Friday, June 20, 2014
Review: Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern
John Green's The Fault in Our Stars meets Rainbow Rowell's Eleanor & Park in this beautifully written, incredibly honest, and emotionally poignant novel. Cammie McGovern's insightful young adult debut is a heartfelt and heartbreaking story about how we can all feel lost until we find someone who loves us because of our faults, not in spite of them.
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.
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Source: Copy provided by HarperTeen for an honest review
Review:Say What You Will hits all the “diversity in YA” marks that everyone says they are looking for right now. Although unintentional, I know I’m not reading, or seeking out, enough books with diverse characters.
Amy has Cerebral Palsy while Matthew struggles with OCD. I’ve had friends, & friends with children, who have suffered from these disabilities and the author was spot on with their struggles. I don’t think she captures everyone’s unique experience but she does portray these two particular characters experience in an honest way IMO.
But is it a good story?
Honestly, I struggled for about half of the book. It’s told in 3rd person, alternating (between Amy & Matthew). I don’t usually have problems reading any type of POV, but in this case, the 3rd person kept me from immersing in the story. Matthew, in particular, came off much younger than his 17 years with very choppy sounding sentences and thoughts.
The romance between the two is very sweet and slow to form. Matthew is the first person not to tip toe around Amy. He tells it to her straight and makes Amy see that although she’s in high school and doing quite well in her chair, using her talking device to communicate, she’s still keeping herself at a distance from other people. She misses out on social cues and nuances that would help her integrate better when she goes off to college and become more independent. Amy helps Matthew push through his panic attacks and seek help with his OCD by giving him tasks and goals.
Their disabilities are an issue but not the issue. They actually have your generic teenage miscommunications, jealousy and insecurities found in any YA. Some of the problems may be unique to their situation but were still fairly standard.
There are some mighty big twists in this book and they elevated the second half of the story for me. While the first half meandered, seeming not to know where it was headed, the second half pulled the characters into sharp focus, really letting us see what Amy and Matthew are made of and how much they can handle. It was unconventional but it fit this story. (Don’t worry – despite the John green TFiOS comparisons – you won’t need to buy stock in Kleenex. Maybe just have one of those small travel packs on hand. lol)
Final thoughts: I had a few issues with this book. Primarily the 3rd person POV, side characters that weren’t fleshed out, a few big events that happen off page and a meandering first half. But in the end, McGovern has told a heartwarming story of two teenagers that don’t quite know how to fit in but ultimately find hope in each other & for their futures. I look forward to what McGovern writes next.