Book Review: “And She Was” by Jessica Verdi

March 30, 2018

Dara is a talented tennis player – talented enough to go pro if she can just find the money to enter the right tournaments. After graduating from high school, that is just what Dara is prepared to do. But her plans are thrown off track when she learns that Mellie, the woman she’s always known as her mother, is transgender and technically her biological father.

Dara feels hurt and betrayed, especially after learning that her mother has kept her from knowing her wealthy grandparents, who might have been able to help Dara with her tennis career. Dara, along with her best friend, Sam, sets out to find the family she never knew she had, all the while learning the story of her mother’s transition through a series of heart-wrenching emails.

Though there are still too few YA novels that feature trans protagonists (or even trans characters at all), And She Was tackles a perspective that is even more unfamiliar to novels for teens from major publishing houses: how teens cope with learning a parent is trans. Jessica Verdi’s And She Was offers not just a compelling drama about the relationship between a mother and daughter, but also a way to show readers what the experience of being trans can look like.

Mellie has dealt with a lot of discrimination and hardship in her journey, and as Dara learns what her mother has been through, she also learns just how much Mellie loves her. At the same time, the novel manages to be a funny and heartfelt account of Dara’s journey into adulthood, as she tries to figure out what kind of person she wants to be – plus her best friend, Sam, is a swoon-worthy sidekick. I enjoyed this book, and I think a lot of other readers will, too. 

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for review.