Is it possible to live a happy life in spite of the disabilities that plague you? Many who suffer from mental or physical illnesses would say no. However, some have recovered and found solace from their hopelessness through friends, family, and lovers. In Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern, a girl with cerebral palsy and a boy with OCD find love and help each other deal with their disabilities. The theme of this touching novel is that despite your disabilities, you are always able to make friends and live a happy life.
The setting, mood, and tone in Say What You Will set the scene for a somewhat tragic yet beautifully uplifting book. The story accomplishes this in the way that the narrator describes her seemingly bleak situation. The author states, “For most of her school life, Amy had felt a little like Rapunzel, locked in the tower her walker created when she walked down hallways. In eleven years, no one had ever called up to her window or asked for her hair. No one had tried to be her friend” (McGovern 21). This means that so many people had been intimidated or disgusted by her outward appearance that no one had even attempted to look at what was on the inside. It becomes clear early on that the theme of this book is much deeper than the light hearted young adult books that are commonly read.
In Say What You Will, the theme is first introduced when after years of being shunned, Amy starts to make friends. This happens when Amy’s character develops and begins to open up. This long process starts when Cammie McGovern writes about the two characters spending time together, “With Matthew it felt both easy and real. She tried to think of the right word to describe him, and it finally occurred to her: he felt like a friend” (McGovern 46). This shows the development of the theme as well as Amy’s character because it displays how she is beginning to be able to open up to people. This will lead to Amy learning how to open up to more and more people, making her a happier teenager.
In the novel, the plot helps to develop the theme when the ups-and-downs of Amy and Matthew’s relationships made them learn more about their disabilities and how to help each other with them. Cammie McGovern wrote, “That was the real lesson he’d finally been learning. The voice in his head was never happy, even when he slavishly followed its whims. It was never happy the way Amy was happy when he finally walked back into the room” (McGovern 298). This quote implies that Amy helped Matthew discover how to deal with his OCD and break free from it. Matthew’s OCD was a cage that kept him from experiencing life, and Amy opened the door for him to soar.
The ending of Say What You Will helped develop the theme because it shows that even with all the mistakes they made and their disabilities, Matthew and Amy were still able to find someone who made them happy. Cammie McGovern states, “BEING FRIENDS WITH YOU MADE ME FEEL LIKE I COULD DO MORE THAN I EVER REALIZED” (McGovern 342). This quote shows that even with their disabilities, both Amy and Matthew were able to experience new things and meet new people because of each other. In the end, both of them were able to be happy and make peace with their very different, but equally problematic disabilities.
Every chapter of Say What You Will echoes the advice that you can live a happy life, even if you have disabilities. It is easy to see that this novel was written to inspire people with disabilities and teach people without disabilities more about them. But, McGovern also wrote it to show those who struggle with their disabilities every day that it does get better, and that they are still able to be strong, smart, and most importantly happy individuals. It teaches people that there is still hope for them to have a happy future. This book can apply to many people with a large assortment of disabilities. A friend of mine is battling depression, and I see how bad it affects her day to day life. If she read this book, I’m sure that she would realise that things can get better for her and she can grow up to have a happy life.