A Rogue Librarian's Reading List

{September 8, 2014}   Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern

saywhatyouwillPlot: Amy was born with cerebral palsy: she can’t communicate without mechanical assistance and can’t walk without a walker. She is keenly intelligent but needs help to get about her days and has few friends. For her last year of High School, she requests  peer helpers so that she can learn to interact with people her own age. One of these helpers is Matthew, who has a less visible disability: he suffers from a severe case of OCD that affects his life and relationships in many ways. As they work together, their feelings begin to blossom into something more.

This review is based on the audiobook narrated by Rebecca Lowman.

I read a lot of books, many of them YA, and yet this is the first romance I’ve read about a young woman with cerebral palsy (OCD and other mental disorders are not entirely new but still rare). I think that is a real shame that there aren’t more disabled teens in YA and I’d like to take the opportunity to direct everyone to Disability in Kidlit who will better be able to tell you if McGovern’s portrayal of Amy is accurate (they are rather critical, actually). But even with the problems they describe, I hope the popularity of this book encourages the publication of more books starring teens with disabilities (hopefully written by people with disabilities!) perhaps even dealing with problems that have nothing to do with their disabilities.

As a YA novel, it is still quite enjoyable. I’ve seen this novel recommended to fans of The Fault in Our Stars and Eleanor & Park and I can hardly disagree. It is an unconventional romance told with humour and honesty. The narration alternates between Amy – who struggles to connect with people her age in spite of communication problems – and Matthew – who cannot resist his compulsions but fears having them revealed – interrupted by the occasional email exchange. They grow closer and try to help each other through their difficulties (though the tasks that Amy sets Matthew to help with OCD seem rather cruel at times) and sometimes, in their failure to connect, hurt each other. They are disabled but ultimately, they strive for the same goals as the teens in most YA novels – friends, love, work and college – and struggle with parents who don’t understand them. Which leads me to my least favorite character: Amy’s mother. She’s almost cartoonishly terrible. She pushes Amy to excel, doesn’t listen to her desires or needs, manipulates her life, chooses her friends and makes decisions for her. I wouldn’t wish her on anyone, no matter how good her intentions.

Even if it is far from a perfect portrayal, I do think that being in Amy’s head can help able-bodied readers rethink how they view disabled people, especially non-verbal ones. I like that her ultimate problem in the novel has little to do with her CP and that by the end she stands up to her mother. I also like that McGovern doesn’t shy away from discussing Amy’s sexuality. Our society sometimes likes to pretend that disabled people are asexual. Amy’s one sexual experience could have been handled better (there are some serious issues of consent, for one) but it is refreshing to me that her desires are recognized and openly discussed.

I want to give this book a glowing review as I listened to it with great pleasure. I rather enjoy Lowman’s narrations, for one, I already knew her from Rainbow Rowell’s audiobooks and was pleased to find her again. And I found Amy and Matthew to be witty, endearing narrators. However, I do have to nuance my praise with the concerns of actual people with disabilities.

2014 (#45)


From what I’ve read of this novel, I did like Amy and Matthew but I found the writing too stiff and simple for me. Anyway great review! I still need to finish this one though hahaa.

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