Say What You Will [NOOK Book]


I want someone who will talk to me honestly about things. You're the only person who ever has. Maybe you don't know this, but when you're disabled almost no one tells you the truth. They feel too awkward because the truth seems too sad, I guess. You were very brave to walk up to the crippled girl and say, essentially, wipe that sunny expression off your face and look at reality. That's what I want you to do next year. Tell me the truth. That's all.

Amy and Matthew didn't know ...

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Say What You Will

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I want someone who will talk to me honestly about things. You're the only person who ever has. Maybe you don't know this, but when you're disabled almost no one tells you the truth. They feel too awkward because the truth seems too sad, I guess. You were very brave to walk up to the crippled girl and say, essentially, wipe that sunny expression off your face and look at reality. That's what I want you to do next year. Tell me the truth. That's all.

Amy and Matthew didn't know each other, really. They weren't friends. Matthew remembered her, sure, but he remembered a lot of people from elementary school that he wasn't friends with now.

Matthew never planned to tell Amy what he thought of her cheerful facade, but after he does, Amy realizes she needs someone like him in her life.

As they begin to spend more time with each other, Amy learns that Matthew has his own secrets and she decides to try to help him in the same way he's helped her. And when what started out as a friendship turns into something neither of them expected, they realize that they tell each other everything—except the one thing that matters most.

