Author

Amy & Matthew by Cammie McGovern| Berg’s Book Club

Cover for Amy and Matthew a disabled lit book. Two hands, one pink, one blue, meet and form a heart.

Book Title: Amy and Matthew
Author: Cammie McGovern
Genre: Romance, Teen & Young Adult Fiction, Disabled Lit, Realism.
First Published: March 2014
Publisher:  HarperTeen
Star Rating: ★★★★★


Introduction

Welcome to Berg’s Book Club where I will be reviewing the Teen and Young Adult novel, Amy and Matthew. This book is a romance story about disabled protagonists but quite unlike any that I have read before, including Me before you. It is probably the best disabled lit I have come across so far!

Amy & Matthew is a light-hearted story full of twists and turns. It is full of characters who are full of personality. They are not just disabled, they’re human. Something rare in books and film. It also catches the struggles of that weird teenage/adult stage of life.

Amy & Matthew was an unusual read for me. Romance just is not my genre but this was different, it was actually good!

A split narrative told in the third person— the story switching between Amy and Matthew’s point of view. This storyfocuses on two things: The protagonists’ disabilities and how they adapt to the world around them; and the issues around love and romance for both the eponymous characters.

I usually avoid romance books like the plague. So, it came as a surprise that I enjoyed this book. I really wasn’t expecting to. But I think the combined genre of disabled lit and romance along with the focus on the characters was what swung it.

Synopsis

Two teenagers are preparing for their life after high school. One of them is Amy, a young woman born with Cerebral Palsy. She can’t walk or talk without her aids but she is intelligent and brutally honest with her disability.

However, she is blind about one thing—she has no friends her own age, that is until Matthew is brutially honest back, challenging her views and opinions.

Matthew is wriggled with server anxiety and OCD. He prays no-one will notice but then Amy comes along and changes everything. They form a friendship and love, but will it survive?

Amy & Matthew Book Review

This book is amazing disabled lit. The plot is different for the two characters, you are essentially getting three storylines in one; the third being the romance.

Personally, I am more interested in Amy’s story and I am not sure whether that is because I do have Cerebral Palsy myself or whether that is because I feel Amy dominates most of the story. However, I am also interested in Matthew’s story.

Plot

As you can imagine, the plot is a complex one, following multiple storylines at the same time: Amy’s determination to be independent, Matthew’s denial that anything is wrong and then the romance in between.

McGovern manages to craft these storylines well, incorporating them so that they move smoothly and on top of this, she represents the disabled community in a realistic way. In other words, the disabled characters do not suffer because they are disabled, they suffer because they are human and that is what good storytelling is.

I’m trying not to give out spoilers but there is a plot-twist right at the end that got me on Google before I moved to the next page! Just so you know why I went to Google, I’ll give you a hint, there’s a medical emergency.

I also love the author’s use of dialogue.

Dialogue

Dialogue is one of my favourite techniques when writing and I believe the hardest to get right. McGovern not only manages to display Amy’s disability in a realistic and respectful way but the dialogue was just as believable and beautifully written. There were phrases and bits of dialogue I could see my friends saying, similar conversations I have had, the behaviours I have seen in my friends and myself.

One of my favourite passages is when Amy is fed up with people walking away from her before she can talk to them through her computer. When she has to talk to a medical professional she has a short but prompt message that she wrote beforehand that she plays:

‘I CAN TALK. I USE THIS. IT TAKES A LITTLE TIME.’ She was tired of people walking away too quickly.

McGovern, 2014, p. 250

This just shows one aspect of her life that she has to fight all the time and she’s had enough. Three sentences and you can see the emotion that is going through her head, the frustration. It’s vivid.

Characterisation

Amy

Amy’s characterisation is amazing. When I was reading it, I could hear the voices of me and my friends when Amy was talking to Matthew. The conversations they were having and the way that they act are not too dissimilar to how I react around my friends and how my friends act around me.

I had one friend particularly in mind when reading Amy’s half of the story. So I feel Amy’s characterisation is vivid. It leaps off the page, believable. There is not one part of the book where I actually thought McGovern got her characterisation wrong.

Amy rebels against her mother as a fight for her own independence but this all started after she met Matthew. He is the one that made her see that the bubble she was living in was exactly that. A bubble. And he burst it.

MY MOTHER THINKS THIS WAS ALL A BIG MISTAKE. FINE TO BE FRIENDS BUT NOT… THIS

Matthew

Matthew is also an interesting character. He has his own disability that he is trying to deny. However, the more time he spends with Amy, the harder it is for him to deny that he might have OCD. I don’t know much about OCD but I have heard many people who become disabled later in life, physically or mentally, struggle to acknowledge and accept this. This comes out clearly when reading the book.

It is only with Amy’s encouragement and persistence that he finally accepts that he needs to get help so that his condition does not take-over his life but at the same time he has a character not related to his disability.

He is kind but he will say what is on his mind. He is uncomfortable around the subject of sex… or even romance but he can still feel physical attraction and urges.

It’s not your fault that you don’t have any friends… No one is going to be themselves when there’s a teacher standing right there.

McGovern, 2014, p.20

Representation

Amy has Cerebral Palsy and Matthew has OCD. I do not have any experience with OCD to comment on whether I think she was writing Matthew into a stereotype, but I can say that Amy’s character didn’t fall into a stereotype. She had her own personality and was completely believable in what she did and said.

Did we make some terrible mistake? Did we not pioritise socialisation enough?

Yes, Amy wanted to type, we didn’t prioritise it at all. 

McGovern, 2014, p.26

Amy is intelligent but not a genius. Despite not being able to physically speak, Amy is not afraid to speak her mind (using her computer). She is rebellious but not mean. She’s romantic and fantasies about sex. Most of all, she hates to be pitied.

McGovern manages to do something that not many writers seem to struggle with. She shows the characters as people with lives and personalities that are not affected by their disabilities.

While many writers like to show disabled characters as the goody-two-shoes, the victim or the villain, McGovern shows them as normal people interested in the same topics as everyone else. I wrote an in-depth study on disabled lit, using Amy and Matthew as an example.

Yes, the characters make mistakes but it is clear that the mistakes have nothing to do with their disabilities—these mistakes are common to human nature and to young adults and I love this approach to disabled characters in fiction.

The book also beautifully tackles how people see the characters, some seeing just their disability, others seeing their personality. I imagine I am not the only disabled individual who walks around university and wonder :

Do they see me for who I am and what I do, or do they see me for my disability?

Overall

I am debating whether this book or Katy is the best book I have read so far with disabled protagonists. Currently, I think I am leaning more towards this one just for sheer brilliance with the characters. I am surprised I liked the book because of the romance genre and I think McGovern did well to get me to like any book that involves romance.

Are you willing to give this book a go? Do you know of any other good disabled lit books?

What do you think of the characterisation of Matthew by this review, or if you have read the book, in the book?

Let me know in comments. And please do follow me on here, Facebook or Twitter.

~Shannon~

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