Author: Tamara Ireland Stone (website | twitter)
Publisher: Disney Hyperion (HBG Canada)
Source/Format: ARC provided by Hachette Book Group Canada (thank you!)
Publication date: June 16, 2015
My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Buy It: Indigo.ca | Amazon.ca | Amazon.com | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound | The Book Depository | Audible | iTunes | Google Books
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.
ELW begins with an anxiety attack – Samantha McCallister’s. Sam has been diagnosed with Purely Obsessional OCD, meaning that she often gets into thought cycles that spiral and spiral and she can’t get out of it. At the beginning of the book, we find out that she’s on medication and has had weekly therapy sessions with a psychiatrist for years, but her best friends, the Eights – the most popular girls in school – don’t know about her mental illness, and she’s determined to keep it that way.
Everything changes when Sam meets Caroline, a nearby locker mate who seems to really get Sam and helps her open up. Caroline introduces Sam to a secret poetry group, and slowly, Sam begins to find the words to quiet her mind more.
The story perfectly balanced Samantha’s OCD with her poetry, her friendships with the poets, her budding romance, and her cycle of bad friendship. I read some reviews that said that there was too much going on. Not for me – this book felt so truthful to the number of things I had to balance as a teenager (school and extra-curriculars and good and bad friendships and unrequited crushes and outside interests…). There was never a moment when I just wanted to know more about another part of Samantha’s life because I was so invested in the entire thing.
The depiction of toxic friendships. This was a big one that elevated this book from good to great for me. Samantha has the feeling that she’s trapped in this friendship with her popular, manipulative best friends – but she can’t leave them because, as she says, “I don’t have anyplace else to go.” That line really spoke to me, and the rest of the book encapsulated so well my own toxic friendships and just how hard it was – and is – to let go of them.
Finally, the depiction of Samantha’s struggle with her own mind in ELW was BRILLIANTLY done, and, as I mentioned, seamlessly woven into the narrative. Samantha’s OCD is just a part of her , and what’s great is that it doesn’t feel weird at all being in her brain. I was just as frustrated and fascinated as she was by her obsession with threes, her occasional spirals into research, her compulsion to do things just so. It’s her normal, and it made her special.
Heart-Squeezing Romance: I swooned so damn hard for Samantha and her love interest (no, I’m not going to tell you who it is, but you’ll guess). We’re talking EXTREME swoons, reading back romantic passages, wanting to hug and kiss my own husband because OMG SO MUCH ADORABLE FIRST LOVE.
Very Real High School Poetry: As a Lit major, I found the words of the Poet’s Corner writers a bit simplistic, but also VERY TRUE to the type of poetry I was writing and reading when I was in high school and editing my HS literary magazine. Also, who doesn’t want to be in a secret poetry group?! Why didn’t I have one of these?
Emotional Writing: Tamara Ireland Stone has an incredible ability to make her characters voices deeply personal and deeply compelling. Her writing gets to the heart of the character, and with Sam, I was immediately captivated.
Book Theme Song:
Everybody’s been there, everybody’s been stared down
By the enemy
Fallen for the fear and done some disappearing
Bow down to the mighty
Don’t run, stop holding your tongue
Maybe there’s a way out of the cage where you live
Maybe one of these days you can let the light in
Show me how big your brave is
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave
The Final Word:
Guys, indulge my soapbox for a moment: I hate the term #sicklit or just the idea of Important Books. To me, a book is important if it speaks to you, and it’s truthful about what characters are experiencing, whether it’s about faeries or vampires or paranormal warthogs or a girl struggling with her identity.
Every Last Word is a great book. Don’t judge it by the fact that the main character has OCD. Or that it’s supposed to be important or talk about some issue.
This is, at its heart, a YA book about a girl who is lonely and struggling to figure out who she is. A girl who is, like many of us, trying to be the best version of herself, and make positive changes in her life. Read it, love it, swoon with Sam, and believe in the power of words and friends to make your life better.
EVERY LAST WORD is out in bookstores now. Have you read it? Are you planning to read it? Have you read other Tamara Ireland Stone books, like Time Between Us (swoon) or Time After Time (more swoon)? Do you like to write or read poetry? What’s your favourite poem?