Book title: Title Every Last Word
Author: Tamara Ireland Stone
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Release date: June 16th, 2015
Format: egalley, 368 pages
Source: I received this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for review consideration. This in no way affects my review; all opinions are my own. Thank you, Disney Hyperion!
If you could read my mind, you wouldn’t be smiling.
Samantha McAllister looks just like the rest of the popular girls in her junior class. But hidden beneath the straightened hair and expertly applied makeup is a secret that her friends would never understand: Sam has Purely-Obsessional OCD and is consumed by a stream of dark thoughts and worries that she can’t turn off.
Second-guessing every move, thought, and word makes daily life a struggle, and it doesn’t help that her lifelong friends will turn toxic at the first sign of a wrong outfit, wrong lunch, or wrong crush. Yet Sam knows she’d be truly crazy to leave the protection of the most popular girls in school. So when Sam meets Caroline, she has to keep her new friend with a refreshing sense of humor and no style a secret, right up there with Sam’s weekly visits to her psychiatrist.
Caroline introduces Sam to Poet’s Corner, a hidden room and a tight-knit group of misfits who have been ignored by the school at large. Sam is drawn to them immediately, especially a guitar-playing guy with a talent for verse, and starts to discover a whole new side of herself. Slowly, she begins to feel more “normal” than she ever has as part of the popular crowd . . . until she finds a new reason to question her sanity and all she holds dear.
Every Last Word is another one of those “diverse” contemporary YA book. It features a character, Samantha, who has OCD. Sam’s particular form of OCD is called Purely-Obsessional OCD, where her mind latches onto a particular thought until she obsesses over it. She worries, she overthinks; her mind is sometimes a very dark place, and she deeply struggles to appear “normal” in her day-to-day life. She’s somehow (sort of unbelievably) hidden her mental illness from everyone in her life since she was diagnosed at the age of eleven. She takes medication to calm her mind and fall asleep, and sees a therapist: “Shrink Sue.” One thing I loved about this book was Sam’s strong, trusting relationships with two adult women in her life: her mother and her therapist. It was amazing how much Sam valued and respected them, how she took their advice and always knew they were going to help her.
The book isn’t entirely about Sam’s OCD, however. As stated previously, Sam struggles to appear like any other “normal” teenager. The story revolves around her time at high school, where she’s growing and changing as a person and realizing she’s moving away from her circle of childhood best friends. Sam’s reluctant to completely ditch the “Crazy Eights”, which is both sadly understandable and absolutely frustrating. Some of her “friends” are absolute snots, though, which seemed to bother me more than it bothered her. I just wanted Sam to detach herself from them even more than she ended up doing.
Besides realizing how her friends act like jerks, Sam finds a new interest in the school’s secret poetry club. She begins writing her own poetry, and sharing it aloud with the other club members. She meets a cute guy, AJ, also in the poetry club, who she begins to have feelings for. He was sweet, but I never fell head over heels for him. The two had great chemistry and made a nice pair, but I wasn’t thinking I SHIP THIS while reading the book.
The only thing, however, Sam can’t bring herself to tell AJ about is her OCD. For years she’s been hiding this secret, and when she finally does have the courage to spill her story — a PLOT TWIST comes hurdling at us like a runaway train. This “big reveal” was a shocker. Maybe I should have seen it coming, but I didn’t, and I’m kind of glad I didn’t, because it really added to Sam’s entire journey and made me realize that there’s always going to be some sort of struggle, that nothing will ever magically solve itself. Man, though, that twist was dark.
Every Last Word gives us a good look at a particular form of OCD, although it doesn’t delve into it as much as I thought it would/wanted it to. Still, stories that deal with important, relevant, and more serious topics are, if done well, excellent, eye-opening reading. Was Every Last Word my favorite diverse book I’ve read this year? No. But it was a novel that really made me care about its protagonist. I felt like Sam was a real person, and her triumphs made me happy; her lows made me sad. It ended on a hopeful note, and, while dark at times, is a touching story about finding interests and people we love and who love us back. ♦
So tell me…
Have you read Every Last Word? If you haven’t, would you be interested to? What was a book you read that focused on mental illness? What was the last book you read that featured poetry? Comment below letting me know! And, as always, happy reading!