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Say the Word

Say the Word

3.8 28
by Jeannine Garsee

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Perfectionist Shawna dates the right boys, gets good grades, and follows her father's every rule. So when her estranged lesbian mother dies, Shawna needs to figure out how to have the perfect reaction. But anger from being abandoned ten years ago, combined with the introduction of her mother's other family, threatens to leave Shawna spinning out of control. A


Perfectionist Shawna dates the right boys, gets good grades, and follows her father's every rule. So when her estranged lesbian mother dies, Shawna needs to figure out how to have the perfect reaction. But anger from being abandoned ten years ago, combined with the introduction of her mother's other family, threatens to leave Shawna spinning out of control. A relatable and honest teen voice-and a shocking secret-make this novel a true page-turner.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Garsee's (Before, After, and Somebody in Between) second novel hits the ground running and doesn't let up. Shawna Gallagher, a high school senior trying to live up to her domineering father's expectations, is awakened one night by a phone call: her estranged mother, who left Shawna and her father years earlier for a woman, Fran, has had a stroke. Following her mother's death, Shawna must confront her feelings about her mother and her own prejudices (she has particular issues with gay people, which are further complicated when her best friend comes out). Shawna's father, learning that one of Fran's sons is in fact his child by Shawna's mother, fights for (and gains) custody of the boy-finally spurring Shawna to defy him. The novel overflows with story lines and plot twists-Shawna's romance with her stepbrother (and her father's with her former babysitter), her ailing grandfather and the ridicule she faces in school. Nevertheless, Garsee presents a compelling portrait of a young woman growing up and coping with an overwhelming array of problems. Ages 14-up. (Mar.)

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VOYA - Hilary Crew
Seventeen-year-old Shawna has been living with her controlling father since her mother left ten years before to live with her lover, Fran. When the mother she barely knows dies, Shawna gets to know Fran and her sons—Arye and ten-year-old Schmule—despite tensions among them. But she takes, without permission, photographs from Fran's home that she thinks are of her when she was small. Her father realizes that they are photographs of the son to whom his wife must have given birth after leaving him. Arranging for a DNA test, he goes to court to claim custody of Schmule. Through her first-person narration, Shawna tells about her gladness in having a brother but also her knowledge that her bitter father is destroying Schmule and Fran's family. Shawna defies her father and the court decision and takes Schmule back to Fran. The story especially highlights the difficulties and emotional stress arising from the denial of civil rights to gay partnerships. But the fast-paced plot is overloaded with issues, including Shawna's verbally abusive father, hyperbolic family conflicts, a best friend who comes out as a lesbian, sexual harassment, a forbidden friendship with Arye that includes consensual sex, and finally a solution to Schmule's custody in which Shawna agrees not to tell about her father's rape of her mother, an act that Shawna witnessed at the age of seven, if her father gives up all claims on his son. All in all, however, it is a reasonable read. Reviewer: Hilary Crew
School Library Journal

Gr 8 Up

Seventeen-year-old Shawna Gallagher is the poised daughter of a high-powered physician and a mother who abandoned the family 10 years earlier. Raised to be a fine hostess, excellent student, and future doctor, Shawna finds her "perfect" world unraveling when she gets a fateful phone call from her mother's Jewish lesbian partner, Fran. Shawna's mother has had a stroke and is near death. The teen is thrown into a tumultuous period during which everything she has believed-about herself, her demanding father, her "crazy" mother, her mother's partner, and their family-is open to question. Drawn reluctantly into Fran's family story, Shawna finds herself torn between her father, who is always right and always in control, and these strange people whom she does not want to know, but who somehow speak to her sense of fairness and, even more strangely, family. Shawna's actions seem to bear out her own "split personality," as the consequences of her forbidden involvement with Fran reverberate throughout their lives. Garsee has created an intense, frank novel with fragile, resilient, believable characters. Some relationships almost border on the contrived, but, overall, this is a mature and gripping coming-of-age story.-Roxanne Myers Spencer, Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green

Kirkus Reviews
Perfectionist Shawna hasn't seen her mother, Penny, in years, not since Penny left their Ohio home to live with another woman in New York. When she dies suddenly of a stroke, Shawna gets to know Penny's partner, Fran, and her two sons. Their relationship goes from accepting to awkward after Shawna learns that one of Fran's sons might be her blood brother. The custody battle that ensues puts Shawna in the position of go-between, in which she gets caught between her love for her brother and her father's use of the law to do the legal, yet unkind, thing. During this time of upheaval, Shawna also learns that her best friend is a lesbian. Garsee manages to give every character depth and dimension without falling into the trap of making the children too perfect and angelic and the adults imperfect to the point where the reader loses sympathy for them, save for Shawna's father. The details of Shawna's daily life sometimes slow down the plot, but it is because of these details that readers will believe Shawna's final transition from doormat to independent thinker. (Fiction. YA)
From the Publisher

“Powerful and compelling . . . this sensitive and heart-wrenching story slowly unfolds into a gripping read.” —Booklist, starred review

“Garsee has created an intense, frank novel with fragile, resilient, believable characters.” —School Library Journal

Product Details

Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.40(h) x 3.80(d)
HL580L (what's this?)
Age Range:
14 - 18 Years

Meet the Author

Jeannine (Jen) Garsee is a nurse in inner city Cleveland, Ohio. She is also the author of Before, After and Somebody In Between. She lives with her family in Ohio.

