Review: Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern

Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern

Born with cerebral palsy, Amy can’t walk without a walker, talk without a voice box, or even fully control her facial expressions. Plagued by obsessive-compulsive disorder, Matthew is consumed with repeated thoughts, neurotic rituals, and crippling fear. Both in desperate need of someone to help them reach out to the world, Amy and Matthew are more alike than either ever realized.

When Amy decides to hire student aides to help her in her senior year at Coral Hills High School, these two teens are thrust into each other’s lives. As they begin to spend time with each other, what started as a blossoming friendship eventually grows into something neither expected.

Title: Say What You Will
Author: Cammie McGovern
Publication date: June 3, 2014

The synopsis for Say What You Will on Goodreads starts with this:

John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars meets Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park in this beautifully written, incredibly honest, and emotionally poignant novel.

I know why publishers compare books, but the problem with comparing one book to another (or two!) is that if I didn’t like the first book (or either of them) I’m less likely to pick up the new book. Obviously they’re hoping to capture the interest of fans of those highly successful books, but there are people out there who didn’t care for The Fault in Our Stars and who thought Eleanor & Park was just okay but who might like this book. The comparison alienates them. I am one of those people. I actually gave both books three stars, the same rating I am giving Say What You Will on Goodreads. (Here on the blog it gets 3 1/2.) I read both of them before I started blogging and if I read them now, they would probably both get two stars. Maybe E&P would still get three. Maybe.

Although I’m always drawn to its cover, I almost skipped Say What You Will mostly because of the comparisons to books I didn’t love and also because it sounds like an afterschool special. Which it kind of is, but it also held my interest despite not connecting with either of the main characters. There’s one particular storyline that rockets it into Afterschool Special territory and I think it could easily have been left out. It’s a big storyline, but there are other ways of getting to the same point without so much drama.

Say What You Will is written in third person and I think that’s why I had problems connecting with the characters. I feel like most of the books I’ve read lately are written in first person, sometimes with multiple first person perspectives. It’s easier to get into a character’s head if you’re, you know, in that character’s head. Amy was supposed to be in love with Matthew, but I never really felt that she was, or that he returned her feelings. For me, their relationship was a good friendship. I was told that they were there, but I didn’t feel any romantic feelings between them, and I wonder if the romance would have worked better for me in first person. There’s also Amy’s computer, her means of verbal communication. ITS SPEECH WAS WRITTEN IN ALL CAPS THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE BOOK AND I FELT LIKE IT WAS SHOUTING AT ME. See how annoying that is? Now imagine how much dialogue there is in the average book and trying to read half of that dialogue in all caps.

I do admire Amy though, and not just because she doesn’t let her cerebral palsy stop her from doing what she wants to do. She has more challenges than most and the most obvious of those are her physical challenges. What people don’t always see, though, is her overbearing mother Nicole. Like all good mothers, Nicole wants the best for Amy. She doesn’t want to see Amy hurt and she knows that Amy has a hard road in front of her. It’s natural that she would be overprotective, but she goes to such extremes that, as a senior in high school, Amy has never had a single friend. Now Amy finally has her chance. It starts with Amy requesting peer helpers instead of an adult aide like she’s always had, evolves into her friendship with Matthew (who Nicole doesn’t like because of his “issues”), and continues as Amy goes away to college. She doesn’t win every battle, and she doesn’t always handle her losses very well or very maturely, but she lets Nicole know how she feels about it.

I feel like Matthew and his problems (obsessive compulsive disorder and problems at home) weren’t given as much attention in the book. It seems like I know a lot more about Amy, her family, and her feelings than about Matthew. Matthew’s illness,is easier to hide — at least he thinks it is. It turns out, people have noticed all along and they think he’s weird because of it. Matthew doesn’t have a lot of friends either because he’s so busy inside his own head. It’s through Amy and her pushing him to get a job, to get help for his OCD, to read more that he steps outside himself and can finally live without counting or checking the faucets constantly. The urge remains, but he’s usually able to fight it, only returning to his compulsive habits when things get overwhelming. Their friendship is good for both of them and now they each have someone else to lean on when they were both alone before.

I only picked up Say What You Will because it was available at the library. I would never have purchased it based on the comparison to The Fault in Our Stars and Eleanor & Park. I still wouldn’t, but I’m glad I gave it a chance.

But I’ll probably still run from the next book described as “incredibly honest” and “emotionally poignant.”


3 1/2 stars



  1. I really liked this book. I did the audio so I didnt have the caps issue. I am usually picky on my realistic issues books but I did love all those you listed. I think I like a bit of cute to my books and all three brought that for me.
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