Review: Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern

Title: Say What You Will
Author: Cammie McGovern
Genre: YA, contemporary
Publisher/Publication Date: HarperTeen / June 3, 2014
How Did I Get It? Bought it!
Format? Hardback

Synopsis from Goodreads: 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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While I wasn’t as blown away as many other readers were, I really enjoyed this quiet, kind of quirky, and surprising novel. I had a few complaints about the ending, but some of it I think is an issue of personal preference. What really shone was the honest, unflinching, and beautiful portrayal of physical and mental illness, and the friendships that formed through and despite these obstacles.

I’d have to say that Matthew was my favorite of the two main characters, simply because his struggle with mental illness was something I could relate to a bit more than Amy’s physical limitations. However, the two of them together was something so gently beautiful. It was a perfect portrayal of young love: awkward and uncertain, yet exhilarating. I think that was one of my favorite aspects of the novel; McGovern doesn’t try to shy away from Amy or Matthew’s health issues, but she emphasizes the fact that despite their issues, love isn’t something they should have to count out of their lives. And to see it start out as an awkward acquaintance, then progress to friendship, and then to something more – it was a slow burn that I just wanted to stay in forever.

One thing I noticed when I was reading was that I kept looking for a point. I kept asking, “where is this going?” But I think this is one of those books where it’s not meant to have a break-neck plot or a direct path to take. It’s simply a timeline of two peoples’ lives, and following them over the course of almost two years. And once I realized that fact, I settled into the book a lot more, and truly started enjoying it.

I did have one issue, like I said. The twist at about the 3/4 mark was a bit too much for me. It was just one more thing to get in between Matthew and Amy, and it just felt like it was pulled from way left field. But, the conclusion was sweet, if a bit too quickly wrapped up. And then there was a really open ending; I’d have liked a bit more closure.

Overall, Say What You Will deserves all the praise that it’s received. Tackling mental illness and disabilities in one book could have gone horribly wrong (like an episode of Glee), but I felt like McGovern did an excellent job. This is one I’d definitely recommend, as long as you make sure that you A) settle into the story and don’t look for a fast plot, and B) keep an open mind about the weird-ish ending.

My Final Rating:

Four stars

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7 thoughts on “Review: Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern

  1. I definitely related more to Matthew than Amy. This book actually made me kind of mad…lol! I DID enjoy the ending, like that very final chapter with Amy’s play? But the middle ground often seemed like it was just rolling out a story that had to be said. And it made me sad that Amy spent so much of the book “fixing” Matthew. Matthew needed a friend, not to be trotted through Amy’s tasks to make him a worthwhile boyfriend. *Sigh* I think I ended up giving it a 3. It was really unique!

    • I totally agree about the middle; that’s why I rated it 4 instead of 5. I thought the ending was fantastic, but the little bit in the 2/3 section was iffy.

      And that’s actually a good point; Amy had a more clinical view of Matthew. But I think it changed towards the end, in the second half, when she learned that she really needed him.

  2. Ooh this one sounds good. I really like it when books have characters with physical disabilities, because it’s nice to have somebody that I can relate to in that way, but I feel like those books are so RARE. And a lot of the ones that I’ve randomly come across on Goodreads don’t even have good ratings/reviews. So now I really want to read this one 🙂

    The synopsis definitely sounds really…John Green-y, though. Is it that kind of style? How similar is it?

    • Then I think you’ll REALLY enjoy this one! You could probably identify with both characters, actually 🙂

      Ehhhh I think it leans more toward the Rowell comparison than the Green comparison. I didn’t see much Green in there other than the unique teens fall in love schtick.

  3. Pingback: Weekly Recap 32 (June 22) – The New Bookcase Edition | The Thousand Lives

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