewed by Phoebe Christofi
Twitter: @ChristofiPhoebe

Rating out of 10: 8

Distributed by: Pantera Press
Released: February 2018
RRP: $19.99

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