Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone
Young Adult | Contemporary
Published by Disney-Hyperion
Released June 16, 2015
Goodreads | Amazon
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.
Remember a while ago when I read and reviewed To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and I came to the conclusion that I might be too old for young adult contemporaries?
I take that back.
I adored Tamara Ireland Stone’s Every Last Word.
The story centers around Samantha, a high school student who learns to embrace who she is, even if that means not conforming to the perceived ideal of her peers and friend-group.
This novel has great representation for OCD, anxiety, and mental illness, which is wonderful to see in a young adult novel. I particularly appreciated that Stone didn’t shy away from talking about medications in the book – for example, that it’s not always easy to find the perfect mix:
“I remember how I used to be before we found the right meds. I used to fixate on something – it could be anything – something one of my teachers said, or something one of the Eights said, or something I heard on the news. I knew the thoughts were irrational, but one thought led to another, and to another, and once the spiral started, I couldn’t control it.”
While there’s not as much stigma around mental illness as there used to be, it’s still not openly talked about enough, and the medications for managing it less so. One thing that this book does that not many others do is to show the hardships of having a mental illness because, let’s be honest, it’s not easy.
Every Last Word also deals with bullying. Samantha is at the top of her high school’s social structure, along with her other “plastic” friends. They definitely have a Mean Girls vibe going on. When Samantha encounters A.J., a boy who they ruthlessly bullied in elementary school, she’s horrified at what she did in the past. Part of her learning experience in this novel is trying to accept how terrible she was to people and apologize for her mistakes.
I loved Stone’s writing style and her approach to her characters and their situations. Nothing felt far-fetched or unrealistic. Yes, there were some parts that were a little cheesy, but you know what – high school is a little cheesy.
Lastly, while I’m not going to spoil anything, I did not expect the twist at the end!
If you’re looking for a great, hard-hitting young adult contemporary, give Every Last Word a chance.