Note: This ARC was provided by via NetGalley Disney Book Group in exchange for an honest review.
What you see… It isn’t me.
Samantha McAllister is keeping a secret, one that has taken over her life since she was eleven—Sam has obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). She’s more obsessive than she is compulsive and she’s been taking medication for five years. The only people who know are her family and her therapist. She doesn’t want her friends, the Eights, to know because she’d rather be part of the clique than be completely alone.
Even though her therapist has advised her time and again to be more like Summer Sam, the person she becomes when summer vacation rolls along—someone more relaxed and whose love for swimming gives her a sense of purpose—and to find new and better friends, Sam believes that’s all easier said than done.
Then she meets Caroline Madsen, who, in turn, introduces her to the Poet’s Corner, and the improbability of making new friends slowly becomes more of a possibility. The thoughts in her head begin to find their way on paper and she soon finds inspiration in the form of guitarist and poet AJ Olsen. But just as she finds her voice and footing, Sam learns something that makes her question if she’s spiraling out of control.
Every Last Word is a young adult (YA) novel about sixteen-year-old Samantha “Sam” McAllister and her OCD, a diagnosis that has taken over her life for five years and one that she has kept from everyone around her, with only her family and therapist knowing the truth. She has a group of friends that she’s been with since she was very young and even though she knows that some of them can be mean and judgmental, she sticks around. Meeting Caroline Madsen and becoming part of the Poet’s Corner opens Sam’s eyes to opportunities to change her world, beginning with herself and the way she chooses people to see her.
When you try too hard to fit in with people who are supposed to be your friends, then it’s highly possible that they aren’t really your friends in the first place. The reality is, the friends you have when you were younger don’t always transition to your circle as you grow up and mature. Also, a hierarchy within a group of friends isn’t as uncommon as you would think. Two people tend to be closer to each other than the rest but you’re all still friends and I’m pretty sure that ranking those friends wouldn’t be all that difficult. What would be difficult for a lot of teens is to make the conscious choice to leave behind the friends that you’ve hung out with for years because being with people you don’t like a hundred percent of the time seems better than being alone a hundred percent of the time. So, Sam’s predicament with the Eights is one that teens can empathize with, especially when they’re being totally honest with themselves.
I loved Sam. There was a lot about her that I could relate to—her being a swimmer and, later, her being a poet; then there’s the secret she was keeping. I may not have had OCD but there were things about myself that I would never have share, and still don’t, with my friends. Reading about Sam’s daily struggles was heartbreaking and she dealt with it as best she could. Acceptance isn’t something that’s readily given and pretending to be like everyone else gets you there faster than truly being the unique person that you are. When Sam met Caroline, I saw how she finally found someone outside of her family and therapist who accepted her but still wanted her to grow into the true self she was hiding from everyone else. And then there was AJ, whose own history with Sam was painful but through their unexpected friendship, both realize the power behind redemption and forgiveness and that it could lead to even much more if given a chance.
There’s a twist in the story and the signs were ones I couldn’t help but take note of as everything progressed. I was caught off-guard by the extent of the twist and how everything tied together and I need to give credit to the author for coming up with such a moving story that could have been beautiful even without the twist, but decided to take the risk, enabling the book to stand out. It’s like how people are—you can choose to shy away and stay ordinary or embrace who are and become extraordinary. This book is extraordinary indeed. I loved Sam, AJ, Caroline, and the rest of the characters, both teenagers and adults alike and the story moved me, evoking thoughts and emotions that made me step back and reflect during and after reading the book. I’m thrilled that there are books like Every Last Word for people who love beautifully crafted fiction in general but more specifically for teen readers. This is my first Tamara Ireland Stone book and is one that’s truly worth reading, regardless of what age group you happen to be in. You will love every last word of this rare gem of a book. It “only” gets five-plus stars but deserves ten-fold that. ♥♥♥
Release Date: 16 June 2015
Date Read: 12 June 2015
Learn more about Tamara Ireland Stone here.