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Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Amy has cerebral palsy, and has spent the past 17 years with walkers, voice boxes, and adults. She's gone through school at the same pace as her peers but without friends or socializing. When one of her classmates, Matthew, challenges her cheerful facade, Amy realizes she's missed out on developing true peer relationships. So for their senior year, Amy asks her parents to pay classmates to be her companions instead of her usual adult aids. She begs Matthew to apply, and the two embark on a friendship that addresses Amy's limitations, Matthew's own disorder, and all their secrets—all except the one they really need to share. Both teens struggle with their realities and limitations, and a love soon develops between them. The harsh reality of high school social dynamics are authentically portrayed. The main characters are well developed, though secondary characters are little more than background noise. Recommend to fans of John Green's The Fault In Our Stars (Dutton, 2012) and realistic fiction with a love story angle.—Natalie Struecker, Rock Island Public Library, IL
ALA Booklist (starred review)
“Exhilarating and heartrending. With a smart, proud, and capable protagonist eager to take her life by the reins, this novel is stunning.”
Horn Book
“What this book does best is move beyond the typical concerns and stigmas people with disabilities inevitably encounter to present an honest portrayal of the difficulties of growing up faced by these particular characters.”
Family Circle
“Cammie McGovern channels her knowledge and passion for special needs kids in Say What You Will. Like the deservedly best-selling Wonder by R.J. Palacio—required reading for every family—this doesn’t just get you talking, it gets you thinking, feeling and rejoicing”
“Cammie McGovern crafts a story that takes a realistic look at people who have disabilities but who are not their disability. This story isn’t about rescuing anyone. It is about setting aside fears, limitations, and appearances, and taking a chance at opening up. Everyone should meet Amy and Matt.” (Five star review)
“A beautifully written story about two teens who find each other in spite of what might seem like insurmountable problems.”
“Cammie McGovern crafts a story that takes a realistic look at people who have disabilities but who are not their disability. This story isn’t about rescuing anyone. It is about setting aside fears, limitations, and appearances, and taking a chance at opening up. Everyone should meet Amy and Matt.”
Metro US
“It’s a little bit ‘Perks of Being a Wallflower,’ a little bit ‘Eleanor & Park’ and a lot of something else entirely. A young adult book with grown-up lessons.”
Ron Koertge
“In Cammie McGovern’s debut novel Say What You Will, Amy and Matthew will break your heart and then with their resiliency and wit and ardor put it back together. This is a book to read, savor, and pass on and on until it has gone around the world twice.”
Children's Literature - Paula McMillen
Amy Van Dorn is getting ready to enter her senior year of high school and she is concerned about not having enough friends. Sounds like a common enough problem; although, her classmates might be a bit more worried about where they will get into college, which is definitely NOT a concern for Amy. However, Amy’s worries are anything but ordinary since she was born prematurely and, due to an aneurism, has cerebral palsy. She can get around with a walker, but has full control of only one side of her body, and cannot speak without the aid of a computerized device. When classmate Matthew reacts in a negative way to an optimistic essay written by Amy, he tells her in no uncertain terms that her life is not as good as she is trying to pretend. Amy is shocked and then relieved to hear someone finally speak up to her so truthfully. She persuades her mother to let her use students as her “helpers” during the day rather than trained (adult) paraprofessionals—and she insists that she wants Matthew to be one of them. It turns out that Matthew has some disabilities of his own, perhaps not as obvious as Amy’s, and Amy becomes the impetus for his finally acknowledging his OCD. Amy falls in love with Matthew and the feeling is reciprocated, except they never tell each other. Then, after a wonderful summer together when they keep growing closer, some serious misunderstandings in combination with Matthew’s fears seem to push them irretrievably apart. Amy struggles at Stanford, feeling more isolated than ever; while, Matthew is working at home to build a life as he gets his OCD under control. Then Amy leaves school and comes home pregnant. This is a typical coming of age novel in many ways and yet not typical due to the nature of the two protagonists’ disabilities. It is that combination that should give this novel a special place in young adult literature, helping to normalize the issues faced by teens, even when they are not seen as normal by their peers. Reviewer: Paula McMillen, Ph.D.; Ages 14 up.
VOYA, June 2014 (Vol. 37, No. 2) - Amanda MacGregor
High school senior Amy always maintains a façade of cheerfulness despite her isolation from her classmates. Amy has cerebral palsy, speaks using a computer, and only counts her aides and teachers as friends. She convinces her mother to hire peers to be her aides at school, hoping it will help her meet people. The helper she most connects with is Matthew, the only person brave enough to speak honestly to her (he thinks her constant positivity is an act). After spending some time together, Amy realizes that Matthew has undiagnosed obsessive compulsive disorder and begins forcing him to go outside his comfort zone. Though their relationship grows increasingly complicated, their bond is genuine, and Matthew finds himself having to support Amy in a way he never could have predicted after he learns about a big secret she has been keeping while at Stanford. Though the writing is solid, the plot is overfilled and often lacks believability. Amy and Matthew rarely come across as dynamic characters defined in ways beyond their medical diagnoses. The depiction of Amy sometimes defaults to a clichéd “inspirational cripple” trope; however, her many (large) missteps spare her from feeling one-dimensional. The back of the book compares this novel to those of John Green and Rainbow Rowell, which will help this unlikely love story about two outsiders draw a wide audience, but readers may have a hard time sticking with the uneven story in this unfulfilling look at challenging oneself and coping with limitations. Reviewer: Amanda MacGregor; Ages 15 to 18.
Kirkus Reviews
Crushes, missteps and genuine loyalty on the road to deep friendship.As she enters her senior year of high school, Amy—hemiplegic due to an aneurism following her premature birth and near the top of her class—uses her augmentative and assistive communication device to argue successfully that she needs peer helpers in school rather than adult aides. Her mother, Nicole, is dubious, but Amy knows which buttons to push: "If I'm going to go to college, I need to practice relating to people my own age." Amy particularly wants to work with Matthew, whose unvarnished honesty fascinates her. Unlike her awkward relationships with her other peer helpers, Amy develops a real friendship with Matthew immediately. Due to their frank conversation and Amy's quick discovery of Matthew's OCD, their relationship is balanced and reciprocal, though their growing mutual affection goes largely unaddressed. Unlike its most obvious read-alike, The Fault in Our Stars, this is not a tragic romance: Amy and Matthew's relationship is messy, fraught and tantalizing, but it's not threatened with imminent death. McGovern's triumph is how well she normalizes and highlights the variety of disability experiences among teens and their often circuitous journeys toward claiming their voices and right to self-determination. It's slightly overplotted and occasionally heavy-handed, but it's easy to forgive these flaws.Ultimately, a deeply engaging and rewarding story. (Romance. 14-17)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062271129
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 6/3/2014
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 19,836
  • Age range: 14 - 17 Years
  • File size: 6 MB

Meet the Author

Cammie McGovern is the author of the adult novels Neighborhood Watch, Eye Contact, and The Art of Seeing. This is her first book for young adults. Cammie is also one of the founders of Whole Children, a resource center that runs after-school classes and programs for children with special needs. She lives in Amherst, Massachusetts, with her husband and three children.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 9 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 5, 2014

    You know how people say that reading a book changed their life?

    You know how people say that reading a book changed their life? Yeah, that happened to me before I even finished reading this breathtakingly beautiful book by Cammie McGovern.

