Allison's Book Bag

Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern

Posted on: March 27, 2015

Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern is a slow-blooming flower. The initial events feel a little contrived. In addition, the relationship between Amy and Matthew takes almost too much time to develop. Yet the further into the story I got, the deeper affection I began to feel for the characters. I also appreciate that McGovern puts front and center characters with disabilities.

Friendships don’t happen simply because one is introduced to someone, sits next to someone in class, or even shares a table at lunch. Matthew remembers Amy from elementary school, but otherwise the two don’t really know one other. For that reason, Matthew certainly doesn’t intend to tell Amy what he thinks of the essay she shared in class, one in which she puts on a cheerful façade. After he does, however, Amy realizes that she needs someone like Matthew around to tell her the truth. She even develops a way for them to have regular contact. While this initial setup seems forced, subsequent encounters between Matthew and Amy feel more natural. I adored for example how they supported each other in the awkward task of making sales calls for the yearbook.

Matthew’s one moment of being honest with Amy leads to other shared revelations. He reveals that he struggles with obsessions. She confides that her plan for making friends during her high school haven’t been going too well. As their friendship develops, they discover they meet needs the other has. Matthew tries to help Amy deal with a helicopter mother, who has so involved herself in Amy’s life that she provides prospective friends with a list of all of Amy’s favorite things. Amy in turn pushes Matthew to confront his fears, meet with a therapist, and perhaps even consider medication for his disorder. It’s a sweet friendship that stumbles into a romance.

Actually, the romance doesn’t happen until about the midpoint of the novel, where Matthew takes Amy to the prom. By this point, I’d started to feel frustrated with Say What You Will. Although the signs for romance kept popping up, they weren’t ever being acted upon due to both characters. I began to feel as if watching a television show where season after season the two main stars clearly like one another, but are still kept annoying apart for the sake of show longevity. I felt relieved when McGovern finally allowed Matthew and Amy to acknowledge their feelings. From that point on, tension less on whether the two would get together and more on other issues such as jobs, parental interference, fake friends, and tenuous college plans. The relationship finally begins to feel complex, real, and dramatic.

Up until now everything in my review has focused on the love story behind Say What You Will. I’ve one last thing to say on that note. Despite the style sounding well-suited to middle school, McGovern’s novel is definitely for young adults due to their being a couple of sex scenes.

I’m not normally a fan of romances, but the uniqueness of Amy and Matthew make me a fan of Say What You Will. Amy has cerebral palsy. There are various levels of this disability and hers is severe enough that she needs support of a para, a walker, and a talking computer. As for Matthew, he has obsessive compulsive disorder, and its extreme enough to cause him to avoid social situations, gain attention of peers, and cause panic attacks. Together, the two learn to work around the limitations these disorders might cause, as well as find ways to overcome the challenges of life. Say What You Will is an honest portrayal of the universal experience of learning how to tell your date everything … including what matters most.

My rating? Read it: Borrow from your library or a friend. It’s worth your time.

How would you rate this book?

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