You Say It First by Katie Cotugno
Release date: June 16, 2020
An e-galley was provided by HarperCollins via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
Summary: Meg has her entire life set up perfectly: her boyfriend Mason is sweet and supportive, she and her best friend Emily plan to head to Cornell together in the fall, and she even finds time to clock shifts phonebanking at a voter registration call center in her Philadelphia suburb. But everything changes when one of those calls connects her to a stranger from small-town Ohio, who gets under her skin from the moment he picks up the phone.
Colby is stuck in a rut, reeling from a family tragedy and working a dead-end job—unsure what his future holds, or if he even cares. The last thing he has time for is some privileged rich girl preaching the sanctity of the political process. So he says the worst thing he can think of and hangs up.
But things don’t end there.…
That night on the phone winds up being the first in a series of candid, sometimes heated, always surprising conversations that lead to a long-distance friendship and then—slowly—to something more. Across state lines and phone lines, Meg and Colby form a once-in-a-lifetime connection. But in the end, are they just too different to make it work?
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: This was the first Cotugno book I was hoping I'd actually vibe with. I loved the concept of the late night phone conversations (it feels very You've Got Mail to me), and I thought it would be a great idea to show a politically active teen through Meg.
...Except she's not all that politically active. She really just works at a call center and does student government, and that's it. Plus her world is extremely white. Her boyfriend is offhandedly mentioned to be Korean-American, but literally everyone else is white.
Colby's world is the same, too. I saw a lot of familiarity in the Midwestern/small city-ness of everything, and so some parts of that worked okay for me. But it's hard to empathize with a character who could be doing things and isn't. It's one thing when they're a love interest or a side character, but when they have POV chapters and you're in their head? It doesn't work as easily.
I also expected the phone call part to go on for longer, but Colby and Meg met up awfully fast, and it made me so anxious, to be honest. Meg hadn't known him very long at all, and she was already driving eight hours to meet him?? Honey, no. And even then, they still had intense communication issues that drove me batty.
The one thing I really liked was Meg's friendship with Emily. I appreciated how that grew and changed and was imperfect.
Content warnings: misogyny, alcohol abuse, underage drinking, drug use, sexual content, foul language
The Verdict: Despite not really enjoying this book at all, I managed to finish it, so...yay?
Will I be adding this book to my library?: Absolutely not.