Cover of Call It What You Want: Colorful hearts line up vertically in a row on a blue background.

About the Book

Title: Call It What You Want
Published: 2019
Swoonworthy Scale: 7

Cover Story: Snooze-fest
BFF Charm: Let Me Love You, Yay
Talky Talk: Master Emotional Manipulator
Bonus Factor: Friendship, Morality
Factors: Teen Pregnancy
Anti-Bonus Factor: Awful Grownups
Relationship Status: Long-Term Relationship

Content warning: Discussions of suicide/attempted suicide and a (not graphic) depiction of the aftermath.

Cover Story: Snooze-fest

Is this the placeholder cover? It sure feels like it. A line of hearts, some with cracks, on a soothing blue backgr—snoooore. Why is Kemmerer’s publisher doing her dirty and giving her the most boring cover imaginable?

The Deal:

Rob has had the worst year of his life, and there’s no end in sight. After his investor father was busted for stealing money from his clients, Rob and his family have been shunned by their neighbors, their friends—heck, even random strangers give him the evil eye. Going home isn’t a break from the torment either, not after his father’s failed suicide attempt leaves Rob and Rob’s mom as his sole caregivers. When Rob gets paired up with Maegan for a math project, he’s knows it’s going to be more of the same: another person who won’t want to even look at him.

But Maegan has some idea of what it feels like to be a social outcast after she cheated on the SAT last year, which required a hundred of her classmates to retake the test. And she’s got her own stuff going on at home when her sister returns from college with some upsetting news.  

BFF Charm: Let Me Love You, Yay

BFF charm with teary eyes hugging a heart

Brigid is the boss at writing misunderstood teen guys with plenty of layers and complex emotions. Rob before the scandal isn’t a total loss—he has some depth, sure—but he was skating around life with a silver spoon in hand. He’s been forced to go through a lot of growth over a year, and while a lot of it is things no young person should ever have to deal with, that trauma does have the unintended effect of making him a more thoughtful, empathetic person. I felt so much for him, and I just wanted to give him a huge hug. (Plus, on a shallow note, he also gives off some excellent MLD vibes in the beginning. *fans self*)

Yay BFF Charm

Maegan has had a rough go of it, too, but she definitely has a lot more support behind her, so I didn’t feel quite as protective over her as we spent more time together. As a cop’s daughter, she has a pretty strict moral code, for both herself and everyone else, but her experiences with Rob and her sister are forcing her to reexamine what she believes about the world. I’d hang out with Maegan, no problem.

Swoonworthy Scale: 7

Despite his current pariah status, Maegan still remembers Rob as a hot-shot lacrosse player, hanging out in the quad where the girls fell over themselves to be near his side. She knows that even now he’s way out of her league. Rob, for his part, is so unused to anyone wanting to be around him anymore that he can’t comprehend why Maegan would ever look at him that way. I loved this slow-burn romance between strangers who become confidantes, then friends, and then something more.

Talky Talk: Master Emotional Manipulator

And I mean that designation in the best way. Kemmerer really knows how to pluck at the heartstrings in a realistic, painstaking way that had me caring about her characters like whoa before the book had barely begun. Her contemporaries aren’t (usually) about the earth-shattering moments, but they perfectly portray those quiet little flashes when living seems so damn exhausting, and then, just when you’re thinking, yup, life is bleak and dark and full of pain, she picks you right back up again and shows you the light at the end of the tunnel.  

Bonus Factor: Friendships

Group of friends having drinks at the night club party

Who are you without your friends? Can friendships that have been broken ever be fixed? How far will you go for someone you care about? I really loved the evolution of Rob’s relationship with his former best friend, Connor. He feels so betrayed by the fact that Connor’s father is the one who turned in HIS father, and Connor, for his part, acts like a total jackass to Rob at school. Rob also starts an unlikely friendship with Owen, a kid who’s mom lost all of her money directly because of Rob’s father, which is, uh, awkward.

Bonus Factor: Morality

Close up of dictionary page for "morality"

There’s a lot of discussion about stealing, and various levels of hoops people jump through to make certain things “okay” that are, at their heart, morally wrong. Rob also struggles with the consequences of his father’s suicide attempt, and feels guilty that he kind of wishes his dad had finished what he started. I encourage you to read it and think about the choices you’d make in these characters’ shoes.

Factor: Teen Pregnancy

Woman looking at a pregnancy test

Maegan’s sister, Samantha, arrives home in the middle of the semester pregnant. She refuses to tell her family who the father is, causing her cop father to pitch a fit. Their mom struggles with the balance of trying to care for her daughter yet force her to make a decision (keep it, abort it, or put it up for adoption). Maegan is the only one Samantha entrusts with her secret, but Maegan feels way out of her depth on how to handle the situation.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Awful Grownups

Boxtrolls characters

Come on, adults, do better. We’re all only human, I know, but some of the decisions these admittedly morally gray characters make are so boneheaded. I loved the struggle Rob faced about his father: this is a man who taught him how to respect women, who encouraged him to be good and polite to others…who then turned around and swindled hundreds of people out of their life savings. How can Rob love his dad but hate him so much at the same time?

Relationship Status: Long-Term Relationship

You are the real deal, Book. You’ve opened up to me, and we’ve gone through some pretty serious stuff together, but I love your heart and your goodness, and there’s no one else I’d rather spend my time with. Life is hard, but doing it together makes it worth it.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my free review copy from Bloomsbury YA. This review was originally posted on Kirkus Reviews in exchange for monetary compensation, which did not affect or influence my opinions. Call It What You Want is available now.

Stephanie (she/her) is an avid reader who moonlights at a college and calls Orlando home. Stephanie loves watching television, reading DIY blogs, planning awesome parties, Halloween decorating, and playing live-action escape games.