Title: Say What You Will
Author: Cammie McGovern
Publication date: June 3, 2014
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Source: secondhand paperback ARC
Born with cerebral palsy, Amy can’t walk without a walker, talk without a voice box, or even fully control her facial expressions. Plagued by obsessive-compulsive disorder, Matthew is consumed with repeated thoughts, neurotic rituals, and crippling fear. Both in desperate need of someone to help them reach out to the world, Amy and Matthew are more alike than either ever realized.
When Amy decides to hire student aides to help her in her senior year at Coral Hills High School, these two teens are thrust into each other’s lives. As they begin to spend time with each other, what started as a blossoming friendship eventually grows into something neither expected. [from Goodreads]
That’s right, I’m finally posting my first review! I’m starting out with a 2014 release that I picked up last week.
What I liked:
- Diverse characters with (mostly) realistic portrayals– Our main characters Amy and Matthew dealt with disabilities (Cerebral Palsy) and mental illness (OCD). Amy and Matthew become friends after Matthew is assigned as one of Amy’s peer aids at school. There is a really interesting discussion HERE about the portrayal of Amy’s CP and Matthew’s OCD if you’re interested but please be warned that it’s full of spoilers.
- Interesting side characters– Amy’s other peer aids were all so different and interesting. I appreciated that the author took the time to develop unique backstories for each of them.
- Realist peer interactions– Amy and Matthew both dealt with a lot of social isolation, fake friendships, people using them, etc and this was all difficult to read but realistic for kids in high school who don’t fit in with their peers.
- P.O.V.– Say What You Will is told in third person, alternating between Amy and Matthew’s point of view. First person P.O.V. seems to be more popular in YA, but I actually prefer third person usually, and I think it worked really well with this book.
- Complex character development– Amy and Matthew both grow so much as characters and in their relationship throughout the book, especially in the last quarter of the book. Without spoiling anything, there are some major events that take place towards the end, and I would have had a completely different reading experience if I’d known about them prior to reading. I was innocently reading at the gym and almost dropped the book at one point because I was so shocked.
- Relationship development– Matthew is Amy’s only peer helper who makes a genuine effort to be her friend, and in turn Amy supports Matthew as he learns to accept and treat his OCD. Their relationship has so many ups and downs throughout the book and they go through a lot together, which only strengthens their bond. And there is a slow burn romance which is my ultimate weakness in books.
What I didn’t:
- Amy’s mom– Her mother was seriously AWFUL. She pays kids at school to pretend to be Amy’s friend. She’s way too involved in Amy’s life and tries to make every decision for her. She is so pushy and overbearing. She had no regard for Amy’s feelings or opinions. She thought she was always right and wouldn’t listen to anyone else. She thought she had the authority to choose Amy’s friends for her. I thought she would have a big breakthrough at the end and realize how terrible she’d been, but that never really happened.
- Consent issues– There’s a scene in the book where two characters have sex while one is clearly drunk. The other character was obviously (to me) taking advantage of the drunk person but this is never addressed later on and that really bothered me.
- Amy’s “voice”– This is more of a style issue than a problem with the writing itself. Amy speaks using a text-to-voice device, and her “speech” was always written in all caps. So in my head I always read her to be yelling at everyone. We definitely needed a distinction between her actual voice and her device “voice” but I’m not sure that caps-lock was the way to go.
Cammie McGovern was a Stegner Fellow at Stanford and received the Nelson Algren Award in short fiction. Her work has been published in Redbook, Seventeen, Glimmer Train, TriQuarterly, and other publications.