    See, SAY WHAT YOU WILL is a story about characters that are nothing like me. We're talking about two characters that are pushing through life with disabilities that are not only misunderstood by much of the general population, but often ignored because of that ignorance. Present company included here, guys. That's changing. Heck, the change started last night with the smile and "Hello!" I gave to that young man roaming the aisles of the pharmacy in the wheelchair that was powered by his own breath. It might not be much, but it's a start and if I'm being completely honest with you, more than I have done in the past.

    It's easy to feel like you may have nothing in common with someone with cerebral palsy or OCD. But here's the newsflash, folks: YOU DO. This story will make you see that. No, I take that back. This story will make you FEEL that.

    Being a teenager is hard for EVERYONE. Amy and Matt's story is not centered around disability-centric problems. Their disabilities are not the point to their story. Sure, it ties into the story but it is not THE story. They're struggling with the same things able bodied teenagers struggle with; love, friendship, parents and learning to become an independent adult. We're talking about problems that teenagers experience almost universally. This is why I love this book as much as I do. It focuses on problems each and everyone of us can relate to. That's powerful!

    I love sharing books with my teenage daughter, Olivia. She popped into my bedroom as I was finishing up this book and asked what it was about. I started with the synopsis, but ended up giving her a 20 minute play-by-play. She told me about a boy named Josh in her homeroom who has cerebral palsy. You know what else she told me? Josh loves legos, he wants to be a game designer when he grows up and you have to be patient while talking with him because it takes him a while to respond. I almost cried. My daughter (and her entire class--it's not just her) has taken the time to get to know the person inside the body that acts differently than their own. This proves to me that teenagers are MUCH smarter than us adults when it comes to empathy. We should learn from them. And continue to read books about characters that are different from ourselves.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 15, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    A book so honest and sweet shall break you but definitely make

    A book so honest and sweet shall break you but definitely make you feel good about life.

    When I read the synopsis and saw that it was a mesh of John Green's The Fault In Our Stars and Rainbow Rowell's Eleanor and Park, I just knew that I had to read it. And I have no regrets.
    The story is about Amy Van Dorn who has cerebral palsy who has to talk through a computer called a Pathway. She also has trouble walking so she needs a walker. All she wants is a normal life in high school where she can have friends to prove that she'll be fine once she enters college. Enter Matthew Malone, a lanky, quiet boy who is part of Amy's "peer group" project, where he spends one day being Amy's peer aide. Matthew is not normal, not in the way Amy is not normal physically. He has OCD and it's getting into his head. We are taken into the world of these two fascinating teenagers as they learn that through their own problems, they would learn to lean in on each other for help. I think that this relationship was enough to say that I was gravitated towards the book in an instant.
    Amy is the adventurous sort. She wants to try out new things and be friends with every body. And she doesn't really care about having CP, or maybe she does a little bit but she doesn't want it to be the cause of her becoming a total introvert in the eyes of such daunting teenagers. She wants to experience all sorts of things and she challenges herself, much to her overprotective Mom's chagrin! I don't really like Amy's mom, Nicole but I guess parents are like that especially if you have some sort of complication which in this novel is highly suggestive of Nicole's role.
    Matthew and Amy are bonded through this problem of hers. And later discovers that Matthew himself has a problem that he's been keeping in the shadows for a long time.
    To be rather blunt, I felt extremely attached to Matthew and his problem. I could relate to some of the things he's going particularly, his unnecessary fears. He's too afraid to venture the world because he thinks that he does not deserve it. He likes things in ritual, and I do too, though I do stuff randomly, there are times when I think that Matthew and I go into a fit when we don't get to do what we have to do. I've told my Dad that he has OCD, and I think that I might have a slight case of it.
    In the novel, as I have said, Amy and Matthew help each other out, being that Amy needs Matthew's help as a peer helper while Matthew needs Amy's help to overcome his condition. But with all this helping out, Amy is realizing that she's falling for Matthew. Big time... And I'm afraid to say, I was too.
    *minor spoiler alert*
    There was this scene in the book where Amy described Matthew, with his brown hair falling to his face, with his beautiful eyes and him wearing a black t-shirt with a faded guitar logo. Please, you may now imagine my reaction. I suddenly went into a spastic fit and started to really imagine Matthew for real and he was supeeeeer handsome! My heart fluttered endlessly. And it's not just his looks, but also his personality. He's shy but he cares about people...maybe a bit too much! Because of his OCD, he has a tendency to over think things and he won't calm if he does not get his answers.
    Matthew has this thing in his head: a voice you might say and it's entertaining as heck dear gosh! Say What You Will is a book that doesn't exactly challenge your mind in a difficult way but you will end up curious about their situations at least and why certain peer pressures lead you to do things out of the ordinary.
    The writing at first was a bit slow for me but started to get really interesting as the characters opened up about themselves further. The supporting characters didn't really overshadow the main characters but I would've wished for more of them to have carried a spotlight. But all in all, the characters were enticing and not boring at all.
    McGovern's style is really light and subtle. Although, make sure you prepare for plot twists. Plot twists make every story much more gratifying and also worth your time, and I think that the plot twist here was handled in a not-so harsh treatment. It was kind and well justified, so kudos to Cammie McGovern.
    A lot of people have a hard time saying what they have to say. Cammie McGovern's new novel is a new take on this that whatever should happen, there will always be someone there for you. It's just a matter of how you should say it. Everything else will fall through.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 6, 2014

