Thursday, March 10, 2016

Book Review: Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern: Chapters 13-16

ACCURACY AND/OR PORTRAYAL ISSUES:

Chapter 13:

Matthew brings up how Amy has never been away from home and the one time she was (at a camp for disabled kids) Amy apparently hated it and found she had little in common with her peers.  She stayed in her cabin and slept the entire time.

 I think the fact that Amy can't/won't relate to disabled peers doesn't do her any favors.  Speaking from experience, going to camp for disabled kids changed my life because it was the first time I got to be around others who were like me and I didn't feel different.  Did I become best friends with everyone?  No.  But I did make a small group of close friends and we got cabins together for the next two years.  I am still in touch with them, 20 years later.

For the author to make a conscious choice to have Amy alienated from her fellow disabled peers is really a disservice to her as a character and I feel like it may send the wrong message to young girls with CP who read this book and feel like they will also have nothing in common with their disabled peers either, when in reality, camp can be the first place they feel totally accepted and normal.

ABLEISM:

Chapter 13:

Here, the discussion of college plans comes back up.  Matthew finally tells Amy he assumes she isn't applying to colleges and Amy is confused because her mom talks about Amy going to college all the time.  He tells Amy he thinks her going to college and living in the dorm is "naive" because "people in college are more self-absorbed."  He also remarks silently, "Did she need him to spell out all the ways this could be a disaster?" and "Should he remind her of all the things people did for her?"

Um, no, Matthew.  You shouldn't.  Because guess what?  Amy can actually go away to college and live at school with accommodations.  Weird!

Still, Matthew persists, asking Amy if she has made it clear to the people at Stanford all the things she needs help with.  Amy doesn't put up with the line of conversation and tells Matthew it sounds like this issue is about him, not her.

Chapter 15:

At the end of the previous chapter, Amy finds out she has been accepted to Stanford.  The reaction to her acceptance is positive, but also over the top.  When Amy receives an email that the school paper wants to do a story on her, Amy writes back that she isn't sure about that because lots of people are getting their college acceptance letters and it isn't that big a deal.  The next line says "But it was."  The chapter goes on to say how Amy's mom has talked to a local TV station who wanted to do a story about Amy.  Her mom says yes without even asking Amy.  When Amy challenges her on that, Nicole says, "Of course I did," and "This isn't just about you."  She tells Amy she is a role model for all disabled kids.

Um, did Amy ever ask for that?  Did she want to be the poster child for all the children ever in the world with CP?  Based on her reaction, I don't think so.  Her mom doesn't even think to ask if it's okay with Amy to be featured on the news, she just has to do it anyway.  Amy feels that she would like to be an inspiration to the disabled community because she doesn't know it well and wants a connection to it.  It breaks my heart because instead of having Amy be objectified for inspirational purposes, Amy could allow herself to really forge a connection with that community either through summer camp or even online.  Without it she is very much isolated.

Chapter 16:

Matthew mentions that "thank heavens Amy looked more like her real self and less beautiful on TV" and goes on to describe how her "mouth fell open and her head wobbled."  Why are lines like these necessary?  I mean, really?  We already know Amy has CP.  We already know Matthew apparently can't reconcile the idea of someone who is both beautiful and disabled (so, I guess it makes sense he would be relieved that she is less beautiful...)  But it is still insulting.

Later in the chapter, Amy speaks to a clueless book agent, who would like Amy to be the subject of an inspirational book because she thinks hemiplegia and degenerative are the same things.  Amy has to set her straight.  Her mother is forcing her to write back to all of the people who are emailing her about book proposals, etc, even though all they want to do is objectify Amy for their own gain.  It's sickening.

Still later, Amy is trying to help Matthew with his OCD and she tells him she has filled out a job application for him.  

Seriously, Amy?  Excuse you?  I get that your mother does all kinds of things without asking you first but that doesn't mean doing the same thing to Matthew is anymore right.

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