Say the Word by Jeannine Garsee

Summary: 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.

My thoughts: Wow, to be compared to Sarah Dessen and Laurie Halse Anderson? That's a tall order. But it's totally appropriate. Say the Word is one of those books that, even as you're reading it, you're growing. Shawna is a completely real person, even when she's being "Perfect Shawna." But as she's forced to deal with betrayals and perceived wrongs from everyone around her, the perfection is stripped away, and Shawna sees herself as we see her: not a robot or trained pony, but an emotionally intelligent, loving human being.

I related to Shawna more than I've related to a character in a long time. In high school, I tried to be That Person. By the time I was about seventeen, I realized I could no longer live for someone else's expectations, and, with my own life falling down around me, I finally had to step out and be my own person. For me, it took a few years more, and I'm still dealing with a lot of those things...and avoiding some others. And, even though the book is "over" for me, I know Shawna's still dealing, too.

All that to say that Jen has created a fully relatable character, and around that character, a fully relevant story. This isn't a book to read alone--it hits so many issues on so many levels that it deservers to be talked about in depth. I'd totally recommend this for a book club--adult or teen.

Say the Word comes out March 17!


Jeannine said...

Eliza, thank you so much for this awesome review!!!