Author: Tamara Ireland Stone
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Hardcover, 368 Pages
Published June 2015
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Summary: 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've been interested in reading this book ever since I saw an advertisement for it in one of the teen magazines I regularly read. As a writer myself, any book that has anything to do with writing or poetry (or, in this case, secret poetry-writing clubs) is the kind of book for me. So I was so glad that I finally got a chance to go to the library and grab myself a copy!
So as the summary explains, "Sam" is a teen girl who is dealing with a pretty tough form of OCD, and on top of that, she feels that she has to hide it from her schoolmates and even her supposed "best friends," which remind me a lot of the Plastics from Mean Girls -- the type of girls who claim to be her friends but put her down every chance they get. They even have a group name just like the Plastics did: the Crazy Eights. So yeah, on top of struggling with her own mental illness, Sam has to deal with being the constant doormat for her "BFFs."
I really enjoyed this book, because you see a definite positive character development in Sam from start to finish. She starts off the book as a girl focused on appearances and hiding her secrets from everybody. She was definitely very closed off about her life. But once she meets Caroline and gets involved in Poet's Corner -- an underground poetry club hidden beneath the school's auditorium -- she learns that there's a lot more to life than appearances. She learns secrets and important information about people that she never thought twice about, and figured out that there is more to a person than what meets the eye, no matter how cliche it seems. I was very impressed with how she grew as a character, and managed to come out as more of an individual and be seen as somebody other than just another girl in the Crazy Eights.
There are some minor spoilers ahead so please skip to the next paragraph if you haven't read this book yet! The only thing about this book that bothered me a little bit was towards the end, when Hailey and Sam had that talk about her breaking apart from the group. That part was very sweet - especially when Hailey admitted that she was wrong and should have been standing up for Sam more and everything. But what bothered me is that Hailey still thought it was totally okay to stay with the group and not stand up for herself more. Sam stood up for herself and decided being a doormat and being treated as such was wrong, but when her own supposed "best friend" decides to continue being a doormat, Sam thinks it's kind of okay and just lets her do her thing. But why the heck is that okay? That was the one thing that bothered me about the whole book -- that Sam didn't try to teach one of her best friends right from wrong, too. Although to some people they may argue that saving Hailey wasn't Sam's own business. *shrugs* It's just my opinion and it irked me a little bit.
On the other hand, I really really really really loved AJ and Sam together. Even when they had their rocky points, they were super adorable and you could feel the love radiating off of them two. It made me really happy to see Sam finding herself and finding someone else that could love her despite her so-called flaws (which I don't even think are flaws to be honest, because mental illness is nothing to be ashamed about), and it made my heart happy to see her on such a great road to recovery, especially at the end.
All in all, Every Last Word was a riveting read that taught me a lot as a writer and also as a person. I learned that people are capable of forgiveness, and that normalcy is just an illusion and a mold that nobody quite fits into. I really enjoyed Tamara Ireland Stone's work and I definitely will be reading more of her books in the future. I strongly encourage anybody with any interest in reading about the love of writing and/or mental illness to give this book a shot, because you definitely won't be disappointed!