Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: June 3, 2014
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: disabilities, disorders, senior year of high school, parents/children, friendship/romance
Format read: ARC from Jamie (Perpetual Page Turner)! Thank you.
Summary: Amy convinces her mom to ditch the adult aide her senior year, instead recruiting her fellow peers to help her out during the school day. She can’t take credit for the idea — instead that goes to Matthew, a guy she’s been in school with forever and one of the only people who is brave (??) enough to be honest with her. A friendship blooms between the two, as Matthew is dealing with his own challenges. And so their senior year gets a bit more exciting…
I hadn’t heard much about this book until Megan McCafferty tweeted about how (despite comparisons to Rainbow Rowell and John Green) Say What You Will stood on its own. I was more intrigued by that declaration than hearing those two names. Even as a huge Rainbow fan. It was kind of like fate that Jamie handed me the book the same day that I read that tweet, and here we are.
My mom has always worked with children and teenagers with disabilities. I couldn’t help but think of her as Amy’s adult aide got the boot and the high school allowed her peers to fill in. I’ve always thought it might have been difficult for the students my mom worked with to make great connections with other kids their age. It always seemed they were closest to their aides, and judging by the amount of time they spent together, it made sense if that was the case.
So I liked this little experiment, even if a boy (Matthew) was the catalyst. Maybe not the catalyst for the entire change but someone who challenged Amy and her “alleged” happiness as a young woman with cerebral palsy. Sure, his honesty is off-putting, as is his disbelief that Amy is completely well-adjusted. But with Amy off to college super soon, she realizes he does have a point. Her mom is not always going to be around to protect her, schedule her, and run her life; she’s ready to take control and, fingers crossed, come away with some lasting relationships.
Immediately, I liked Amy. She was observant, she asked great questions, and she was an all-around positive person. As she begins working with her student aides, she has a different relationship with each of them (good and bad) as she awaits her time each week with Matthew. It’s a difficult time for Matt to take on a responsibility like this one. Amy’s mom is super strict, and he’s scared of her and his OCD is at its worst. What business does he have helping someone? Surprising even himself, Matt finds he works well with Amy and even looks forward to seeing her each week. It comes so naturally to him, that their closeness becomes more of a focus and all he’s assisting her with becomes second nature.
Say What You Will is another book full of complicated, complex characters who do not always say the right things and do the right things. (I mean, do you?) We know that both the characters are tiptoeing around their feelings, but with college around the corner, is it worth saying something and risking their friendship? Because it is a solid, intimate friendship and one of the better male/female friendships I’ve come across in my reading ever. I was okay with the tiptoeing but there was so much for each of the characters to figure out on their own. College! Parents! Jobs! Life!
And not to keep gushing, but I loved that McGovern conquered not only senior year but the summer before college and then actual college so Say What You Will covers a pretty hefty span of time. As we know, time changes things and sometimes, it doesn’t. As if life isn’t complicated enough with a mom who has made YOU her profession (Amy) and not knowing if college is your thing (Matt), the author throws some major curveballs that left me so tempted to stay up all night to finish the book. Ah. I want to say more but I can’t. I can’t! Don’t make me!
But seriously, I love that McGovern brought two characters like Amy and Matt into my life. They felt like people I could have easily bumped into during high school and yes, equally awesome that she’s bringing attention to a disability that I have yet to experience in any of my reading. But she did it in such a way that I almost forgot, if that makes sense? Despite what made Amy and Matt, Amy and Matt, it really was their struggles to pave their own paths and be honest with who they were and how they felt that made the book so effective.
I loved it.