I kind of like the format I’ve been using for my mini-reviews, so I’ve decided to try it out for my “long-form” reviews, too.
Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern
Amy and Matthew are going into their senior year of high school. Amy has cerebral palsy and is confined to a wheelchair and can only talk through a computer. She has spent most of her life devoted to academic achievement always accompanied by either her overbearing mother or an adult aide to help her with the tasks she cannot physically complete on her own. As her senior year approaches, she gets the idea to hire student aides so she can start making friends. She is particularly interested in getting to know Matthew better, as Matthew is the only person she’s ever met who has talked straight to her. However, Matthew is dealing with his own troubles, particularly the obsessive compulsive disorder that has taken over his life. But Matthew is curious about Amy and Amy manages to talk him into being one of her student aides. Over the course of the year, the two grow unexpectedly close.
What I liked: I was really fond of both Amy and Matthew and thought that they were well-developed characters. I don’t know much about what it feels like to have cerebral palsy or OCD, but I felt that these issues were portrayed appropriately, that I learned something about them, and that they never defined who Amy or Matthew were. Amy and Matthew’s relationship was really special, a friendship that surprises them both by becoming more, and I couldn’t NOT root for them. This was also a story that grabbed me from the start and I had a hard time putting it down.
What I felt meh about: The plot heads to crazytown midway through the book, when Amy heads off to college, while Matthew stays at home. Spoiler: Amy gets oops pregnant from her one and only sexual encounter with another guy, which was mostly just an attempt to make Matthew jealous. And then she and her baby almost die from preeclampsia/prematurity, but somehow this makes her and Matthew grow close again. Let’s just say, it gets kind of soap opera-y. This was disappointing because this story would have been just as successful, and perhaps more powerful, with a less melodramatic plot. I will say, though, that while I rolled my eyes, the silly plot twist never kept me from wanting to read on.
All in all: I did really enjoy this story and these characters, even though it turned into a soap opera halfway through. I also liked seeing the diversity in characters and would like to see this kind of nuanced portrayal of mental illness or physical disability more often. However, I’m not sure I’d recommend this widely just because of the crazy plot twist.