Thursday, June 18, 2015

Every Last Word - Tamara Ireland Stone

Every Last Word book cover
Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Publication Date: June 16, 2015
Source/Format: Netgalley/Publisher (Thanks!) || e-galley/ARC
[I received this novel from the publisher. This in no way affects the contents of my review.]

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.


I’ll just come right out and say it: Every Last Word was a lovely read. It was all too easy to get swept up in Samantha’s story, her struggles with OCD (the purely obsessive kind) and dealing with the reality of a teen girl navigating the waters of friendship, romance and self-awareness. Tamara Ireland Stone managed to weave it all into one compelling tale, a story that flows easily from start to finish, and a novel that’s nearly impossible to set down once you start it.

Inspired by Samantha’s obsession with the number three, I’ve decided to focus on three things that stood out to me about Every Last Word.

(1) Samantha’s OCD

The depiction of OCD is very well-done. Stone nails it by allowing readers to get into Samantha’s brain, letting them see how her thoughts (particularly when she latches onto one) affect her behavior and emotions. It’s not easy to read about what life is like for Samantha, but it allows readers to sympathize with her. Stone effortlessly drops in details that remind the reader of the OCD; she also includes things – like sessions with her therapist and writing – that help Samantha deal with it. It felt like a layered, smart portrayal of OCD, designed to remind readers that the disorder is not the entirety of the person who has it.

(2) The significance of words

Writing becomes one of Samantha’s outlets, particularly when she finds herself at Poet’s Corner. Stone really nails the way words can change a person’s life with Samantha’s experience, and that of the other members of Poet’s Corner. Because it is there that she learns how words, particularly poetry, have the power to speak to her and for her. I loved watching her fall in love with creative expression through writing. With each struggle she faced, each thing she achieved, words felt like home to her – and I loved that. I’ve always believed in the magic of words, written or spoken or read, and Stone’s take on that really worked for me.

(3) The characters + their relationships

Stone brings her characters to life vividly – Samantha, AJ, Caroline, Samantha’s therapist, the Poet’s Corner gang, Samantha’s best friends, and her family. While we spend the most time with Samantha, AJ & Caroline, we get enough exposure to the others to form strong ideas about who they are, as well as their relationships with Samantha. Stone excels at handling all sorts of relationships – a tentative friendship-turned-romance, an olive branch extended by an unexpected friend, growing apart from old friends but still loving them for what you’ve shared, family that cares deeply about you and will come to your aid without asking questions, a therapist that you’ve been seeing for a long time who is more like family than a medical professional. The relationships are so rich and so complex, much like the characters involved, and that made everyone feel that much more alive to me.

It’s fairly obvious that I loved Every Last Word! It’s an honest portrayal of how OCD can affect your life, even as it depicts the challenges of friendship and romance that any teen faces. Stone does manage to add some lighter, romantic moments to balance out the intensity. But in the end, this is a novel that really will pack a punch to the feels, and it is well worth it.

What's your favorite poem?

I'm not big on poetry, even though I used to write poems of my own. But one poem that stays with me, particularly on a wintry night, is Robert Frost's Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. There's something melancholy and poignant about it, and I love the imagery. Here's the poem:

source

12 comments:

  1. I only heard about this book as of last night, but I'm really excited to read it. I had been diagnosed with OCD as a kid, so I think I'll be able to relate. I love finding YA books that make me feel like I'm not alone and this sounds like it'll be one of those. Thanks, Alexa for a great review! Adding this to my wishlist right now!

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  2. I just finished last night and I am FLOORED by how great it was. I loved Tamara Ireland Stone's work already, but man, this one just elevated everything. You hit the nail on the head with the relationships, Alexa - Sam was so alive to me! Amazing review. =)

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  3. We just picked this as our July book club pick. I'm even more excited to read now after reading your review.

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  4. Stunning review Alexa. <3 I'm so glad you loved this book :) I just thought it was so amazing. Sigh. So excited about others reading and loving it too :) Thank you for sharing your beautiful thoughts about it. <3

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  5. I still haven't read anything by Tamara but I definitely want to check this out! I'm so glad to hear you loved it! I didn't know that the MC had OCD and it's nice to hear that aspect was well done! I'm a huge fan of books that put an importance on characters + relationships so this sounds like a perfect read for me!

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  6. Danielle @ Love at First PageJune 23, 2015 at 3:39 PM

    Another great review, Alexa! You get so creative with these - I'm very inspired haha.
    Those same three things are what stood out to me, too. Adored AJ and the romance, of course, but I thought the portrayal of OCD was very realistic. I just *hated* Sam's friends. >.<

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  7. Oh, thank you! I try to change it up every now and then so it's fun for me to write too. And yes, I definitely agree - I loved AJ and loved how the OCD was portrayed. Sam's friends were definitely hard to understand!

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  8. You should definitely read this one and her other books too! I like her writing a lot, and I think her stories are always really heartfelt and lovely.

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  9. Yes, I'm definitely looking forward to more people reading this one! It's such a good read, and the way she handled the story was excellent. Thanks for reading my review, Carina!

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  10. Oh hooray! I hope you enjoy reading it, Kate. It's definitely a good book for a book club discussion.

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  11. This is my favorite of her books, I'd say! She just wrote such a compelling story and brought to life such wonderful characters. I'm happy to hear you enjoyed it too!

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  12. Oh, I hope you enjoy this book, Elizabeth! So glad that I was able to convince you to add it to your wishlist <3

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Thanks for leaving a comment! I love seeing what you have to say, and will try to reply (here or on Twitter) as soon as I can :)

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