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Review: I'm Not Her by Janet Gurtler

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? 

For anyone who has ever had a sibling they were compared to or parents who placed their expectations upon you, then this is the book for you. We’ve all been there were we’ve been told “You could try to be more like your sister” or more like your brother; always having ourselves seen through the images of the popular, more athletic and even the smarter sibling. Sometimes even been seen as like one parent versus the other. Never truly being seen for who you really. However, it doesn’t matter how others see but how you see yourself. And I think this book is all about that. I’m Not Her is a book about figuring out who you are underneath all the labels and learning to like yourself as who you truly are. Also, I would say this book is about learning to see through different lenses, not believe everything you see. Learning to see other people for who they are and not what you or anyone else has made them out to be. Most importantly, I’m Not Her is about not playing into the roles people want you to fit into but breaking those roles and being yourself. 

Like any other high school drama, our story begins at a party. Because that is the stereotype, that teenage life is nothing but one big party. Well, not for Tess. She feels awkward, she’s ended up alone on a couch again and to make matters worse, the first boy to ever approach her is drunk and asking her questions about her sister Kristina. However, Tess gets a glimpse of Kristina in this poplar world and kind of feels bad that she has to perform a little to keep up appearances. Still, Tess wants nothing more than to escape all the boys that faun all over her sister and fade away from this party, from this life. 

The next day, Kristina goes to her doctor’s appointment for the knee that’s been bothering her for months. So far, their mother has said everything is fine but everything is not fine when Kristina comes back and tells Tess that she has cancer. 

Suddenly Tess’ life seems trivial compared to what Kristina will have to go through; chemo and maybe possibly losing a leg. Thus Kristina asks Tess to keep her secret and make something up when she skips school. But that’s where Tess’ problems begin. 

Now people notice her, but only to ask her where her sister is. Some boy named Jeremy keeps hounding her about Kristina, like some kind of stalker and to top it all off, Tess realizes that her and her best friend, Melissa’s silly rants about Kristina’s perfect life aren’t so silly and her best friend actually hates her sister. Thus she has started skipping classes, ruining her chances at the Honor Society and seems to find solace in the drunk guy from the party who is she developing a crush on. 

But still, she tries to keep it together. Her trials are nothing compared to what Kristina has to go through. Yet more strife seems to come her way when her mother seems to be determined to force Tess to deal with as a buffer with Kristina, claiming that she wants Tess to bond but it’s so she won’t have to face Kristina’s illness head on; and her dad has gone M.I.A from the family, always at work or even golfing. And it seems her sister has shrunken into herself, and Tess finds it even more hard to relate to her and help her. Although Tess runs into Jeremy, the stalker, at the hospital and he seems to be the only one to bring Kristina out of her funk. 

However the pressure is getting to Tess. She can’t keep up the lie at school that everything is fine. Kristina’s friends want answers. She is having to skip classes for Kristina, and actually hates that her sister’s cancer is making her miss school and forever killing her chances for Honor Society. Tess loses her best friend, her mother continues to use her as a “Kristina’s Cancer” buffer, not dealing with the illness, her father still is gone all the time and now Kristina might lose her leg? Plus that crush on the drunk senior at the party is dangerously growing more and more each time she bumps into him. How will Tess deal? 

I’m Not Her is a book about the fact that just because you are siblings and are related, does not mean you are the same person; that even though you come from the same genes, you can be completely set apart from one another. This book is about learning what makes you who you are and embracing who you are no matter what. I’m Not Her is also about understanding the labels you place or other place on someone else do not define them. Don’t give in to stereotypes and things you hear about someone. And above all else, this book is about learning not to become what you have been labeled to please others; learning to step outside who you’ve been forced to be and just be yourself. 

Reviewed by Camia Rhodes

Book Information
Publisher: Sourcebooks, Incorporated
Publication date: 5/1/2011
Pages: 304

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