As a big fan of disability narratives, I jumped at the chance to read a YA novel that features a girl with Cerebral Palsy and a boy with OCD. I was interested to see how their relationship and story would go. Unfortunately, I was extremely disappointed in how CP was portrayed as well as the relationship between the two characters.
I think the strongest part of the novel was the portrayal of OCD as it felt relatively accurate in my understanding of the mental illness. I also liked that we got to see Matthew take medication and see a therapist regularly. So often those good behaviors are not part of mental health narratives.
My biggest issue was with how Amy was portrayed. I really struggled to believe her claims about having minimal socialization experience when she’d been mainstreamed most of her life and grown up with the same kids. In my experience, she would not have been as isolated as she was in the book. Certainly, she would have befriended someone during the years, and not waited until her senior year of high school. Likewise, I failed to believe that she didn’t understand how to socialize or interact with her peers when she said she’d spent years studying their behaviors.
Amy’s mother also came across as rather abusive in how she raised Amy. She seemed to be a major factor in how isolated Amy was. I also had trouble believing that they wouldn’t have visited the universities to figure out which ones had the best accessibility accommodations and would be the best fit for Amy in more than just an academic sense.
What really killed the novel for me was the whole drama of Amy getting pregnant. At that point, the story had felt like it had dragged on a little too long and this final push to bring Amy and Matthew together was super contrived and melodramatic. Plus, Amy and Matthew’s relationship throughout most of the novel felt unhealthily dependent on each other. Despite their differing disabilities, they should have been there to support each other and help each other do more and grow, not come to rely on each other and the only person who could help them live.
For me, this wasn’t a romance or disability narrative that felt truthful and honest to the lives of people with disabilities. I’m also troubled by the parental and romantic relationships that were never called out for how unhealthy and borderline abusive.
Title(s): Say What You Will
Author(s): Cammie McGovern
Overall Rating: 2/5
Format Accessed: iBook