    Say What You Will is a young adult contemporary romance unlike a

    Say What You Will is a young adult contemporary romance unlike any I've ever read, exceptionally written with very detailed descriptions of Amy and Matthew's disability/disorder, it gives you a look into how people inflicted with both Cerebral Palsy and OCD deal or not deal with their conditions.

    The stroke of genius in this story is the fact that Cammie thought of putting these two characters who both have their own challenges together, both friendless they find in each other what they both needed all along, to be accepted for who they are and to help each other to have as normal a life as possible.

    For Amy growing up with Cerebral Palsy, having to use a voice box to talk and a walker to get around, she has never had any friends whatsoever, not helped by the fact that all of her helpers have been adults, but this year being her final year of high school she is getting peer aides, people her own age to help her at school, one of those is Matt who has a steadily worsening case of OCD, with Amy's help he starts to get it under control as these two start to discover their feelings for one another run much deeper than just friends.

    I adored these two characters, put together with this amazing story to form one of my favorite YA romances of all time.

    I look forward to reading whatever Cammie releases next, I love her writing style and ability to tell a story that will definitely tug at the heart strings and leave you with a smile on your face.

    Highly recommended.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 17, 2014

    Words are not adequate to express how I feel after finishing Say

    Words are not adequate to express how I feel after finishing Say What You Will. But, as a writer, I feel like I should at least try. Just saying I loved it feels inadequate.

    I savored this book, taking my time. Not because it was difficult to get through, but because I didn’t want it to end. I haven’t done that with a book since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

    The book is billed as The Fault in Our Stars meets Eleanor and Park, but it’s so much more than that. It’s both of those and it’s neither. Cammie McGovern’s voice is unique, and beautiful, and her writing makes me feel. I both laughed and cried, something I rarely do while reading.

    The storyline is utterly unique and almost as quirky as the characters that fill the pages. It is a surprisingly realistic, emotional, stunning tale of love, friendship, and the rewards and consequences of taking control of your own life. A true coming of age story with an extraordinary twist.

    The plot is amazing, ebbing and flowing, never losing touch with where it’s going or why. Told from alternating points of view, we follow Amy and Matthew from the beginning of their senior year of high school through their first year post graduation. We watch them grow, change, make mistakes, learn from them, and make so many more, but we never stop rooting for them.

    As both Amy and Matthew struggle to not be defined by their limitations – Amy’s physical and Matthew’s emotional – they realize that together they’re something more than who they’ve always believed themselves to be. Both better and worse.

    There were surprises, things I never saw coming, some delighted me, some were difficult to read, but everything felt like it belonged, like it was all a part of this amazing journey.

    I know they’re not real, but I feel like I’m a better person for knowing Amy and Matthew and that’s saying a lot about fictional characters. I’ll never look at another physically or emotionally challenged person the same way again. The author has crafted such authentic characters that I had to constantly remind myself they only exist in the minds of the author and her readers.

    Cammie McGovern has sculpted beautifully flawed individuals who are only more beautiful because of their imperfections. And I’m not talking about Amy’s cerebral palsy or Matthew’s OCD, but the very human aspects that pull them off the page and turn them into three dimensional, thinking, feeling, less than perfect humans that we want to spend time with, laugh with, just be with.

    Bottom Line
    This story has something for everyone. It is a young adult/new adult story, but it has so much more to offer that I want to tell everyone I know to read it. I feel like I need more than five stars. Five stars is exceptional. What is above that? Quite simply, Say What You Will is the best book of any genre I’ve read in a long time.

    I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 4, 2014


    You would never expect to feel so close to a set of characters. Beautifully written and it explains what Matthew and Amy are both going through. Loved it and read it in a day and a half. Just amazing.

