"Say What You Will" by Cammie McGovern is a beautifully written story about two teens who find each other in spite of what might seem like insurmountable problems. It's kind of a quiet story -- both teens live quiet lives and both have problems dealing with daily life. Yet the relationship between them is like synergy -- together they are stronger than they are alone.
Amy was born with cerebral palsy and as a result of that she needs a walker and uses a machine that speaks for her. Because of her disability, she has lived most of her life without friends. Her senior year of high school, she finally decides that it's time to make friends, and she convinces her mother to pay other seniors to help her during the day (instead of the paid adults that usually help her).
At the same time, she contacts Matthew, and asks him to apply to be one of her paid aides. He does, and that is the beginning of their friendship.
Very quickly, it becomes apparent that Matthew suffers from OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder). Amy is brave enough to talk to him about it and try to help him. In turn, he is one of the few people to look at Amy as a person, not a object of pity. They have real conversations and talk honestly about their feelings and life.
At no time does McGovern's writing become maudlin or corny. The dialogue and plot move steadily forward and the characters become more and more real as their relationship develops. Neither Amy nor Matthew is perfect. And it might have been easy to make Amy the perfect, but disabled, heroine.
Amy makes mistakes, suffers from insecurity, and makes some poor decisions along the way. Matthew grows through Amy's patient tutelage. She gives him tasks to do in order to try to shake the OCD. And finally, because of their conversations, he sees a psychologist to get help.
The story is about fitting in and about what happens when you just can't fit in. It's about people with problems who are human -- and while they try to overcome the disability, sometimes things just don't work out. It's about how none of us are perfect, but we are really OK, and we should be OK with ourselves, imperfections and all.
This book would be an excellent choice for a middle school or high school. There are many issues that could be discussed, and many topics for further exploration.
Why 5 stars? It's a fabulous book about kids with disabilities, but it's not preachy or teachy. It's just a beautiful, touching story with a realistic ending.
Please note: This review is based on the final hardcover book provided by the publisher, HarperTeen, for review purposes.
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