7 May 2015

Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern

 Release Date: 27th March 2014
Publisher: Harper Teen
Pages: 368
Format: Paperback | Purchased

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Synopsis (from GR): 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.

My thoughts: I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I'm highly suspicious of contemporary YA novels that claim to be the literary love child of Rainbow Rowell and John Green. With books I'd recently read and adored claiming to be so - Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda and All the Bright Places - I thought I'd try for a trifecta. Unfortunately, this book did not live up to expectations for me, and I basically felt like I was being told, "this is a book about people with disabilities, love me!"

Amy has cerebral palsy, and is unable to walk without the aid of a walker, or talk without her computer voice machine. She has a total of three facial expressions. Her physical disability means that she had been alienated from her peers, with only her teachers and adult aides for company. When she decides she wants peer aides to help her during her final year of high school, her mother is reluctant - but Amy is persistent, and her wish is granted. She wants Matthew, a boy suffering from OCD and the only person who has ever told her the truth, to be one of those aides. Although Matthew is reluctant at first, he agrees, and pair form a strong friendship. Say What You Will shines a spotlight on both physical and mental illnesses, something that isn't really showcased in contemporary fiction, young adult or otherwise. I'm not really a contemporary fiction reader - I prefer fantasy - but I was really looking forward to reading this, and bought it as soon as it was recommended to me by GoodReads. I essentially read it in one fell swoop, starting it before bed one night, and finishing it the next day after I woke up.

This book and I... we started off well. It's a weird book, because the first half felt completely different in tone and pace to the second half. If anything, the first half of the book was actually Eleanor & Park-esque, although not as well executed. The pacing was different to what I expected - I thought this book would cover Amy & Matthew's final year of high school with the climax occurring around their graduation, but the second half of the book covered Amy's first year at uni, too. I struggled to engage with Amy - I found her to be a Mary Sue with a walker, and kind of manipulative, too. Whenever she's called out on her behaviour, she just brushes these criticisms off and ignores the speaker.  When the big ~plot twist~ is revealed,  Amy expects Matthew to drop everything and come running to help her, even though they haven't spoken in three months. I felt for Matthew - he was being emotionally manipulated by Amy and deserved better. He actually was a character that I could relate to, and whose arc I was emotionally invested in, but despite his growth he remains stuck in the same place, which was really frustrating to read.

I guess I'm in the minority of readers here, but I spent most of this book wondering where it was heading, and being frustrated with Amy and her awful behaviour.

★★

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