Tags: YA, homophobia, anger management, family
Shawna Gallagher’s mother left her and her father for another woman, Fran, and her two sons, Arye and Schmule, when Shawna was just seven, and now, ten years later, has suddenly died. Shawna doesn’t know how to feel. She can’t be especially mournful about the loss of a mother whom she hardly knew, especially a self-centered mother who abandoned her.
However, things begin to fall apart in everyone’s lives when Shawna’s father, a control freak with anger management issues, insists on staking genetic claim on the son whom he never knew he had, a son whom Shawna’s mother tried to pass off as Fran’s. Shawna’s father is determined to get his way, even if it meets using or hurting a dozen people in the process, including those close to him. Shawna has lived under his control all his life, but now just might be the time for her to take a stance and do what SHE believes is right.
Jeannine Garsee tackles the difficult subjects of homosexuality, homophobia, and family loyalty in SAY THE WORD. In particular, I found the family loyalty issue most striking. It’s incredibly difficult for an author to create a despicable character who we want to beat the crap out of, yet still empathize and understand where he’s coming from. Mr. Gallagher, and, to a lesser extent, Shawna, are two such characters. They’re flawed, sometimes with unadmirable points of view or attitudes, and yet you can’t help but feel for them, can’t help but understand where they’re coming from, even as you wish for them to grow up.
I feel like the issue of homophobia could have been discussed more in-depth, and I certainly wasn’t satisfied with the blasé way in which Shawna’s sex life was treated. The characters of Shawna, her dad, Schmule, and even Shawna’s friend LeeLee were well developed, but something was missing in Shawna’s budding friendship with—and later, romantic attraction to— Arye. That came out of nowhere, and I found myself unable to understand their relationship.
Even with those small complaints, I found SAY THE WORD to be an overall good read, perfect for fans of Sarah Dessen and Elizabeth Scott.
Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 5