Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone
Publication Date: June 16, 2015
Rating: 4 stars
Source: ARC sent by the publisher
Summary (from Goodreads):
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.
What I Liked:
I'm actually surprised by how much I liked this one. I didn't really know what to expect. I've never read any of this author's books, and I actually never read the synopsis of this book before reading it. I got it from the publisher and decided to read it on a whim, because a bookseller I follow read it insanely early and could not stop raving about it! So I figured the awesome package from Disney-Hyperion and BHM was a sign - read this book!
Sam was diagnosed with OCD - specifically, Pure-Obsessive OCD. She takes medication to help her focus her thoughts and to sleep, she sees a psychiatrist once a week, she's trying to be normal, day by day. None of her friends know about her condition, and Sam has always struggled with this. One day, she meets a really nice girl named Caroline, who introduces her to the Poets Corner, a secret meeting of a group of student who write and share poetry and songs. Sam joins them and begins to channel her tornado thoughts into her poetry, swimming, and a cute boy in the Poets Corner. She's doing better than she has been in years... until a realization threatens to bring everything crashing down.
This is a tough-issue contemporary novel, one that theoretically, I should never have picked up. I really do NOT like tough-issue contemporary novels. YA contemporary in general, I'm not a fan. But tough-issue contemporary novels? I tend to run in the other direction. Sprint, really. But this book was different. It wasn't entirely woe-is-me, angst, whining and complaining. Not saying every tough-issue contemporary novel is like that, or that that is my only probably with tough-issue contemporary novels. But often, the protagonist of a tough-issue contemporary novel is very selfish and annoying in her complaining and angst, and I hate it.
Sam is different. I couldn't entirely relate to her (we all say we have "OCD" but that is not the case at all), but I could empathize. I could clearly see what was going through Sam's head, how she was thinking, what she was thinking, how it was affecting her mentally, physically, emotionally. I really liked Sam, from start to finish. I have a poor history with protagonists with mental illnesses/conditions (probably because I avoid books with these conditions/illnesses like the plague - they make me entirely too heartbroken or sad).
I love the progression of Sam's character. This is the most important part of the book, and Stone really nails the characterization as well as the progression of Sam's condition and how she is dealing with OCD. Sam goes from being a girl who is scared of people knowing about her condition, to a girl who learns to own it and be who she is, surrounding herself with people who know about her condition and support her.
I think Stone really did her research and represented OCD extremely well. I don't have OCD nor do I know much specifically about the illness, but it's obvious that Stone has done her research. It's obvious that Stone knows what she is talking about. There is minutiae that is so incredibly important to this story, small details that make it all the more genuine and authentic.
There is romance in this book! I was a bit surprised by how important the romance ended up being. It doesn't really take root until about midway through the book, but that was perfect, in my opinion! I like how Sam and AJ already had history (not romantic history), and Sam had to remember how she knew him. I like how they had to work to become friends, and then they became more than friends. Their relationship is beautiful and simple, yet intricate and complex. I loved watching them fall for each other! AJ is a great guy, and I couldn't see anyone else for Sam.
There are other relationships in this book that are explored - friendships, I mean. Sam makes a new friend, Caroline. Caroline pushes Sam to find the Poets Corner, and pretty soon, Sam has new friends that accept her with little question. Sam's current friend group are the popular girls, the ones that everyone looks toward. They're nice, but some of them are Mean-Girls-esque. It's interesting to see Sam balance both groups of friends.
The twist coming up towards the climax is INTENSE. Seriously, I had chills. Well done, Stone. I had no idea! I had some idea that something wasn't right - but I had no idea that it would be THAT. None, whatsoever. I still have chills! It was really eye-opening. Seriously well-written climax, and ending. I love the ending of this book! It's very inspiring and uplifting. For a non-contemporary fan to say such great things about this book - it must be good!
What I Did Not Like:
I can't really think of anything at the moment - which is a surprise! There is usually something in a contemporary novel that bothers me (in EVERY novel, but especially contemporary). No book is perfect, but I liked this one a lot!
Would I Recommend It:
I would totally recommend this novel! I've been reading a lot of contemporary in the last few days, and I definitely can't say I'd recommend all of them... I'd recommend P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han because of its strong familial themes and great relationships (romance and otherwise), and I'd recommend this one for its subject matter (on mental illnesses). Definitely two very different contemporary novels, but both very worthy of your time!
4 stars. I am impressed! It takes a lot to impress me in general, but definitely in terms of contemporary! I'll definitely be reading more of Stone's books in the future - and I want to read her debut series now!
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