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!
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.
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: