Published by Macmillan Children's Books on 27th March 2014
Genre: YA, Contemporary
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This is the story of Amy and Matthew. It's about being different. It's about feeling alone. It's about finding each other. It's about falling in love.I don't know whether I just read this book at the wrong time or what, but I feel like any thoughts I have about the book are sort of swamped in a haze. I just can't seem to figure out how I feel about it.
I was really drawn to this book at first because Matthew has OCD and the whole premise of this story made it seem like it was the closest I was going to get to reading a book about a girl who falls in love with a guy who suffers from anxiety. (As I've said before, my boyfriend suffers from anxiety.) In the end, I figure the world kind of still needs another story like that, because this one didn't quite work out for me.
The subtitle of this book is "A Love Story". I guess I expected more relationship stuff from this book, but there was really none of that. Most of the book is just Amy and Matthew struggling to make their feelings known to each other. It takes a ludicrously long time. And it's kind of frustrating and possibly just not quite my cup of tea. I've made it clear before that characters who suck at communicating with each other are just not my thing. I find it hard to root for a ship like that. And here were Amy and Matthew, constantly failing to tell each other how they really feel. Not reaching out for each other when they should. It just takes them way too long; too many misunderstandings, too many mistakes, and I kind of lost interest.
I wasn't sure about the way Amy dealt with Matthew's OCD either. I felt like she could be really selfish, and she pushed Matthew a bit too hard sometimes. It did not feel to me that she was present and supportive, ready to be there for him whenever Matthew was having a particularly bad time, but that she just wanted him cured of his OCD and that was it. Matthew's recovery also seemed oddly easy and smooth to me. Like, I know he still isn't really fully recovered by the end of the book, but I just feel like I was never shown the full impact of his OCD and his anxiety on his life and on the lives of those around him. On Amy's life.
I think Amy got given a far more complex and well-developed arc. I have very little knowledge about cerebral palsy; it was nice to read a book with so much focus on that, and so much on Amy trying to move beyond that too, to learn her place in the world and how to define herself on her own terms. I liked seeing her struggles with her overprotective mother. Amy was selfish, yes, but she was such a teenager. She wanted to live, really live the way she hadn't managed to yet; she wanted to be liked, she wanted to make an impression on the world, and the choices she made were rash and bold and risky. I think she learnt quite a bit about life by the end of the book.
Despite all this, I sympathised with Matthew much more as a character. The way he viewed the world and the sadness he carried with him just made him so much more compelling to me. I loved the way this book explored what sexuality meant to both Amy and Matthew, how they had very different takes on the subject, and this bit of the book, from an email that Matthew sends to Amy, was so raw and beautiful:
I understand what you were trying to say, but I also have to say I don't believe there's such a casual sex for people like you and me. How could there be? We don't have casual relationships with our bodies. They're unpredictable, humiliating things that have failed us so much it's hard not to hate them, and impossible to imagine being naked with another person and relaxed at the same time. I don't know. Maybe that's not it at all.It's just heartbreaking.
Still, much of my enjoyment of the book was dampened by the fact that it feels to me much less like a love story than a story about two people who need to just learn to communicate already. And also by the fact that I wasn't always comfortable with the portrayal of Matthew's OCD and Amy's attitude towards that. For these reasons, I was never convinced by the romance, and that just isn't great for a book subtitled "A Love Story".