In Jessica Verdi’s And She Was, Dara learns something about her mother that changes nothing but also changes everything.
Dara’s mind thinks of little but tennis. All else in life takes a backseat to her training for the sport. Now that she’s graduated from high school, she can finally focus on her pro career. Or so she’d hoped… Her mom, Mellie, is typically closed-off when it comes to Dara talking about tennis and the life she hopes to achieve. Dara’s had enough. She’s 18 and can do whatever she pleases. After doing some snooping to find her birth certificate so she can get a passport, Dara finds a box full of secrets she could have never imagined.
It turns out Dara’s mother is actually her birth father. Mellie was once Marcus. Dara immediately feels betrayed. She has no problem with her mom being trans, but the lying to her all her life–that’s another story. Fed up, Dara decides to take a road trip in search of the family that Mellie has kept from her all these years. Really, Dara needs to be anywhere but near her mom for a while. She enlists the help of her neighbor and best (really, only) friend, Sam, and sets off to find answers.
A few stand-out pieces of And She Was are the inclusion of a trans character and a story that takes place beyond high school. Though I do wish the book was about a protagonist that is trans (especially since it’s written in first-person), Mellie is still well-represented and explored, in my opinion. Verdi enlists the help of e-mails from Mellie that really bring her into focus. It’s not often one finds a YA novel that expands to life after secondary school, and when it does, it’s usually focused on college. Dara’s not planning on going to college, and the novel does not center around that big decision. Her choice simply is.
I didn’t feel Verdi’s writing style was particularly special, but she writes in a way that leaves the reader wanting more. I was impressed with the sense of adventure that intertwines with the major plot points. Overall, I found it an enjoyable, worthwhile read.
RATING: 4.25 OUT OF 5 STARS
And She Was is out on Tuesday, March 27th. Preorder your copy now via Amazon.
Dara’s lived a sheltered life with her single mom, Mellie. Now, at eighteen, she’s dreaming of more. When Dara digs up her never-before-seen birth certificate, her world implodes. Why are two strangers listed as her parents?
Dara confronts her mother, and is stunned by what she learns: Mellie is transgender. The unfamiliar name listed under “father”? That’s Mellie. She transitioned when Dara was a baby, shortly after Dara’s birth mother died.
But Dara still has more questions than answers. Reeling, she sets off on a road trip with her best guy friend, Sam. She’s determined to find the extended family she’s never met. What she discovers—and what her mother reveals, piece by piece over emails—will challenge and change Dara more than she can imagine.
From rising star Jessica Verdi, this is a gorgeous, timely, and essential novel about the importance of being our true selves.