Title: Call It What You Want
Author: Brigid Kemmerer
Published: July 2019
Readership: Young Adult
Trigger Warnings: Attempted suicide, teenage pregnancy
I received a copy of Call It What You Want unsolicited from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
From the author of the Zoella Book Club-pick Letters to the Lost comes another emotionally complex, romantic story about two teens struggling to unpick the grey area between right and wrong, perfect for fans of John Green and Jennifer Niven
Rob had it all – friends, a near-guaranteed lacrosse scholarship to college and an amazing family – but all that changed when his dad was caught embezzling funds from half the town. Now he’s a social pariah.
Maegan always does the right thing. But when her sister comes home from college pregnant, she’s caught between telling their parents the truth about the father and keeping her sister’s trust.
When Rob and Maegan are paired together for a project, they form an unexpectedly deep connection. But Rob’s plan to fix his father’s damage could ruin more than their new friendship …
Earlier this year I read my first Brigid Kemmerer book, A Curse So Dark and Lonely, and was blown away by how much I enjoyed it. I also knew Kemmerer had another book being released in 2019 and, although it was a contemporary young adult book, it was definitely on my radar as something to check out to see if I would like her contemporary work. When I received a review copy unexpectedly, I knew it was definitely something I wanted to pick up sooner rather than later and I’m so glad I did.
Call It What You Want has a dual-perspective as we follow Maegan and Rob, two outsiders within their school communities. Maegan’s lived her whole life in her sister’s shadow and made one decision the previous year that has her labelled a cheater. Rob’s father was caught embezzling funds from a significant portion of the town and he want from being the most popular boy at school to a social pariah who no one will associate with. The two are bought together by a maths assignment that neither want to partner with anyone for, but together they begin to dismantle the walls they’ve both built to try and find a kind of peace in their new, changed lives.
I really enjoyed Call It What You Want.
Now, full confession, I read this after binge-watching three seasons of Veronica Mars plus the movie, and honestly? This whole thing gave me Neptune High feels, which is a compliment really, because you have two characters who had lives built around their status in the school only to be brought down either by one bad decision or the decisions of family members. They go from having all the things they could want to virtually nothing, along with the taunts, side-eyes and bullying that goes on with loss of status.
Both Maegan and Rob have massive chips on their shoulders and their first few interactions are painful as they both struggle to find a way to communicate that doesn’t offend the other or bring up their own issues. Maegan, in particular, struggles to conceal her feelings and thoughts as she deals with the return of her sister from college and the challenges that it brings about with her family. Rob, on the other hand, is dealing with the aftermath of his father’s attempted suicide and the day-to-day care that goes along with that. For both of them, and the reader, it’s raw and emotional and difficult to deal with.
I quite liked the way Kemmerer dove deep into Maegan’s relationship with her older sister, Sam, and the way that even though Sam’s making her family’s life a bit more of a challenge, it’s really obvious how much the two sister’s care for one another. They stick together and support one another and it’s so important to see healthy sibling relationships depicted in young adult books. In contrast, it was fascinating to see how Maegan’s relationship with her best friend Rachel caused her so much pain as Rachel dealt with Maegan’s past decisions and her casual acceptance of the snide comments made towards Maegan.
Rob’s relationships with his parents were completely different, as Rob tried to be as supportive of his mother as he could while he dealt with his anger towards his father. He went from all the friends to no friends, to making friends not only with Maegan, but also Owen – the son of one of the people affected by his father’s embezzlement scheme – through some questionable actions that seem like the right thing to do even though they’re illegal. It was also so important to see him forge a relationship with an adult not immediately related to him who he could confide in, especially when everything comes to a head at the climax of the book.
Ultimately, the book deals with themes of how to cope with significant change in your life, how to deal when everyone around you judges every action. It’s about how to move on, to find the right thing to do and be honest even when it’s hard.
I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on Kemmerer’s future work. She’s definitely become a new favourite author.