Every Last Word
by Tamara Ireland Stone
Read: May 30 - June 1, 2015
Published: June 16, 2015 by Disney-Hyperion
Source: NetGalley (THANK YOU!)
Category: YA, Contemporary, Issues, Romance, OCD
Find: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository | Indiebound
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.
I am not much of a crier when I read, but I sobbed through several parts of Every Last Word. Granted, it was likely partially due to the fact that I read most of the book on the train ride home from BEA, when I was sleep deprived and sad to be leaving all of my bookish friends. But it wasn't all that. My tears also were't because this book broke me in a horrible way, but instead because of how much this story moved me, and the care that I could tell author Tamara Ireland Stone took to tell Sam's story.
Samantha McAllister has OCD, more on the side of Obsession than Compulsion, a secret that she very carefully hides from her friends who often seem more judgmental than supportive. But when Sam meets Caroline and is introduced to Poet's Corner, she begins to discover a different, happier side to herself. She also meets a boy who makes her feel even more 'normal'. But what is normal anyway, and is it possible to maintain it when you're pretty sure you're crazy?
Samantha's friends are horrible. I hated how much anxiety they caused her, and how much she worked to hide her OCD and appear completely normal to them. They pretty much are are Mean Girls, but they've also been Samantha's friends since she was in kindergarten, and I could understand her fear of letting them go. Especially with her worries of being outed as crazy. Although it was hard to watch Samantha with them in the beginning, I loved how starkly those interactions contrast with her new friendship with Caroline and then the rest of the Poet's Corner. Seeing Sam find people who truly listen and care for her is one of the parts of the book that made me tear up. I loved the progression of Samantha's friendships in this story. It's even illustrated by the way that she transitions into being called the more causal Sam.
I also love everything about how Sam's OCD is handled in this book. Although she feels she must hide it in pubic, Sam has a strong support team in her mother and therapist Sue. From the author's note in the back of the book, this is a personal subject, and I could tell all throughout the story that the author took care in how she approached it. In the second half of the book there is a big revelation that happens regarding Sam's illness and though it was a difficult and dramatic moment, I cried again during this scene because of how much Shrink Sue supports Sam through it. I do wish the author had given more explanation in her note about why she included this part. But I loved the way characters rallied around Sam - and the growth she found because of it.
This book has a boy of course, and I adored he and Sam's slow building romance. It has a very antagonistic beginning, but develops beautifully over the course of the story. He is not your typical bad boy, which I always appreciate finding in a book. These nice, shy boys always mean more swoon for me. I also like that the relationship grows steadily and without unnecessary drama, paralleling Sam's personal growth. I was thrilled to find a lot less angst in these pages than I anticipated. Thank goodness for that!
I am incredibly thankful to have met Sam and gone on this journey with her. I could tell how much the author cared about Sam, and wanted to make this book for her. There isn't a lot of unnecessary angst added to increase the drama of the plot, but instead, a steady growth as Sam discovers that she is stronger, braver and more creative than she ever imagined. I love how Sam learns to use poetry and words along the way, and especially the fact that embracing herself allows Sam to open up to others and find a community where she'd never imagined one before.
Love Triangle Factor: None
Cliffhanger Scale: Standalone.