Say What You Will
By Cammie McGovern
Expected publication June 3, 2014 by HarperTeen
Amy has cerebral palsy - she walks with a walker, talks through a computer, and needs an aide to help her with tasks like using the bathroom and carrying her books between classes. Her senior year, she decides to hire other students as aides - mostly because of something Matthew said to her. Amy practically begs Matthew to sign up - he is one of the only people she thinks has ever been really honest with her. But Matthew has issues of his own. Will they get in the way of their blossoming friendship?
This book was getting a ton of push from the publisher at ALA Midwinter and I was happy to be handed a copy. I'm always interested in contemporary YA and this sounded like it had a really interesting premise. I suppose I should also note that this book is being marketed as John Green meets Rainbow Rowell (which, nearly every contemporary YA romance is these days) and I think that does this book a huge disservice because, really, it doesn't have much in common with those authors. I have to stop before I get on my soapbox but, if you're getting tired of that marketing plan, you should probably look past it and give this book a shot.
I really, really liked this book. The characters - oh my gosh, I just love them. Amy and Matthew - they feel real and lovely and heartbreaking and complicated and I loved getting to know them. The relationship that develops between them felt genuine and difficult and hopeful. Though this book is told in the third-person, it alternates between Amy and Matthew's point of view. I think it works really well here. I didn't feel any less connected to the characters because of the third-person narration and I loved getting to know each of them equally well. These two characters work really well together; in fact, they seem to be best with each other. Secondary characters seem only to complicate things for them, which, surprisingly, felt very realistic.
One of the things I really liked about this book is that it's about characters with disabilities but it's not exclusively about their disabilities. This is, to me, precisely what the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign is all about. Most frequently, books that feature characters with disabilities focus on the disability - how the character copes with it, how others perceive that character because of it, etc. This book is not like that because, at its heart, this book is a love story. This book shows that people with disabilities are more than just their disabilities, that they have myriad stories to tell and these stories may include their disabilities and they may not. This book shows that teens with disabilities can fall in love and have sex and make bad decisions, just like teens without disabilities. This book just tells a beautiful love story - and I love it for that.
Though it's not really a difficult task to accomplish, this book did indeed get me right in the feels. Any teen looking for an emotionally engaging book experience should definitely give this book a try. I completely loved the ending of this book as well, though I'll fully admit that I rolled my eyes at first (when the big plot twist first appears). I'll definitely be recommending this to teens all summer long.
Thanks to the publisher for an advance reader's copy.