Title: Every Last Word (2015)
Author: Tamara Ireland Stone
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Extent: 368 pages
Review: Samantha McAllister was eleven she she was diagnosed with Purely-Obsessional OCD. Bombarded by dark and heavy thoughts, she finds consolation only in swimming… at least until she meets Caroline, a girl at school who then introduces her to Poet’s Corner, a hidden room and a group of friends who spend their time reading and writing poetry. Every Last Word follows Sam as she tries to fit in and battles her disorder.
As a character, Sam is likeable, her worries so relatable that you can’t help but to root for her. I love her relationship with her mum and her psychiatrist, because it does underline the fact that she is not alone in her struggles. Her friendship with The Crazy Eights is a lot more fragile than it seems and it’s a good, realistic depiction of toxic friendships. I can really identify with many of the things Sam struggles with throughout the book, and it was touching to see how she develops.
There is also AJ, a boy from the Poet’s Corner who also played a part in Sam’s past. The relationship between him and Sam develops slowly, and it must be said that this book is more about friendship than about romance, more about living with mental illnesses rather than the typical teenager stuff. There’s a pretty big, surprising twist revealed nearing the end of the book that has to do with her OCD. I’m not sure I like it, but I can see why Stone included it.
The poetry aspect of it was lovely, and I also really liked the idea of the Poet’s Corner. The poems are pretty ordinary and everyday, but that’s the beauty of it. As Sam starts to write and finds solace in it, we as readers are also encouraged to express ourselves and our emotions in much of the same way.
“Mistakes. Trial and error. Same thing. Mistakes are how we learned to walk and run and that hot things burn when you touch them. You’ve made mistakes all your life and you’re going to keep making them.”
As with other novels about personal issues such as mental illnesses, Every Last Word reflects only one facet of the whole spectrum, only one story in perhaps millions out there, so it’s not going to be 100% reflective of every person’s real experience. For what it’s worth, I think Sam’s story is an important one to tell, and this book does a good job in telling it. I was fully engaged the whole way through.