Monday, October 13, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? Say What You Will

Say What You Will
It's Monday!  What Are You Reading?Title: Say What You Will
Author: Cammie McGovern
Publication Date: June 3, 2014
Publisher: HarperTeen
Genre: Realistic fiction
Pages: 352
Age Rating: Readers over 14
My Opinion: 5/10

Hi, Readers!

       There are some topics that authors have to handle with the utmost care.  Some of these topics include depression, abuse, and in this case, disabilities.  If the authors think about every single element of the story and how it will affect readers, these novels can usually turn out to be the most impactful pieces of literature.  However, when they're not done right, they leave readers with a sour taste in their mouths.  For this It's Monday!  What Are You Reading?, I chose to review one of the more sour works, Say What You Will, by Cammie McGovern.  The blogging meme is hosted by Teach Mentor Texts, Book Journeys, and Unleashing Readers.

       Amy has been kidding herself her whole life.  She has never had a single friend, and yet she pretends to be happy each and every day.  She has cerebral palsy, a condition that she entirely accepts, but she wishes it wasn't so difficult to meet other children her age.  Before her senior year of high school, Amy decides to drop the act and asks her mom to hire student helpers to carry her books during the day.  In a sense, Amy's mom is paying these children to be her daughter's friends.  Amy emails one boy in particular, Matthew, and invites him to be a student helper.  She has been observing him for years and is thrilled when Matthew accepts the invitation.  On the other hand, Matthew thinks he's a regular teen trying to make some money by working for Amy.  He doesn't realize right away that he is struggling with OCD and that he severely needs help.  When Amy and Matthew begin working together, they seem to learn more about themselves than each other.  They form a tight bond, but struggles such as college applications and prom threaten to tear their friendship apart.

       The best part about McGovern's book would have to be its honesty.  McGovern certainly doesn't shy away from difficult topics in the novel, even if they make readers uncomfortable.  She also does an excellent job telling the story over a long period of time and showing the minute changes in the characters' relationships.  I also enjoyed the changing perspective, which switches between Matthew and Amy.  It's especially interesting because, unlike most books with duel narration, both Matthew and Amy have disabilities that they are struggling to cope with.

       However, there were some things about this book that particularly bugged me, which is most likely because it had the potential to be such a fantastic work of literature.  First of all, I wish that Amy's condition was clarified.  Maybe I didn't read carefully enough, but there was never a clear explanation of cerebral palsy.  I wanted to look up more information about it on the internet to fully understand the book, but the disability really should have been described in the first few pages of the book.  Another thing that I really disliked about Say What You Will is the fact that Amy's mom paid people to be her friends.  I totally understand that Amy struggled to fit in, but paying people to be her friends is such a cliche that Amy's mother should have known it was doomed to fail.  There are so many other options that Amy's mom could have explored to benefit her child.  For example, in my high school, there is a club called Best Buddies that pairs together individuals of different backgrounds to build relationships.  Instead of renting friends, Amy's mom should have focused more on this positive building of friendships that will last a lifetime, like in Best Buddies.  Third, although I liked McGovern's inclusion of emails and text messages from Amy to Matthew at first, it started to become overkill.  There were pages upon pages of unsent emails that took away from the action occurring in real life.  One last thing that I disliked was how Amy let random kids fill her walker with beer and sneak it into prom.  The idea is entirely degrading, and Amy is such a smart kid that I couldn't believe she went along with the plan.  Of course, author Cammie McGovern was trying to demonstrate how Amy would go to extremes to make "friends", but I wish that she could have shown this in a more appropriate manner.
Read this instead!

       Sorry for the rant, but I believe that because McGovern wrote about such a sensitive topic, it must be handled very carefully.  I truly believe that McGovern for the most part handled the topic respectfully, but there were just a few elements that I really disliked, and I mean no offense to her as an author because the rest of the book was good.  I did enjoy reading the novel and it opened my eyes to completely different lifestyles, but I just couldn't ignore certain aspects of the book.  At this point in time, I don't think I would recommend this book to others.  If you are looking for a book with a similar plot line, I would suggest Out Of My Mind, by Sharon M. Draper.

Happy reading!


  1. This book kind of left a sour feeling for me, too. I liked Amy, but started to not really like her with some of the decisions she made - and it was so frustrating, because like you said, she's smart.

  2. Hi Katie, very good to read about your refreshingly-candid thoughts about the book. :)


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