Say What You Will

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
Say What You Will Book Poster Image
Compelling misfits, touching romance, mature themes.

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Kids say

age 14+
Based on 3 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Kids will learn a lot about the challenges of having cerebral palsy and not being able to communicate verbally. They'll also learn a bit out obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and some ways to treat it, including medication. Hemiplegia is explained. Yeats' poem "He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven" is fully reproduced, and a passage from the novel Tell Me that You Love Me, Junie Moon is quoted. Some information about preeclampsia is given. Kids also will learn a bit about the medical problems facing babies born prematurely and the lifelong impact it can have on their health.

Positive Messages

Characters with cerebral palsy and OCD are presented as regular people with the same problems and the same hopes and dreams as anyone else. There are many ways to be a freak. Most people are still trying to figure out what it is they want to say with their lives. As part of his healing process, Matthew learns that something of the past dies every time things change -- but that's OK. Our society's deeply seeded sexism is glimpsed briefly when Matthew, who's threatened by change, notices that boys return to school after the summer having grown four inches and girls return "dressed like their older, slutty sisters."

Positive Role Models & Representations

Amy's an intelligent, academically driven overachiever who wants to take her place in the world; has something to say and is unafraid to say it; and is a creative problem solver. She has a lot of common-sense wisdom she applies to helping her friends. Matthew's caring and loyal and sees things through to the end. Amy's parents are loving, but her mother is overprotective and a source of conflict as Amy strives for greater independence.


Postpartum bleeding is mentioned once.


There are a couple of kisses, and a couple lie in bed together with their clothes on. Talk about sex is infrequent but frank, and there are no detailed descriptions; teens are matter-of-fact about it, and the book furthers the idea that many or most high-school kids have sex. STDs are mentioned, but none is specifically named. A character admits to watching pornography to learn about the mechanics of sex. A high school senior gets pregnant and makes decisions about her pregnancy without telling her parents or the father; her decision and its aftermath are a main focus of the last third of the book. The medical advice she receives after a doctor's exam is narrated, but no part of the exam itself is described. Postpartum bleeding is mentioned. 


"S--t" and variations of "f--k" are used three or four times each. Used once or twice each: "boobs," "pissed," "crap," and "dick." There's a joke from a movie that uses "c--t" as a pun.


Izod, Hot Dog on a Stick, McDonald's, Mini Speak, Bluetooth, J.C. Penney, Naugahyde, and Google Maps are mentioned once or twice each. Taco Bell is mentioned four or five times, and an important scene takes place there. DynaVox speech-assistance devices are mentioned several times.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Matthew takes medication to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder. Once, friends pass marijuana around, and Matthew pretends to smoke it. Amy willingly helps someone smuggle alcohol into the prom, and many kids, including Amy, drink some of it. Some kids are mentioned as being very drunk. Adults give a minor character champagne, and it's implied that he and Amy drink it.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Say What You Will is an unusual ​high school romance that has themes of teen sex, and issues arising from it are prominent and frankly discussed, but nothing's directly described. The romance is between a girl with cerebral palsy who uses a speech-assistance device and a boy with OCD, and the novel tracks their relationship as it deepens over the course of their senior year. They're both admirable characters who overcome a great deal and who demonstrate a lot of maturity despite a few lapses in judgment. Strong language (including "s--t" and variations of "f--k") is infrequent, and there's no violence. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

Teen, 14 years old Written bygreenloversara July 17, 2015


This book tells the story of two misfits and them falling in love. One of the main characters is pregnant in the middle of the book and she isn't aware of... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byXx.Kayy.xX April 26, 2018

Life Chaning

This book this sooo amazing and brought me laughter and tears. This book taught me things from less fortunate perspective. Although, the less fortunate are mor... Continue reading

What's the story?

Although they've known of each other since elementary school, Amy and Matthew don't really meet until their junior year in high school. They both have plenty of ways in which life is extra challenging: Amy needs to use a walker to get around and a computer device to speak; Matthew's so afraid of change he develops OCD. As they get to know each other, their friendship and their feelings for each other deepen. They can talk to each other and challenge each other in ways no one else can. So why can't they say the one thing the other needs to hear?

Is it any good?

Teens who loved The Fault in Our Stars will really enjoy SAY WHAT YOU WILL. It's a sweet, complicated, and compelling romance in which medical issues are prominent but aren't the defining characteristics of the two protagonists.

The writing in adult-novelist Cammie McGovern's YA debut doesn't quite sparkle like John Green's in TFIOS, but Amy and Matthew are utterly believable as characters. Their disabilities make them human, but it's their flaws that make them relatable. The deepening friendship between them takes unexpected twists and turns that will keep readers absorbed in and engaged with their story, and the ending should spark some interesting discussions about where their relationship is headed.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what it might be like if you couldn't speak. How would you interact with the world around you? Did reading Say What You Will change the way you think about people with disabilities?

  • Why are romances so popular? Do they help us understand how love works, or do they create unrealistic expectations? Would you like to have the kind of romance Amy and Matthew have? 

  • Do you think Matthew's right, that there are many ways to be a freak? What makes someone a freak? What makes everyone a freak?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love romance

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