Title: Every Last Word
Author: Tamara Ireland Stone
Publication Date: June 15, 2015
Synopsis from Goodreads:
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.
It’s always so refreshing to return to YA lit and this is my first experience with a story that deals with the topic of mental illness. This book had me on a roller coaster of emotions. Sam struggles with OCD. She’s beautiful, popular, and by all definitions “normal” from an outsider’s perspective. But on the inside, every day is a struggle. Everyday she’s got to talk herself through the obsessive thoughts. She sees a therapist weekly and takes medication to calm her anxiety and to help her sleep. All she want is to be “normal.”
What I loved about this story is that Sam doesn’t feel like a strong person, but she shows herself to be an incredible open, unique, and much-stronger-than-she-thinks individual. She joins a ragtag group of students in Poet’s Corner and among these true and wonderful friends, she finds herself. Sam finds an inner well of strength and understanding in herself over the course of the novel. She learns to embrace her illness as a unique side of herself…not something that defines her. She learns how to accept this side of herself, and in time, she’s able to show this side of herself–something she’s kept a secret for so long–to others in her life. She comes to find greater acceptance from her new friends than she ever experienced from her old friend.
Sam is a fascinating, multi-faceted character. She’s athletic, artistic, and kind. She’s seeking to make a change in her life and to become a better person. She develops clear goals and passions, and even find a bit of romance along the way. The romance is one where both characters have faced difficulty and both characters are extremely believable and open. Sam is super relatable and so entirely honest about everything in her life. The reader begins to feel more like her confident than an outside observer. It’s been a while since a book had me sobbing part way through, or raised goosebumps on my arms. Ever Last Word is everything I’d ever want in a YA novel.
Does any one have suggestions for other similar YA novels addressing mental illness? I love that this is a topic that’s so popular in YA lit today.