I wasn’t big on contemporary YA when I was younger, as I associated it with those sad books. You know the kind I mean. And those books generally don’t appeal to me. But though If I Can Give You That gives off similar vibes, something about it had me curious. This wasn’t an easy read topic-wise, but it was fast to get through, and I’m glad I’ve read it.
Seventeen-year-old Gael attends a local LGBTQA+ support group for teens at the urging of his best friend, but as a trans teen in a conservative school, he didn’t plan to say much. That’s until he meets Declan and winds up absorbed by his friendship. As their relationship deepens, Gael starts to discover himself. Still, back at home, things are getting worse with his mother’s declining mental health and his dad trying to get back in touch. Gael must decide whether lowering his guard is safe or will make things worse.
There’s a lot to do with mental health in this book. Gael’s mum has depression and is going through a bad period during this book. On top of that, Gael clearly suffers from anxiety, though he doesn’t get help until near the end. The mental health talk felt so realistic, but that’s also why this book was so hard to read.
I wouldn’t recommend picking this book up if you’re in a bad headspace. Near the end of this book, there’s a scene where it’s obvious that Gael’s mum will attempt suicide. He leaves her unaware, and then the evening goes on in an adorable and fun way. But I couldn’t enjoy it as I was filled with dread because I knew he was either going home to her gone or at least her attempting it. It was tough, and I don’t think I could have handled it in a worse state.
But that’s a good reason to pick this book up if you can handle it. The mental health issues are very prevalent, and it’ll get you thinking. If anything, you’ll at least want to be there for anyone you know who suffers and hug them after this.
Mental health aside, this book is actually very hopeful. Gael starts off so closed-off, so it was wonderful seeing him open up and make friends. He learned so much about himself and even began understanding what he wanted to do with his life. From where he starts, that’s amazing.
I really did enjoy the friendships in this book. Gael made some great friends, and though I don’t think a sequel to his book would be necessary, I’d still love to see these characters again and see where their lives take them,
I don’t want to say I enjoyed this book, as there were definitely aspects that made me sad. But this book is a great experience. If you’re looking for more contemporary with a queer cast and/or that deals with mental health, then you should definitely pick this one up.
Title: If I Can Give You That
Author: Michael Gray Bulla
Age Range: Young Adult
Publisher: QuillTree Books (Harper360)
Release Date: 30/3/23