Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Book Review: SAY WHAT YOU WILL by Cammie McGovern

As soon as I heard Cammie McGovern talking about her books at Houston's Blue Willow last week (she was touring with Julie Murphy), I knew this was an author who should have already been on my radar and somehow wasn't. It happens, I know. So many books; so little time. But I grabbed a copy of SAY WHAT YOU WILL, her debut YA title from 2014 and took it to the beach with me this past weekend and promptly devoured it.

SAY WHAT YOU WILL is about many things: Friendship. An over-protected but brilliant girl whose cerebral palsy traps her in a body that she accepts and tries not to let define her but which doesn't let her have the physical freedoms that would make life easier. A boy with OCD, whose fears and anxieties trap him as well. A star-crossed romance. The good, the bad, the ugly of living in this world -- of loving and losing and making mistakes and pulling yourself up. The difficulties of overcoming perceptions and fears. The terrible things we sometimes do to the people who love us, often because we don't love ourselves enough first. How hard and miraculous it is to find someone who truly 'gets you.' About how easy it is to mess up and miss opportunities to find your tribe, your people. And as main character Amy calls one of her favorite themes (and it's one of mine, too!): Oddballs finding each other. It is not by accident that Amy's favorite book, referenced more than once in the novel, is Tell Me You Love Me, Junie Moon, the story of three misfits who meet in a hospital.

This is a beautiful, beautiful book. It is gorgeously written, gentle and thoughtful. Amy and Matthew are as imperfect and damaged yet perfect and wonderful as any two characters I have ever read. Their story broke my heart, pieced it back together, then broke it again and eventually let me know that while a happily ever after might not in their future, their story is not over. First love is like that. It is often painful and intense and confusing and wonderful and awful all at the same time.

McGovern creates fully rounded characters in SWYW. The reader learns exactly what it is like to live with CP or OCD; their disabilities are deftly drawn in ways that don't always happen in novels. But be sure: this is not an 'issue' book, although in less capable hands it could be. It is real and heartbreaking and encouraging and one of the best books I've read this year, YA or other. I cannot wait to dig into McGovern's newest book,  A Step Toward Falling, just out from Harper Teen.

I'm sitting here looking for a quote to end this review and I'm feeling teary-eyed again in the best of ways just flipping through the pages of this wonderful, wonderful book! And here's your quote, from near the end, but it doesn't ruin anything, just gives you a sense of the words:
"They sat like that for a while, hands intertwined on top of the book. If he spoke, he knew his voice would betray him. It would crack and break and he'd start to cry. So they stayed just like that, as the light through the window drained from the sky."

For more about the brilliant Cammie McGovern, go to

No comments: