Sunday, March 13, 2016

Book Review: Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern: Chapters 25-28


Chapter 25:

Amy and Matthew are hanging out at her house again.  She navigates through the house without her walker, with the aid of furniture spaced out so she can catch her balance on it.  After this, she gets to the kitchen and sits on a barstool at the counter.

Now, I have sat on barstools myself, but I can say confidently that if I have a choice between sitting on a stool or sitting on a chair with a back, I'll choose the chair.  Amy, in particular, seems to have some intense balance and spasm issues.  I doubt very much that she would feel comfortable and confident on a stool, especially if she could have chosen to sit in any of the living room chairs or the kitchen table.

It seems near impossible that she could safely sit at the counter, and be able to carry on a conversation.  I know I would be distracted the whole time, thinking about keeping my balance, keeping a grip on the counter and hardly being able to multitask in any way whatsoever.  But Amy somehow manages to miraculously keep her balance without hanging onto the counter, because she uses her good hand to type on her Pathway.  It just doesn't make logical sense to me.

Chapter 26:

Once school starts, Amy emails Matthew to update him about where she is living in the Stanford dorms.  She says she lives in the only accessible dorm, right next to the infirmary.

The thing about this is, based on other reviews I've read, Stanford actually is quite accessible, so the chances of her being put in a dorm cut off from everyone else are very slim.  Definitely read the "College" section of the linked review for more on why Amy's entire college experience was unrealistic.

Chapter 28:

Continuing with the college inconsistencies, we have Amy's parents apparently speaking to the housing people at Stanford and somehow convincing them to disregard Amy's actual application for a dorm room.

This would never happen.  Amy is an adult and colleges don't often rejigger a student's place of residence just because their parents' say so.  This seems to me, to be yet another excuse on the author's part to cage Amy into an untenable living situation.  (Despite the fact that the college campus in question is actually awesome and accessible.)  There is no reason to paint her experience here as so tragic and isolating.  Except that the author seems determined to use Amy as a plot device to further the story, rather than a full-fledged character, with desires and power over her own life and circumstances.

The isolation is so complete that the author says the only people who hear Amy speak are often the PCAs that come "in the morning and evening" to help her with personal care.  (What about the rest of the day?  What about when she has to use the restroom?)  The author talks about them being the only ones who hear "Amy" speak, and later in the same sentence describes the Pathway's "humanoid voice and amazing capabilities."

My CP doesn't affect my ability to speak, but I do use adaptive equipment.  I used it in college.  And using my wheelchair was not impacted negatively if able bodied people didn't notice how cool it was.  It's how I got around.  Likewise, Amy's Pathway is her voice.  It's separate from her, and yet it isn't.  The obvious separation is another indication of little to no input by a person with CP.

Still later in the chapter, Amy leaves school and moves in with a friend's father (ironically, the teacher who kept her out of the science fair as a middle schooler, because of his ridiculous ableism.)  But now he is a lovable character who inexplicably offers to house Amy and calls her brave.  I think one able bodied savior is enough in this text, but apparently it isn't.  The author seems to believe her book needs more.


Chapter 26: 

Amy emails Matthew after she divulges she has had sex with Sanjay and he left, upset.  Amy tells Matthew she feels like he "hides behind his OCD sometimes."  She says he should "consider the self-indulgence of his illness."  Later, she says she is "looking at crazy people and wondering if that's what [he] looks like these days."

Really, none of this is okay.  Just because Amy can't cope with the fact that her actions have consequences does not mean it's ever okay to insinuate Matthew can control his OCD when he feels like it.  That he is selfish for having it or that he is "crazy" now.

Chapter 28:

Amy has managed to make one friend on her college campus, who shares his favorite story with her, about a monster who lived in isolation, unaware of his true form until he went out and repulsed everyone.  Amy confronts this "friend" and asks him if she is like the monster.  He says no, but she counters there are "similarities."  She says that because she ventured into the world and her friendships didn't last she "discovered the extent of her own freakishness."

Okay, seriously.  This insinuation that Amy is some kind of monstrous creature needs to stop.  Being disabled isn't repulsive or frightening and I resent the strong implication that it is so, especially giving Amy this point of view in the chapter!

Later in the chapter, Amy discovers she is pregnant and calls a cab to take her to Planned Parenthood.  I appreciated the fact that Amy was shown to be capable in this instance and also the professional and to the point manner of the staff.  Amy, too, thinks it is reassuring the way she is being related to and that it likely means they have seen a lot worse than "a crippled girl who accidentally got herself pregnant."  Like, why is the C word necessary?  What does being disabled have to do with getting pregnant?

Still later, Amy complains to her parents that no one knows her on campus.  As usual, her mother disregards her feelings.  And then her parents insist that she does know people and name her single online friend, who is standoffish at best.  It turns out her parents orchestrated the whole friendship.  When Amy is rightfully upset, Nicole claims that she is "overdramatizing."


Chapter 25:

Matthew says he knows he's "not supposed to want to kiss" Amy because she "might freak out or it's wrong to want, but I can't help it...I do."

I don't know where Matthew is getting these cockamamie ideas from.  Why is he not supposed to want to kiss Amy?  Why is it wrong?  What makes him think she might "freak out" anymore than the average girl?  This is all just borne from really limited thinking about disabled people.

He goes on to say that they "wouldn't have to have sex or anything," they could just kiss and then she would go away to school and they could do the long-distance thing.  Amy surprises him by responding, "I'd want to have sex."  And that, "I know I'm not supposed to think about sex but I do sometimes, I can't help it."

Again, why does Matthew assume Amy wouldn't want to have sex?  She's certainly talked about it enough.  The last thing she seems to want is some kind of sterile, best friend, long distance thing, with some chaste kiss on the cheek.  I'm glad Amy corrects him, but again, why is Amy under the impression that she shouldn't think about sex?  She's seventeen or eighteen by this point.  Most kids that age do think about it.  Of course, at this revelation Matthew seems about to pass out.

Amy goes on to say that she had sex already because "one of them had to know something about it." Matthew's confused, and Amy clarifies what she meant, but Matthew says "her face didn't match what she was saying.  Did she think this was funny?"

Mathew thinks again that he is scared of Amy's body as it relates to intimacy.  That he can help her when it felt "clinical or necessary" but not "touching just for touching."

Very tiring and angering that this is a persistent issue in the text.  I really don't like that Matthew's OCD is used to legitimize his fear of Amy's body.

Chapter 26:

Amy decides that it is very unlikely that she'll meet someone like Matthew in college.  Who will "look at her the way he has" and who will "not be put off" by her body.  She gives him "credit.  More credit than he'll ever realize."

Why?!  Matthew totally is put off by her body!  Does Amy have so little self-respect that she thinks the way Matthew treats her is really awesome?

Chapter 27:

Matthew continues to dig himself into a deeper hole by telling Amy that "they don't have casual relationships with their bodies."  He uses the words "unpredictable", "humiliating," says their bodies have "failed them" and "made it hard not to hate them."

I just can't with this continued notion of being trapped by disability.  Some people do feel this, but it is supremely unhelpful to have this idea perpetuated by an able bodied author, who has a lack of insight into what disability is actually like for us.


  1. As a disabled college student I can definitely say the college aspects are NOT accurate.

    1. Gosh I forgot how much I loathe this book. I remember now. And yes! It seems the author either did no research or did it and didn't care what it showed...