Friday, June 26, 2015

Review: Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone (ARC)

Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Release Date: June 16th, 2015
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.
"The book is so, so powerful."

"[The] kind of empowerment [Sam feels by the end] is refreshing and amazing to read about, especially as someone who's still struggling every day."

Disclaimer: I got an eARC from the publisher through NetGalley. This did not affect my review in any way, nor am I being compensated for this.

Oh, wow. I had heard that people were loving the book, and I was so hoping I would enjoy it too. And boy did this book deliver. Now, I just want to say that this review might get a tad bit personal at points, so feel free to skip over that if you don't particularly care about those portions. {I also have to admit that I've been putting off this review for a while because it's been so hard for me to get everything I want to say across.}

Every Last Word is so, so raw, and it gives such a deep look into a teen living with OCD. I'm glad Stone didn't choose to use the form of OCD that most of us are familiar with. Instead, Sam has obsessional OCD, and her particular obsession is with the dark thoughts in her head. In so many ways, I could see myself in Sam, though not to her extent. I could relate so well--maybe too well--to all her self-doubt and to all the negative thoughts in her head, especially when it came to thinking about herself. At times, it was a little too close to my own thoughts and experiences, and I had to step back and take a breath, take a moment. But I wouldn't have wanted it any other way. It's so important for this to be talked about and for other people to get a sense of all the attacking thoughts many people struggle with on a daily basis. It's easy to say that we understand, but it's hard to really get a sense of the daily struggle. The struggle to accept and love yourself is one of the toughest battles, in my opinion, because you're the one attacking yourself, and it's hard to stop letting that take over your every thought.

Another aspect I really appreciated was seeing the relationship between Sam and her therapist. Oftentimes, there's a negative feeling associated with therapists; people don't want to see therapists because they feel embarassed or feel that they don't need one. I'm not going to pretend that I wasn't one of those people for a long, long time. It was actually through reading books such as Every Last Word that I've recently seen how much they do and how much they can help. I still don't think I could justify making my parents pay so much for a therapist, but I can't help but think about how different things might have occurred if I had gone to see a therapist. So it was so nice to be able to see Sam's healthy, good relationship with her therapist (whose name I can't remember at the moment oops).

Yet another part that I so deeply appreciated and related to was Sam's struggle to get out of her group of friends. Part of the reason I had such a bad time in middle and high school was because of the group of friends I made in middle school and sort of stuck with. I was like Sam. I wanted to get out of it, but we had so many experiences and memories together, and I wasn't strong enough to remove myself. In some ways, I'm glad I stayed because otherwise I wouldn't have become so close to my best friend, but at the same time, I think I could have been so much happier. It's not that I don't like the people I'm friends with--some of them are wonderful and great, but for many reasons, we've grown apart. However, because I find it hard to make new friends and because I was scared of just letting go of friendships that once meant a lot to me, I found myself stuck, much like Sam was. I don't think I could ever do what she ended up doing at the end, but I really look up to her for it. For all the people who say they don't understand or that it's not realistic or that it's weird or that question why it was such a big deal and why she couldn't just leave them, it's much more complicated than that. Trust me. For some of us, it's easier said than done, and it's especially hard when you have self-esteem issues. And some people have wondered how they didn't notice what was happening with Sam. Sometimes people are caught up in their own problems. Sometimes you just get good at hiding it. It doesn't mean that at some point they were good friends to you. So I'm just glad Stone explored this issue because I think a lot of teens struggle through it but don't talk about it.

But moving on from the tough issues, I really enjoyed seeing Sam come out of her shell and learn to accept and love both herself and others. The book is so, so powerful. Sam uses her writing and the help of those in the Poet's Corner to help her work through her struggles. It's always amazing when you find such a supportive group of people, and I wish something like that had existed for me and that I could have the courage to go look for those opportunities and people. I'm not lying when I say that Every Last Word has inspired me to take more chances in my own life. The entire cast of characters is diverse in so many ways. Each has their own struggles and obstacles, but it's amazing to see them come together to help one another through it. They all have their own distinct personalities. I loved watching all of Sam's relationships--with AJ, Emily, Caroline, Abigail, Sydney, Jessica, etc--change and grow. What I appreciated most of all was how they all helped her throughout the book, especially AJ, but how in the end, it was really her getting through it for herself. With the help of her friends and her therapist, she was able to save herself. It wasn't because of them that she was able to heal so much; it was because of herself. That kind of empowerment is refreshing and amazing to read about, especially as someone who's still struggling every day.

Moving on, the plot moved quickly, and it wasn't hard to just keep reading, getting sucked into the story. But then THAT PLOT TWIST. It's funny because I should have seen it coming. I had actually been questioning why the character was showing up less and less, but I guess I couldn't think so far to have connected it to what it really was. I was blown away and had to put the book down then go back through the book and look at the parts of the story where the character was there. But beyond what it did for the plot, I think it really helped to emphasize the idea that it was Sam who had to help herself and how even though she had help, it came down to herself. But woah.

I didn't find the book perfect, but I think that the above parts definitely made up for the tiny things. This book is so important and means so much to me (and I'm sure many others). It's the kind of book I hope everyone will read at some point.
Every Last Word: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository
Tamara Ireland Stone: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Tumblr | Instagram | YouTube

1 comment:

  1. I love your review! I have to agree about the struggle of removing yourself from a group of friends. It's HARD. I have self esteem issues too, and it sure does make it tougher. Getting out of a group can be a really emotional process.

    That and pretty much everything you've brought up about this book makes me think that it could become one of my all time favorites. There's so many things that would make me fall in love with the book. Weirdly (considering this is my favorite genre and type of story), I've never been excited to read this one! I keep looking it over and thinking, "ehhh." But your review has convinced me that this is a must read!


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