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Say the Word

3.88  ·  Rating Details ·  939 Ratings  ·  92 Reviews
Perfectionist Shawna dates the right boys, gets good grades, and follows her father's every rule. So when her estranged lesbian mother dies, Shawna needs to figure out how to have the perfect reaction. But anger from being abandoned ten years ago, combined with the introduction of her mother's other family, threatens to leave Shawna spinning out of control. A relatable and ...more
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published March 17th 2009 by Bloomsbury USA Childrens (first published June 26th 2007)
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Aug 15, 2010 Jacki rated it did not like it
Shelves: teen-fiction
While this book initially seems like it will be the story of the heroine coming to terms with her mother's abandonment of the family for a lesbian lover, it actually winds up as the story of an ugly custody battle and domestic abuse.

The plot drags for the first third to half of the book, and the pacing retains a choppy speed-up-slow-down quality throughout.

Between narrating the story, having three different inner voices (her Perfect, Pathetic, and Evil selves) and having hallucinations that her
Rebecca A
This book was probably one of my greatest reads of the year. The thing about it is, you are a product of your environment. Whether you embrace it, as Shawna did in the beginning, or tell it to go to hell and forge your own path despite your environment. Either way it influences you.

Shawna's mother left her and her father when she was very young. Not only that, but she left both of them for another woman. As if her own mother seemingly abandoning her wasn't enough she had to listen to her father'
May 27, 2012 Suzy rated it really liked it
Shelves: library, young-adult
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 08, 2009 Pamela rated it it was amazing
Another wonderful book by author Jeannine Garsee, dealing with tough and sensitive topics relevant to today's young people. Handled in her usual straightforward and gritty style, her characters are real, sometimes likeable, and always draw the reader deeper into their lives and their story. Well worth reading.
Michelle Moua
Jan 16, 2014 Michelle Moua rated it it was amazing
This book was probably one of my greatest reads of the year. The thing about it is, you are a product of your environment. Whether you embrace it, as Shawna did in the beginning, or tell it to go to hell and forge your own path despite your environment. Either way it influences you.

Shawna's mother left her and her father when she was very young. Not only that, but she left both of them for another woman. As if her own mother seemingly abandoning her wasn't enough she had to listen to her father'
Nov 25, 2008 Christina rated it it was amazing
Shelves: realistic, glbtq-ya
High school senior Shawna has her world pretty much begin to crumble when the phone call arrives--her mother is in the hospital, probably not going to make it. But as she goes to New York to visit her, she's not sure how she should feel: this is the same mother who abruptly left Shawna and her dad in their Ohio home when Shawna was only seven, to live with another woman, Fran ("the Frankfurter" as Shawna's best friend LeeLee calls her). So Shawna hasn't had that great of a relationship with her ...more
Ariel Uppstrom
Dec 21, 2011 Ariel Uppstrom rated it really liked it
This was an interesting book. At first I didn't know where it was going but then it picked up and really pulled me along to find out how the character would develop.

The story is about a girl who has an incredibly controlling father who pushes her to be the absolute best. The reader comes to find out that Shawna's mother left them when Shawna was 7 to be with her lesbian lover. Needless to say, Shawna's father forbid Shawna to have contact with her mother. Her mother ends up dying and this throw
Mar 30, 2009 Alea rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-for-review
Wow, there is sure a lot packed into this book, it was emotional, powerful, and definitely original. And I think for the most part it works really well! Shawna's journey spans everything from what it means to be family, sexuality, friendship, and love, it goes everywhere. I was compulsively turning the pages of Say the Word, I had to know where it was going and had to know that everyone was going to come out of this situation ok. It was definitely stressful at times to read, especially any scene ...more
Jenni Frencham
Feb 21, 2012 Jenni Frencham rated it liked it
Shawna has tried to be the perfect daughter. She works hard at school, helps out at home, and follows all the rules. Everything is fine until Shawna's mom's wife calls to tell Shawna that her mom has had a stroke and may be dying. Shawna's life rapidly spirals out of control in the midst of a tense funeral, the unchanged will, and her father's insistence that her mother's lifestyle was very, very wrong. In the end, Shawna must decide between what is right and what is easy.

