4,5 “moral choices” stars
“Other people don’t have the challenges we have, Owen. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have their own.”
This is my fourth Brigid Kemmerer’s book and to this day she has never disappointed me.
What I like above all else is her knack to draw us into nuanced stories. Her characters always come in shades of grey with inner conflicts, moral choices to make. They are beautiful but flawed and have to grow up, become wiser.
Brigid Kemmerer writes about real life!
In “Call It What You Want” you’ll be asked what’s right and what’s wrong. Is it okay to do something wrong for the right reasons? If you do it to “right a wrong”?
Robin Hood stole money from the wealthy to help poor people. We all see him as a hero. But at the end of the day he was still stealing!
And if your parents have committed a crime are you guilty by association? Were there signs you did not see? Could you have prevented it? Does it fall on your shoulders to compensate the families who have been wronged? And does it make them bad parents? Are you still allowed to love them? To admire some of their facets?
I am aware that I begin with the big guns here but truly that’s what this story does: make you wonder! Make you think!
Let’s roll back and get back to the plot now.
The two protagonists are seen as pariah in their schools.
Rob because his father embezzled millions from the town’s people and Maegan because she cheated on her STAT forcing her classmates to retake the test again as all results were invalidated.
No wonder none are Mr and Miss popular right now!
Both have currently a hard family life.
Rob because they became poor as the FBI seized everything to compensate people and because his father tried to kill himself but missed. He is now like a living plant inhabiting their house and forcing Rob and his mom to care for him. Brigid has a way to make us grasp her character’s reality! The opening lands you right in the middle of Rob’s current life:
“I eat breakfast with my father every morning. Well, I eat. He sits in his wheelchair and stares in whichever direction Mom has pointed him. If I’m lucky, all his drool stays in his mouth. If he’s lucky, the sunlight doesn’t fall across his eyes.”
Maegan because her sister is back home pregnant from college. She does not say who the father is and does not know if she should terminate the pregnancy or not. The atmosphere at home is heavy and Maegan can’t wait to escape for some hours and just breathe.
They should never have shared the same air as Rob was a former lacrosse star and rich kid while Maegan was a nerd. Yet everything has changed now and they will be paired to work on a calculus project. They have to meet but at first their walls were all up!
Rob because everyone is wondering if “he knew” making him an outcast. Maegan because everyone resents her and see her as a cheater. They both expect the other to share these preconceived views.
Unexpectedly they will bond and share their secrets and feelings.
I loved that their relationship did not feel “forced” but unraveled naturally. Both feel lonely and need someone to talk to. How the mighty have fallen as Rob would probably never paid attention to Maegan “before”! His downfall helped make him a better person. He was not a bully or bad but his predicament helped open his eyes to what is truly important in others. And that’s certainly not the size of their wallet. He got a huge dose of reality.
Rob was the most conflicted of these main characters. I really admire how Brigid Kemmerer entered his mind making us walk in his shoes and feeling that huge pit of boiling emotions. He began as the virtuous boy in the beginning, being shunned by everyone when he had done nothing wrong. Then he made a bad choice. Then a second. And it grew exponentially making me grip my kindle and swearing. No Rob! Don’t do it! This is a very bad idea!
You’d think being a mom he would have listened to me but noooo! He did his “thing” and I was really stressed and disappointed. Fearing the worse for him. It was like witnessing a car collision in the making. You want to prevent it yet you know you are too slow or too late. Powerless.
Even if I wanted to stop Rob I could understand his reasoning. His motives. And that’s why I say Brigid Kemmerer is brilliant, making me empathize with him while reproving what he did.
Maegan was a truly lovable heroine. Yes she had done a mistake. But one mistake does not define who you are or your whole future. She was burdened with many secrets. Others secrets. Stressed as she did not know what to do with them. Should she tell someone to help. Should she just keep her mouth shut because they were not her secrets?
“As usual, I have more secrets in my head than I know what to do with.”
Everyone knows some secrets are heavy to bear when they concern your loved ones and the only thing you’d like is help them.
Mainly a character driven story, the plot is not to be underestimated as there is a twist to that story. Something not really hard to guess (I guessed and I am not the best at this game) that will add a layer of drama to the story.
To sum it up: this is an excellent YA contemporary packed to the brim with moral choices, inner questioning, personal journey and supported by an engaging cast of flawed characters.
I would like to thank Bloomsbury Publishing for sending this book. You see I’ve become a huge Brigid Kemmerer’s fan since I’ve read “Letters to the Lost” and I already had pre-ordered “Call It What You Want” as soon as I heard it would be released. Yet as I am not known for my patience I dared contact the publisher to request a copy and I was really overjoyed when they so kindly agreed!
And no, this does not affect my review as I’ve promised to always be honest in my opinion.
YOU readers are the ones I feel a moral obligation to and I can say: JUST READ IT!
Let’s chat! Do you like books with moral choices? Have you read Brigid Kemmerer’s books?
Thanks for reading!