Monday, June 23, 2014

Review: Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern

Release date: June 3, 2014
Author info: Website | Twitter | Facebook
Publisher: HarperTeen
Pages: 343
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher provided for review
Buy the book: Barnes & Noble | Amazon | The Book Depository
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.
Say What You Will is one of those books that it's very difficult for me to give a star rating. It's not that I don't see the value in the story and don't applaud how honest it is, not at all, but it's that I never especially connected to Amy and Matthew and that I couldn't glean enjoyment out of my reading experience. I didn't close the book and say to myself, "Wow, what an amazing book!" The fact that I never felt pleasure in reading the book makes it hard for me to give it a high rating, but the value of the story and characters is immense and deserves one, if that makes sense.

Amy and Matthew are high schoolers dealing with very different but very serious handicaps. Amy has cerebral palsy, so she can't walk without assistance, talks through a voice box, and her muscles even randomly twitch. One of Amy's aides is Matthew, who has obsessive compulsive disorder and who can't go down the hallways without tapping the lockers. As the school year progresses, the two find in the other a kindred spirit, not because of a handicap, but in personality and sense of humor, and they help one another come out of their shells and have a real friend.

Say What You Will is straightforward to the point that it's hard to connect, however. You're not spared any details. The third-person point of view keeps you at a distance from Amy and Matthew; it shows their stories, but it's hard to feel anything from them. Amy is smart and strong-willed, almost to a fault, and you just know she's fragile behind that, but you never feel that. You see it later on, but Amy from the first half of the book never connected to Amy of the second half, at least to me. And there were times that I couldn't help but feel like parts of the plot were created to make extra drama, because getting there would include a lot of stupidity from Amy that was just out of character.

I applaud Say What You Will for its honesty, and its message is important. I think this is a valuable book, too. Amy and Matthew's dual struggles into accepting who they are, finding friends who accept it as well, and seeking independence are lovely in theory, but they just never hit me like they should or could have.

(I'm forgoing a rating here, because I just can't give one. It wouldn't properly demonstrate how I feel.)

About the author:

Cammie McGovern was born in Evanston, Illinois, but moved to Los Angeles when she was seven years old. She is the author of three adult novels, The Art of Seeing, Eye Contact, and Neighborhood Watch. Say What You Will will be published by HarperTeen in June, 2014. She currently lives in Amherst, MA, with her husband and three sons, the oldest of whom is autistic.

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