This was an interesting
Jun 23, 2010 J.Elle rated it it was ok
Shawna's mother left her father for another woman and Shawna was never really part of her life again. This makes for some pretty heavy baggage, especially when her mother's partner calls to tell Shawna that her mother has suffered a stroke and is dying. Shawna is forced into her mother's partner's life and the lives of her two sons while trying to remain the perfect daughter to her perfectionist, physician father. Things get ugly when her mother dies having never updated her will and Shawna's fa ...more
Feb 25, 2014 RainbowGhost369 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Those who are ready to get bored, then get drawn in, and feel too many emotions to count.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Tori Kelley
Mar 13, 2014 Tori Kelley rated it it was amazing
Edgy, well plotted. Read it in a day-so that's my meter for awesomeness!
Dec 21, 2008 Patrick rated it really liked it
Shelves: ya-fiction
This is a very, very interesting book about the complicated nature of families. The cover gives away the use of thematic use of doubles: gay and straight; brother and sister; Catholic and Jewish.
Tami Smith
Very good book! Will reccomend to my friends and students!
Apr 14, 2014 Bob rated it it was amazing
Shelves: post-ya-lit
Read this a few months ago, thought it was pretty good, and went with 4 stars.

Read it again, and liked it better. Moved it up to 5 stars.

Read it a 3rd time. I like this book.
May 21, 2011 Les rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This book just didn't work for me. I liked most of the ideas - they're pretty original, and I thought it would be interesting to read about a girl with a lesbian mom. A lot of interesting topics are mentioned - homosexuality/homophobia, domestic abuse, etc. - but I didn't like the execution, and I never really got the point.

My main problem are the characters. I didn't get Shawna at all. She has no real personality, always changing. First she's so ignorant and narrow-minded about her mother's hom
Jun 06, 2014 Ally rated it it was ok
Well, for such a high and praising synopsis, I expected better than this. (I will tell you right away that this review will definitely be shorter than usual). Yes, it is coming-of-age, but it isn't too inspiring or anything. Instead, it was pretty floppy and boring.

Shawna, first of all, is easily floppy. She doesn't know who she is, but she seems to have multiple personality disorder. After all, there is Perfect Shawna (which is used for her father), Pathetic Shawna (who is used for herself), a
Apr 09, 2009 Holly rated it really liked it
Shelves: juvenile, re-readable
This is Jeannine Garsee's second novel, and while I am a true fan of her first work, Before, After, and Somebody In Between, I expected to have difficulty liking this one much at all.


Shawna Gallagher, the lead character in Say the Word, is a rich teenager with a car, a cell phone, a laptop. I thought: How much trouble could this girl possibly have?

As it turns out, Garsee did not let me down. Just for starters, Shawna's mother ran off and set up housekeeping with another woman years ago, lea
Dec 30, 2009 Nancy rated it really liked it
Shawna’s mother, Penny, left the family ten years ago to move in with Fran, and neither Shawna, nor her father, has been able to accept her lesbianism. Needless to say, visits to her mother never went well, and finally Shawna tells her mother that she doesn’t want to see her anymore.
When Shawna gets a call from Fran that her mother has had a stroke and isn’t going to make it, Shawna knows she needs to go see her. She is as resentful as ever of Fran, and her two sons, who know and love her mothe
May 06, 2009 Brooke rated it really liked it
Shawna Gallagher has many different sides: there is Perfect Shawna: who always does and says the right things, Evil Shawna: who snaps at people and doesn't want to be good anymore, and Pathetic Shawna: who grovels at people's feet. When her estranged lesbian mother dies, Shawna is forced to deal with the many emotions that are flooding through her being. She's angry at her mother for leaving when she was young and never coming back, embarrassed over her mother's lover and children, and she's tir ...more
Dec 19, 2008 Yan rated it it was ok
Say the Word is a conflicting book for me. For one thing I cannot seem to make up my mind on the grading. Shawna portrayed various personalities which she describes as Evil Shawna, Perfect Shawna, and Pathetic Shawna. The Perfect one annoyed me, the Evil one I adored, and the Pathetic one I can relate to. So what happens when the main character can be separated into 3 beings? You tell me as I have no clue.

