You Say It First

You Say It First

First Lines: “In conclusion,” Meg said brightly, standing at the podium under the harsh fluorescent lights of the PTA meeting room on Wednesday evening, “it’s the position of the student council that our school is already sorely behind in doing its part to combat climate change.”

I’ve never read anything by Katie Cotugno before this book, but this one caught my eye. There was obviously an influx of YA political stories in the last couple years and I’m always a little interested to see what they say and how they say it.

Meg’s life is perfect and has been perfectly planned out: finish out high school with her sweet boyfriend Mason, get into Cornell where she’ll room with her bestie Emily, and continue clocking in hours at a phone bank that helps register people to vote. But everything changes the night Mason breaks up with her and she calls someone in small-town Ohio who irritates her the moment he picks up the phone. Colby is stuck in a dead-end job, stuck in a family reeling from tragedy, and stuck in life. The last thing he needs is some uppity girl preaching the values of the political process. So he says the worst thing he can think of and hangs up. Except, that’s not the end of it. That call leads to a series of calls that, while sometimes heated, turns into a long-distance friendship and then…maybe something more. But are these two just too different to work?

I’m very conflicted about this book.

On the one hand, I think the premise is still kind of cool. Colby and Meg have never met–Meg’s job at a phone bank in Philly has her calling people in Ohio to register them to vote. A horrible conversation between them leads to Meg calling back to apologize…and it’s history from there. The fact that most of their relationship is over the actual phone is…weirdly novel for this generation? (And I would throw my own generation in that as well.) Like, Meg and Colby text, but mostly it’s phone calls. I don’t know. It just seemed retro and current at the same time.

I also liked Meg and Colby individually. Meg is driven and modern in her views. She’s had a few personal setbacks, like her parents’ divorce about a year ago, but she has a Plan. And Colby is the exact opposite. Stuck in a dead-end job, living at home because he can’t afford anything else, he figures he’s going to live and die in this little town doing stupid stuff on the weekends with the guys he knows.

To an extent, Meg and Colby brought out the best in each other. Colby really did need a kick in the pants and Meg needed to stop being so judgy. That was fine. But man, did I not really like these two together. Arguing politics on the phone was one thing, but as soon as they met in person, things went nuclear. Not in a good way. These two really probably should not be together. And it was sad to see that, from characters we are meant to like.

My other problem is that everything in this book is a Big Dramatic Moment. Meg, Colby, their families, and their friends seem to blow things out of proportion all the time. A few times, yeah, it’s justified. I 100% see that. But other times I just kept wondering why this was such a big deal. Either the book was too melodramatic or I didn’t understand the characters enough to know why it mattered to them that much.

It had cute moments. I did get sucked into the book pretty quickly and it held my attention, but I’m still a bit disappointed.

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