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Say the Word 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 28 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love to read and I am very picky about what I read. I picked up this book by chanca and read it in two days, I LOVE DIT!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I honestly can't say I'm impressed with this book, but I can say I enjoyed reading it. It has a lot of ups and downs, scenes that make you laugh and cry, etc. It's easy to understand Shawna and really be in her shoes throughout the situations she must endure. Regarding the plot twists, surprises, etc.: there are a fair amount, but it's easy to see them coming. The foreshadowing of events are there, but obvious enough. The storyline is unique and is written out well, however. Props to the author. The ending is bittersweet and very realistic; the fact that the author did not go for the gushy, happy-go-lucky ending is fully appreciated and impressive. I would recommend this book. Although I wouldn't force others to read it with clamors that it's a fantastic book and etc. and etc., I would still recommend it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Be nice they were just asking how would u like it if someone said that to u huh? Ya thats what i thought. Rude
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wil someone lend me this?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is amazing and a super fast read!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ive been wanting this book forever,now that i have finally read it i could not have been more pleased. Sad yet happy ending. I promise you will enjoy it.
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Kenzie Roark More than 1 year ago
336 pages. uses the f word 4 or 5 times by the first 170 pages, not something for younger children. but its a pretty great book!
Leslie Suarez More than 1 year ago
very awesome book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
PrettyLittleLiar_Nina More than 1 year ago
I loved this book! Its was so detail, I could picture in my head perfectly! he books story was so realistic and true! Its also a funny story about overcoming your fears and problems, and dealing with things.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
MLaVoraPerry More than 1 year ago
I was very upset with Jeannine Garsee after I read Say the Word. The author made me care so deeply about 17 year-old protagonist Shawna Gallagher that when she (Shawna) made certain choices, I wanted to march right into her world (where, thanks to Garsee I uncomfortably lived for the day and a half it took me to finish the book during every spare moment) and advise Shawna to think twice. On page one of Say the Word, "perfect" Shawna's world is turned on its head when she discovers that her estranged and lesbian mom is dying-anytime now. The story rolls downhill from there. Shawna's used to doing whatever her control-freak dad says. Oh, by the way, he hates Shawna's mom and the woman she left him for. But when Dad's edicts conflict with what Shawna knows is right, and those edicts may just lead to someone's suicide, Shawna starts to let "evil" non-compliant Shawna be heard-loud and clear. This book is filled with so much to praise-fully fashioned characters, believable dialogue, heartbreaking drama, and imperfections all over the place exhibited by people I care about in spite of them. Based on Say the Word and debut novel, Before, After, and Somebody In Between, I'm a certified Jeannine Garsee fan. I will read anything this author writes-even if it ticks me off. LaVora www.mlavoraperry.com
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
i bought this book out of complete boredem, and after reading a chapter, i couldn't stop. i'd never read a book, so, real. the books pretty emotional. but i promise if you read it, youll love it. Some parts, are hard to understandd, but after re-reading it, you'll get it[: for anyone overr age 12, its a good read.!
BrookeReviews More than 1 year ago
Shawna Gallagher has many different sides: there is Perfect Shawna: who always does and says the right things, Evil Shawna: who snaps at people and doesn't want to be good anymore, and Pathetic Shawna: who grovels at people's feet. When her estranged lesbian mother dies, Shawna is forced to deal with the many emotions that are flooding through her being. She's angry at her mother for leaving when she was young and never coming back, embarrassed over her mother's lover and children, and she's tired of following her father's every rule. Not only does Shawna have to deal with her family drama, but people at school are starting to talk about her sexual orientation, and her best friend, Lee Lee, has a secret that could ruin their friendship forever. I have to say that Say the Word was a terrific read and wonderful addition to the Young Adult world. Garsee has a very strong voice, and it comes rushing at you through her characters. This was so well written, that I found myself angry at the actions the characters were taking, and furious at the way they reacted to the events in the story. So, kudos to Garsee for getting my blood boiling! Following Shawna was like riding a rollercoaster. Her emotions were all over the place, and with reason; she's struggling with who she is, what she wants to be, and how people see her. Readers please don't think that Say the Word is just a story about lesbians or about a girl dealing with the death of a family member. It's so much more than that. It's about family bonds and losing old ones and gaining new ones. It's about standing up for what you believe is right, even though it may hurt the people you love.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It is NOT the same girl as North of Beautiful. If you compare the covers, it is obvious that they are not the same. Come on, people.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Omg, i just noticed. The girl on the cover is the same girl on the cover of north of beautiful!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One word wooooooooooooooowwwwwwwwwwwww
PCKR More than 1 year ago
YA author Jeannine Garsee offers yet another amazing book. As always, her characters are well drawn, and thoroughly believable. They engage you, draw you into their world, and present the reader with all the gritty realities of life. Say The Word touches upon a myriad of difficult and challenging subjects facing teens and YA today...a girl facing the reality of not only losing her mother, but coping with her mother's lesbian choices, and the 'other' family she leaves behind. That her mother's second family was Jewish only compounds the problems. The deeper you go into this story, the more compelling, and challenging the issues become. A great read.