Say the Word is a whirlwind of important topics from modern today—domestic abuse, homosexu
Becca Ohlman
May 14, 2011 Becca Ohlman rated it it was ok
Okay, so what I couldn't handle in this book was the ignorance, rudeness, narrow-mindedness of the majority of the characters. The Dad, Aunt, and Julie all made me want to throw this book against the wall. I didn't know there were people THAT prejudiced. Idk, I live in So Cal. We're pretty liberal here... Ohio, not so much, evidently?

Second of all... The point of this book was lost upon me until the end. I couldn't get into it until about the 90th chapter... (btw, who writes a book with 100+ cha
Apr 06, 2009 Anna rated it liked it
Shelves: three-stars
*Review originally posted April 2009.*

I have very mixed feelings about this book. In some ways, it's wonderful and it deals with a lot of great topics that you don't see too much in the YA genre. However, in other ways, it's just okay and kind of blahhh in some parts. This is going to be a really hard review to write just because of that. . .

The Good:
-->Say the Word dealt with a lot of issues that you don't see too much in YA books, such as: lesbian mothers and step-brothers who may not be st
Oct 15, 2009 Brittany rated it really liked it
Shawna tries to always be "Perfect Shawna" not "Evil Shawna" or "Pathetic Shawna". It doesn't always work out that way. When Shawna's mother leaves her without a goodbye to be with her lesbian lover Fran, Shawna feels totally abandoned. Years later Fran gives her a call saying to come quickly because her mother's in the hospital and probably won't make it much longer. After her father catches wind of what is going on he intervenes, and between her mother's outdated will and her father's controll ...more
Sherwood Smith
Sep 12, 2009 Sherwood Smith rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
I simply inhaled this book, staying up far too late last night.

Shawna's mom left the family for another woman ten years ago--but now she's had a stroke, propelling Shawna back into her mother's life, and also forcing her to deal with mom being gay--and with mom dumping her. And with Mom's other family. And with Shawna's seemingly perfect, high-achiever successful doctor dad. Who is also a very, very angry man, whose anger comes out in frightening controlling behavior. And in those little needlin
Oct 03, 2012 Turea rated it really liked it
This is the extremely intense story of a high school senior named Shawna Ghalleger. Shawna is an overachiever with high hopes of getting into her father's alma mater and going to medical school to become a doctor just like him. Aside from the normal ups and downs of being a teenager, Shawna is still dealing with some unresolved issues. Shawna’s mother, Penny, abruptly left Shawna and her father one fateful night. Penny moved to New York to live with her lover, Fran. Penny and Fran started a fami ...more
-k The Lady Critic
Apr 22, 2010 -k The Lady Critic rated it did not like it
This was just one of those books that I couldn’t get into and I’m not entirely sure why. I admit that I didn’t like the main character Shawna and her multiple personalities – I’m pretty sure that she was schizophrenic – and the way that she addressed these different personalities was weird.

I did like how the main focus at the beginning, in the few chapters that I read, was how she dealt with her mom suddenly coming out and moving to live with her girlfriend. I think that the issue of parents su
Steph Su
Mar 29, 2009 Steph Su rated it liked it
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 yo ...more
Jul 19, 2009 Suzanne rated it really liked it
This one turned up on the Peach 2010-2011 consideration database,and I enjoyed it more than I expected, having read the author's Before, After, & Somebody in Between. I don't think I put it on goodreads, yet, though--so many books I would have to go back and remember to add and then guess what I thought of them.

Anyway, there was a bit of sensationalism to the prior book, which is not to say that teens don't like to vicariously experience the woes of others. Shawna Gallager, the protagonist o
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Jeannine Garsee is the author of three contemporary YA novels: THE UNQUIET (2011) SAY THE WORD (2009) and BEFORE, AFTER, AND SOMEBODY IN BETWEEN (2007)(Bloomsbury USA Children's Books.) Her essay "Fearless" appears in the Harper Collins anthology DEAR BULLY: 70 Authors Tell Their Stories, edited by Megan Kelly Hall and Carrie Jones.
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