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  • Posted June 24, 2014

    This book is just absolutely stunning. What a unique love story!

    This book is just absolutely stunning. What a unique love story! 

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  • Posted June 15, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    I'm at a bit of a loss with this book. I kept putting off readin

    I'm at a bit of a loss with this book. I kept putting off reading it because I was afraid it would make me an emotional mess. But really, the opposite was true. It didn't make me feel much of anything, except slightly uncomfortable because of the unflinchingly honest way it addressed everything. Maybe that was the goal, I'm not sure. It made me think and I really believe I'm still processing everything I read, but if I'm honest, it let me down a little. The blurb compares it to John Green and Rainbow Rowell's books, and with all due respect, I have to disagree. Some of the themes might have been similar, but I never fail to FEEL when reading books written by John or Rainbow. I just didn't get that with Say What You Will. 

    There's not a whole lot of diversity in YA fiction right now – and if you've seen the social media campaigns, it is being addressed and people are quite vocal. Say What You Will offered diverse characters and that was one of the best things about it. Not only are the characters diverse, they're complicated. Amy has cerebral palsy. Matthew has an anxiety disorder. They were both lovely characters. But because the book was written in third person, I missed the connection to them. I wanted in their heads. Amy was smart and funny and blunt. Matthew was sweet and thoughtful and caring. I feel like I missed out on some of the best part of these characters and their growing friendship (and more) by reading it in third person. 

    The pace of Say What You Will was slow, but I don't think that was a bad thing. I enjoyed the way Amy and Matthew's friendship, and the other more complicated feelings, developed. It seemed realistic. It was endearing to watch how they helped each other and how they learned each was more than what they appeared on the outside. I never felt like sitting the book down until the point where the thing happened at the 77% mark that I just couldn't wrap my head around. I'm sorry, it was a little too farfetched for me and it felt really forced. That's the only time the book almost lost me, but I wasn't giving up then. I had to know how the story ended. The ending? A little too vague for my liking, but since I wasn't wholly invested in the characters, I found it difficult to be too mad about it. 

    Overall, Say What You Will was a beautifully written, if understated, book. In all honesty, it's more of a 3.5 stars, but I don't give halves and I just can't round it up to 4 stars. The characters were charming and their struggles were believable, but I never fully connected to them because of the third person point of view. I felt more like an observer than someone who was living it with them. I would recommend this book because I think it delivers an important message about looking beyond the outward appearance to find the real person below. I think teens and no-longer teens alike will take something away from this book. 

    I received a copy of this book from the publisher, via Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review. 

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  • Posted June 12, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    'Say What You Will' is a heartbreakingly honest look at the life

    'Say What You Will' is a heartbreakingly honest look at the life of two teens who are disabled in their own ways - and how they come to realize how much they needed one another without knowing it. The two main characters in the story - Amy, who has cerebral palsy - and Matthew, who has OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) are both incredibly realistic in all their aspects - both good and bad. We get to see these two teens for who they are - their personalities, likes and dislikes, fears, frustrations, and how they live with their respective illnesses. I loved the honesty that the author wrote with - with both the characters, the illnesses and how it effects those with the disease and those around them, and basically teenage life in general. She shows us that just because these two are diagnosed with illnesses, they aren't very different at all from the regular teenager.

    The writing was beautifully done - especially the characters and their growing relationship with each other. I loved how we got to know both Amy and Matthew for their true selves and then we got to watch how their lives become entwined. This book is a definite emotional roller coaster - there were points that were funny, some that were sobering, and some that had me crying hysterically. I found it easy to slip into the world the author created within the first few paragraphs, and I didn't stop reading until I was finished - and then even after that, because it kept me thinking and feeling for quite some time afterwords. I thought the plot was original, if not completely unique, and written with a natural flow and easy pace. It seems that more and more YA contemporary books are revolving around characters who are sick in some way, but the the depth of the characters and the interesting story line made this one original and fresh. I don't do spoilers in my reviews, so I'll just say that you should prepare yourself before reading this one. As I mentioned, it took me on a ride - from laughing to crying and everything in between. Definitely recommended for fans of the genre as well as those looking for an honest and emotional young adult novel.

    Disclosure: I received a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 12, 2014

    Say What You Will

    This book gripped me when I began reading the sample, and of course I had to buy it. Not once did I get bored and I never wanted to stop reading. I fell in love with Amy and Matthew, their struggles, their fears, and their differences. This is a lovely book that I enjoyed very much. If you want to read a book that will mean something and touch you, this is it.

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