Call It What You Want by Brigid Kemmerer Book Review
If you’ve been reading YA for a long time, Brigid Kemmerer is an author you will have no doubt seen before on bookshelves since this novel is her 10th! Not only is she the author of a great YA paranormal series from way back (The Elementals Series) but she’s also the author of a book I really enjoyed recently called A Curse So Dark & Lonely (my review for it is right here, its sequel A Heart So Fierce & Broken is out in 2020) and the author of another book I’ve been meaning to read that has on my shelves for ages and highly recommended to me; Letters to the Lost.
After reading ACSD&L, I was pretty excited because since her first series, her writing has improved so much and the premise of this book alone was super cute. A huge thank you to the team at Bloomsbury Australia who sent me this unsolicited review copy in exchange for an honest review. I sped through this book in only 2 days and it literally got me out of my slump so I’m so grateful for this novel.
When his dad is caught embezzling funds from half the town, Rob goes from popular lacrosse player to social pariah. Even worse, his father’s failed suicide attempt leaves Rob and his mother responsible for his care.
Everyone thinks of Maegan as a typical overachiever, but she has a secret of her own after the pressure got to her last year. And when her sister comes home from college pregnant, keeping it from her parents might be more than she can handle.
When Rob and Maegan are paired together for a calculus project, they’re both reluctant to let anyone through the walls they’ve built. But when Maegan learns of Rob’s plan to fix the damage caused by his father, it could ruin more than their fragile new friendship…
This captivating, heartfelt novel asks the question: Is it okay to do something wrong for the right reasons?
In this story, as the blurb mentions, we are introduced to two characters, Meagan and Rob. They both have alternating chapters where we can read from both perspectives and they’re both going through a tough time, experiencing different situations that are different yet similar.
Meaghan is living through the repercussions of cheating on an SAT exam after being known by everyone and seen by her family as the perfect daughter, while also trying to be there for her sister who faces a tough decision after accidentally getting pregnant while at college. She is carrying more than her fair share of secrets on her back and struggles to deal with the guilt of cheating and the change in her reputation.
Similarly, although to a bigger extent; Rob, on the other hand, faces a harsher reality where he has lost his friends and what he sees as virtually everyone in the town’s trust after his father is convicted of embezzlement and unsuccessfully tries to commit suicide. Living on his own with his mum, having to deal with the pains of poverty for the first time, looking after his father and having to deal with the loneliness of losing his best friend to this scandal puts a lot of stress on him as he starts to question what’s wrong and what’s right. Since he doesn’t interact with anyone but his mother until he gets put on the calculus project with Meaghan, however, he does get into the habit of reading library books (and yes, there were many YA fantasy series we all know and love that got some cameo time).
Already, this probably sounds tough. It sounds dark, the kind of dark in a contemporary that makes you want to ball your eyes out (as if C.G. Drews collaborated and conspired to make us cry in this novel too) and that’s honestly the most surprising thing about this book that made me LOVE it so much. Brigid somehow managed to make this book so heartfelt, emotional and deep while also maintaining this lighthearted tone in many scenes that makes you laugh or blush as these two characters meet, get to know each other and support each other in their individual ordeals. Her writing flowed so well, it was so readable and never gave me a headache from information overload. It kept my attention the whole time and I read this book so fast, it was really hard to put it down.
I found so many beautiful and thought-provoking quotes throughout the book. The best ones being the quotes you read and think about for a minute to really digest what that person is trying to inform. How this book deals with the morals to do with stealing, what is right and wrong, who deserves what and who gets to decide what — is amazing. I thought it was extremely well written in that aspect and the fact that this book managed to have parts that made me happy and giddy with cuteness was just so fun.
Another important point with this novel is that it does discuss abortion multiple times. I have read reviews where people have said that the discussion of abortions or at least how they are brought so repeatedly in response to Meaghan’s sister was a bit uncomfortable. However, it is never comfortable talking about such a debated and hard-hitting topic, it is not comfortable being in such a controversial and compromising situation as a teenager/young adult and although this part of the book’s narrative may be uncomfortable for others to read, I don’t think that makes it any less important or necessary to include in the story.
One more thing I wish could’ve been better is this story’s take on bullying. This is present in the story and I just wish that there was more dialogue or explanations, especially when it came to redemption and forgiveness. There could’ve just been a little more on that topic.
I thought that Brigid created amazing characters, not just Meaghan and Rob but other side characters who had just as much of their own backstories, in-depth personalities and a story to their relationships with the protagonists within this world. I loved that this book made me question certain topics, and also made me more aware and empathetic because, like what these characters have to go through, we may never really know the full story about certain events in people’s lives unless we experience them or just ask them.
Overall, I highly recommend this book. It is definitely one of the best contemporaries I’ve read and I cannot wait to read more by Brigid. She’ll honestly just become an auto-buy author at this rate. I also just hope to read another book in this world, sometimes contemporaries are so good you just want to see these characters again.
How do you like contemporaries though? Super cute and lighthearted? Hard-hitting & making you cry?
Let me know in the comments!
Until next time,
PS: I much prefer this cute pastel pink UK/AU cover over the US edition. Sorry not sorry, and if you can’t find this one in bookstores, it’ll be because it was only released yesterday on the 27th of June (according to GR anyway).