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Thursday, July 1, 2010

Say the Word (aka Real! Live! Reviews!)

Say the Word

Yes, I am writing an actual review. Don't adjust your television set.


Dredging up the past can knock the present right off balance.

The world expects perfection from seventeen-year-old Shawna Gallagher, and for the most part, that’s what they get. She dates the right boys, gets good grades, and follows her father’s every rule. But when her estranged lesbian mother dies, it’s more than perfect Shawna can take. Suddenly, anger from being abandoned ten years ago is resurfacing along with Shawna’s embarrassment over her mother’s other family. As she confronts family secrets and questions from the past, Shawna realizes there’s a difference between doing the perfect thing and doing the right thing.

Shawna’s honest and relatable voice will draw readers in and hold them until the last page in this coming-of-age story. Jeannine Garsee has delivered a compulsively readable second novel, perfect for fans of Sarah Dessen and Laurie Halse Anderson.


Like I am wont to, I loved this book. (Don't worry, I have two negative reviews being cleaned up as we speak for those of you who heart schadenfreude.) There are many reasons for this. I'll split them up:


This 360-page book had 121 chapters. Many of them were just one or two pages. Seriously. How can you not love that?


Jeannine Garsee has done something amazing with Shawna Gallagher. She has made her real. Real does not necessarily mean politically correct, or sure of anything, or even sure of herself--but she is real. Shawna has been struggling with the issues surrounding her mother for years. She doesn't think about it much, at least until the events of STW. When it all begins everything comes surfacing up and it's like an explosion of emotion. Shawna is surprisingly wont to say-- or at least think-- what's on her mind, and sometimes, thanks to all the issues she has, it's harsh, as evidenced in one scene during her mom's funeral when she says several harsh things about gay people. She does this a lot-- not really near the end but especially near the start. Yeah, she isn't perfect. But you're still rooting for her, because she is genuinely a good person-- something that becomes clear in the book's final pages when she...well, she does something I personally think is awesome.

The other characters were amazing, too. Shawna's best friend Lee Lee, Fran (aforementioned lesbian partner) and her sons Schmule and Arye, even Shawna's asshole father were all brilliantly delineated. I really, really hated Shawna's dad and with any luck you will too. Satisfaction guaranteed or your money squandered in endless pursuits of personal pleasure! (Credit to Libba Bray for that last sentence.)


The plot really worked. I can't explain this without giving away tons of spoilers, but I felt as if it always had flow.

Some subplots didn't work--the romance seemed forced, for instance. And the ending! Wow. I've heard mixed reviews of it--some people loved it, hated it. Personally I loved it: I felt it was the only way the book could've ended satisfactorily.

So here's the verdict: Say the Word is a well-written, thought-provoking book filled with wonderfully delineated characters. Shawna is an awesome protag who, with any luck, you'll like from page one, despite her many (and there are many) flaws. Eventually, by the end, she learns a lot and so do we.

Come on, short chapters!

Wild Roses by Deb Caletti
Caletti's writing style is similar (enough) to Garsee's-- if more ruminative-- and both are about parent issues, like all of Caletti's (and Sarah Dessen's) books seem to be.
Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
Honestly, I just wanted to take this opportunity to 'market' WGx2, per se. Seriously. READ IT.
Something, Maybe by Elizabeth Scott
Again with the parent issues. A lot shorter, though.

Writing: 9/10
MC: 10/10
Other Characters: 9/10
Plot: 9/10
Ending: 8/10
Cover: 9/10

Overall Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Cover? 4.5 out of 5 - This is an okay cover. For all intents and purposes it works, and the girl facing out reminds me of Shawna's description. I don't know who the other person is, though--Shawna's mom? One of her 'personalities?' It's kind of left up to interpretation, which really works here.

Bloomsbury USA
March 17, 2009
368 pages

Checked out from library.

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