Genre: YA Realistic Fiction
Pub. Date: June 16, 2015
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Goodreads says, "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."Samantha McAllister is part of the "cool girl" group at school, otherwise known as the Crazy Eights. Her friends are well-off, popular, and essentially are mean girls. Samantha, or Sam, has always been a part of their group since they were very young, but they don't know who she really is. Sam suffers from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and sometimes has a hard time managing her obsessive thoughts, especially when trying to balance it with the drama that high school always brings. Her psychiatrist encourages her to break away from the Crazy Eights, but where would she go? Who would she be friends with? The idea of starting over is terrifying to her. Things start to change when Sam meets Caroline and opens up to her about her problems. In turn, Caroline shows something to Sam that will change her life. She takes her to a hidden room within the school called Poet's Corner where a bunch of students get together and share their poetry, thoughts, feelings, etc. This aspect of the novel reminded me of Dead Poet's Society as Poet's Corner is also s a group of misfits oftentimes misunderstood. But what if they don't accept her? Tamara Ireland Stone's Every Last Word is an interesting glimpse into what it is like to have OCD and how a person would struggle to manage it at the high school level. Plus, it's also about acceptance and having the courage to put yourself out there and truly be who you are.
Every Last Word opens up with Sam struggling to deal with the obsessive thoughts (some violent) as well as struggling to hide them from her high school friends so she can appear to be as perfect as the other Crazy Eights. I desperately wanted her to break away from these horrible girls and slowly but surely she gains the strength to do it. The more she finds herself by participating at Poet's Corner, the more she finds the courage deep down to move on from them.
Sam meets a guitarist, A.J, at Poet's Corner and she feels instantly connected to him; however, in the past, Sam wasn't exactly nice to him. Once they move past this, their budding friendship turns into something more, but sometimes the relationship felt a little too easy to me.
What I appreciate the most about Every Last Word was how Stone portrayed OCD. I initially thought OCD was all about the obsession and then acting on the compulsive rituals, but that is not the case for all people suffering from OCD. Some people struggle with obsessive thoughts/worries (Purely-Obsessional OCD) and it was interesting to learn more about this as it must be very challenging to deal with when you are an adolescent.
There's a major plot twist in Every Last Word that I didn't see coming and it took me by surprise. It definitely added to my enjoyment of the novel. That's all I will say as I don't want to spoil it!
I applaud Stone for including a complex characters in Every Last Word that must grapple with mental health issues. We need more of this in YA as so many young people suffer from depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses. I think many young adolescents can relate to Sam's tale and will find comfort in her journey.