MAKE-YOU-CRY MONDAY: Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern

This book was not what I was expecting. I’m guilty of skimming a book jacket and coming home with a completely different book than the one I bought (“Regency England!? I thought this was a sci-fi novel!”)

So I thought this was a love story about two teens who could only communicate honestly via the interwebs.

Not exactly.

Gifted teenager Amy has Cerebral Palsy, which has left her unable to speak and makes it difficult for her to walk. She communicates via a computer, but requires assistance for everyday tasks such as dressing and carrying school supplies. These differences have isolated her from her peers, leaving her friendless. To counteract this, she and her controlling mother work out a plan to have peer aides so Amy can be exposed other kids her age.

The rest of the story unfolds as a love story between Amy and Matt, one of Amy’s peer aides who struggles with OCD.

This book went in a direction that I didn’t expect but liked. Amy and Matt’s struggles were dealt with honestly, and McGovern avoided making Amy an angelic, inspirational disabled person. She treated her characters like real people and didn’t sugarcoat the fact that real people have ugly thoughts sometimes.

The part I loved most was that there were so many quotable quotes about life, love, and growing up that I’m having trouble picking just a couple.

One that I loved is featured on the back of the book:

I’ve decided that it’s possible to love someone for entirely selfless reasons, for all of their flaws and weaknesses, and still not succeed in having them love you back. It’s sad, perhaps, but not tragic, unless you dwell forever in the pursuit of their elusive affections.

The “not-dwelling” part speaks to me. I’ve been stuck longing for relationships–romantic and platonic–that are never going to happen, and I’ve seen other friends refuse to move on from the same thing. I thought the book did a good job of walking a dangerous line–Amy and Matt chose to move on and yet still had hope that they could be together. In this book’s case, I didn’t feel like the characters were holding out for something unrealistic or unhealthy. The ending didn’t offer up a cruel or codependent relationship and try to cover up the bad parts with shiny romance.

Moving on was explored in a scene where Matt discussed giving up on Amy with his therapist:

When he got to her office…[h]e talked about what happened with Hannah. That night behind the screen when she leaned over and kissed him. For a long time he hadn’t let himself remember it, and now he couldn’t seem to forget it. It got bigger in his mind, and worse. What if the bad things that were happening now were proof that the voice was right all along? See? I told you. If you aren’t careful, Amy might get sick and [spoilers omitted]. If you aren’t careful, anything can happen. Logically, of course, it didn’t make sense. His voice didn’t care about girls trying to kiss him.

But he couldn’t get his brain to understand the difference. Being scared of kissing felt as big and panicky as being scared of germs and death. “Well,” Beth said when he tried to explain this. “They both mean something dies. The person you once were–the boy too afraid to kiss a girl–dies when you do it.”

He almost reminded her that he had kissed girls, back when he was fine, but that wasn’t the point. Beth was right. Something did die every time you changed. Amy wasn’t the same person she used to be. Neither was he. Maybe it had already happened.

I love, love, love this passage. There’s freedom in moving on, yet in it you lose part of yourself. Letting go of something bad doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt.

Need cheering up?
Normally, when I write the “Need cheering up?” section, I like to find things that are at least marginally related to the topic of the day. A lot of times I have trouble finding such a thing and choose the first happy/funny/strange thing I come across.

This is one of those times, but this is too good not to share.

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