If you could read my mind, you wouldn’t be smiling.
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 read Stone’s first book (and sadly none of the sequels) and adored it, so when I saw Every Last Word pop up on my Goodreads feed, I knew it was a must-read. Poetry, OCD, and a swimmer?! YES PLEASE.
I don’t think I’ll be able to get Sam out of my head for a while. I related to her in so many ways – her friendship difficulties, her love for swimming, her desire to be herself. This made reading Every Last Word even more poignant. I was enthralled by Sam’s narrative from page one, and literally sat down to read and didn’t get up until I had finished the book. I wanted to see her stand up to her toxic friends, confront her feelings about AJ, and become someone who she is proud of.
And watching her along the way was beautiful. I loved reading about Sam’s growth. Watching her stand up to her friends, realize when she’d made mistakes and grow from them, and struggle with her OCD. Stone did a phenomenal job at keeping Sam down-to-earth and real for readers, making her incredibly relatable, whether you had similar experiences or not.
Sam’s OCD plays a role in the story, but it isn’t the most important facet to Sam’s personality. Her OCD is a part of who she is that Sam hides, and so over the course of the novel Sam struggles with deciding when to tell her friends (or if she should tell them at all). The scenes between Sam and her therapist were some of my favorite in the novel, because you saw Sam being brutally honest, something that was refreshing in the sections of the book where Sam felt like she had to lie about who she was. (Side note: I’m loving the increase in YA novels that have characters in therapy.)
The plot itself held a major twist at the end that threw me for a loop. But I also totally loved it. It allowed the book to end of the right note – a little bittersweet, but beautiful at the same time. It showed Sam’s growth and brought the story full circle.
Every Last Word is a must-read for any lover of relatable contemporary fiction. Sam will become a part of your heart on page one, and she won’t leave until long after you’ve finished reading her story. Tamara Ireland Stone, brava.