Thursday, 10 July 2014
Review: Amy & Matthew - A Love Story by Cammie McGovern
I was immediately drawn to the bright, textured cover of this book in the bookstore, and when I read that it was about a boy with OCD and a girl with cerebral palsy falling in love I knew I had to buy it. These are not the kind of characters you often see in YA, and I was curious about how they would be handled. Having anxiety myself, I was especially interested in seeing how Matthew's condition was explored.
I have to say initially it made me really anxious. Matthew's worries are not my worries, and yet they did spike my anxiety a bit. It's probably impossible not to feel a little anxious if you're putting yourself in the shoes of such an anxious character. Once I got more lost in the story I stopped worrying so much and started appreciating the way Matthew's OCD had been written. It was really well done, very realistic without being completely over the top. There were lots of little things that people with no experience with such a condition probably wouldn't even notice, but for me it was incredibly validating.
As far as Amy is concerned, I don't know a great deal about cerebral palsy, so I couldn't judge how accurate the depiction of her situation was, but it certainly seemed authentic. More than anything, you really get the sense of how frustrated Amy is, and how incredibly isolated and lonely she can be at times. Through both her and Matthew's points of view, the novel explores the notion of control - or lack thereof - over your own body and actions and how that impacts your emotions. Both of these characters are trapped in their bodies in very different ways, and as they connect with each other their own worlds begin to expand and it's quite wonderful to follow.
But this book is about so much more than disabilities. Indeed, as Amy and Matthew strive to be seen as something other than disabled or disordered, they become some of the most complex and fully realised characters I've read in YA in a long time. They do amazing things but importantly they also screw up really really badly. They love each other, but they also hurt each other. It can be frustrating to read but it's also an important part of their growth, and part of what's make them great as characters. They're not martyrs or symbols, they're people. People make mistakes. And sometimes you love them all the more for it.
The secondary characters are also incredibly well developed in this book, and I especially loved the changing relationships Amy has with her peer helpers (of which Matthew is one), and Matthew has with his new co-workers at the local cinema. Their families also play important parts, and while it's hard not to hate them at times, you also sympathise with them.
The dual third person narration is really effective in telling both Amy and Matthew's individual and interconnected stories; it's great to be able to see how they see themselves and then how they're seen by others. Ultimately the book is about finding yourself and growing into the person you want to be, as well as the important relationships you forge along the way. Beginning in the last year of high school and going through to the first year post-high school for Amy and Matthew, it is a true coming of age story - unique, emotional, messy and beautiful.
I was inpsired by Mands to have a go at matching nails with this fun cover, so here's my crappy picture of that!
Published: MacMillan Children's Books, March 2014
Get It: Book Depository