Book Review: Amy & Matthew by Cammie McGovern

Amy loves Matthew and he loves her back. This is their story.

Amy is unflinchingly honest about her limitations. Born with cerebral palsy, she can’t walk or talk without help. But trapped inside this uncooperative body lies a brilliant mind and a luminous spirit – a girl capable of truly loving and worthy of being loved in return.

Matthew has his own set of challenges – a mind consumed by unwanted repeated thoughts, obsessive rituals and a crippling fear that he can't explain. But underneath all of the anxiety lies a deep seed of hope for someone to come along who believes in him…

This is the story of Amy and Matthew. It may not be a fairy tale romance or set in an imagined world far from our own. But the love they share is real. And yes, there's magic in it. (from Goodreads.com)

Published by MacMillan Children's Books March 2014 (UK) 

When I read the synopsis to Amy & Matthew, I had to read the book. Cerebal Palsy is a condition which affects 1 in 400 people born in the UK (Scope) yet as a general population we know very little about it and it's largely misunderstood. I was the same, until I began working with Young Adults with CP. 

What I loved about Amy & Matthew is it's ability to shatter preconceptions. Cammie McGovern doesn't shy away from the issues that people may first imagine when they think of CP and gloss over them, but by giving Amy a voice she really allows us to see the person behind the disabilty. I also loved that she didn't make Amy a victim or someone to be pitied. She's bright, strong, ambitious and focused.  She's also at times stubborn, selfish and thoughtless and makes some pretty poor choices. In other words, she's a real, multifascted person like anyone else.  I LOVED her.

The aspect of the relationship I found most interesting between Amy and Matthew was the unexpected dynamics. Matthew suffers OCD, he struggles with rituals, a dibilitating fear of hurting others and a severe lack of self belief. Matthew offers Amy the oppotunity she most desperatly wants, to have friends. By becoming a 'peer aide', Amy can be herself at school rather than being isolated by being constantly accompanied by an 'Adult' assistant. But this relationship is equal, and Amy's compassion towards Matthew's difficulties is inspiring. 

I took a lot away from this book, some of which I'll be more aware of in my work. I'd never considered how it must feel for a teenager to be constantly shadowed by an adult and how that in itself can be isolating from their peer group but once I'd read it, it made perfect sense. The frustration Amy feels when people say 'Hi' but then don't wait for her to reply via her pathway (a computer communication devise) also struck a chord. I see this happening a lot. But it also reminded me that disabilities aren't always visable. Strength and support can be found in unexpected places and inside, people are rarely who we presume them to be from outward appearences. Amy and Matthew celebrates differences and acceptance, and proves love and friendship have no barriers if we only give it a chance. We need more books like this.

I read a proof copy supplied by the Amazon Vine program 

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