Google+ YA Romantics: Just Finished Reading: Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone

Monday, June 15, 2015

Just Finished Reading: Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone

Every Last Word
by Tamara Ireland Stone
To be published by Disney-Hyperion
on June 16, 2015

Source: eARC from publisher plus ARC and swag from Big Honcho Media

Synopsis from Goodreads:  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.
My take: There were things I really liked about Every Last Word, and other things that gave me pause.  I'll start with the positive:

I do know a fair amount about OCD, and it was clear the author did her research (there's also an afterword in which she explains some of her choices.) The opening of the book, in which a young Sam is trying to cope with a mind that is "stuck" on one obsessive thought, was powerful and realistic. Symptoms of OCD typically do appear by young adulthood.  Every Last Word focused on Purely Obsessional OCD. In popular culture, OCD is usually equated with things like repeated hand-washing (or being excessively neat) but OCD entails both obsessive thoughts and the compulsive behaviors that serve as coping mechanisms.

I also liked the fact that Sam was in therapy and on medication. Often YA books that deal with mental health issues show characters who are not in treatment or resisting treatment and I'm happy that this book showed that Sam's condition was pretty well-managed with a combination of talk therapy and medication. I thought it was great that Sam's therapy sessions were incorporated into the book. Her talks with Sue were some of my favorite parts.

Those positive things were great, but I also thought there was a lot going on in this book. The book's main conflict is that Sam isn't able to be honest with her friends about her condition. And the main reason for that is because her school friends are a judge-y group of mean girls. I did like the fact that Sam's therapist told her she ought to consider finding nicer friends, but at times I felt that the story became too much about  mean girl drama. There's also subplot about a prior bullying incident that Sam was involved in.

Sam actually does have other friends -- from her swim team. I liked the way the story showed that swimming was a release for Sam -- something that helped her get out of her head. I thought it was interesting (and plausible) that while Sam has a numbers obsession with her car odometer, she seems to have no such obsession with the number of laps she swims or her swim times.  Sam's therapist thinks swimming is good for her, and Sam's trying to swim six days a week.

Then the story adds yet one more element -- poetry. Sam meets a new friend, Caroline, who invites her to a secret place called Poet's Corner. While this is a common trope in contemporary YA -- girl with some life issues finds a new group of quirky friends and a new place to fit in -- I didn't think the book needed both the swimming and the poetry. Sam just began to have too many identities for me -- OCD Sam, mean girl Sam, swimmer Sam (or Summer Sam, as her therapist calls her) and then Poet Sam.

With Poet's Corner came a bunch of new characters with new issues (including a love interest for Sam) and for me, that's when the story began to drift off course. Along with Poet's Corner also came a really weird revelation, something that happened at the end of the book. (highlight for spoiler) It's revealed that Caroline, Sam's new friend, is a girl from school who committed suicide. She's dead and Sam hallucinated her. Sam's therapist says that OCD doesn't involve hallucinations, but they'll "figure it out." What? (end spoiler).

This revelation really seemed to come out of nowhere and wasn't resolved. It didn't seem to fit into the story at all. (If there were any way to convince me that it did fit, I think it needed to happen much earlier and be better explained.)

Though that ending really threw me, there were definitely things I enjoyed about Every Last Word. In theme and structure, it reminded me a bit of This Song Will Change Your Life, so if you're a fan of that, you might want to try this. I'll be giving my ARC (along with some cool ELW swag I was sent) away during this week's Freebie Friday, so if you haven't read this, be sure to stop by!

19 comments:

  1. i am glad to see you did enjoy this book. Its hard when there is an element that feels like it was just thrown in without any real thought of if it fits./ I am excited for this book. I think that many people in today's world doesn't realize what OCD really is. Its easily said all the time "I have OCD" when just wanting things to be a particular way. It drives me nuts. There is so much more to it than that. Great review.

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    1. I did like it overall, even if that one thing really bothered me.

      And yes, you make an excellent and important point. I have probably been guilty of saying things like "that's so OCD" when I really meant something else. Glad this book brings more awareness to the issue. There have been many other YA OCD books and I meant to mention that in the post.

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  2. I’ve read several raving reviews for this one, so I definitely need to pick this one up soon. Love your review! :D

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    1. Yes, many people weren't bothered by the things that bothered me. Hope you enjoy it!

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  3. Glad you enjoyed aspects of this one even if the twist didn't fit the best for you

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    1. Not a fan of the twist, but I think you'd enjoy this, Brandi!

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  4. I'm really interested in this one. I do like the fact that the MC is getting help for the OCD because you are right when you say that most books that show some sort of mental health issues never have the MC getting treatment. Great review!

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    1. That was probably my favorite aspect and I thought it was very well done!

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  5. Hm, the multiple-lives character can be difficult to connect with and frustrating to read. I came across them too. I think it's the author's misguided effort to flesh out the character. It's like growing in height instead of width, if that makes any sense :) I was only moderately interested in this one anyway...

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    1. YES -- that is exactly what I was trying to say. Instead of going deeper into Sam's issues, the book goes wider. This was frustrating to me!

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  6. I like how more YA books are dealing with mental illness, but it's beginning to feel like all of them are having similar plot twists. Two dealing with schizophrenia that I've read in the past month have the same twist that you mention in the spoiler (though it's more believable to me that schizophrenia and not OCD would encourage that) and because it all builds up to that revelation, it's a little frustrating!

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  7. I’ve been seeing this book pop up a lot lately. It is definitely something that intrigues me. I’m not very familiar with aspects regarding OCD; however, I think my lack of knowledge in this subject makes me even more inclined to read this. It’s good to know that the author did her research. Great review :)

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  8. I'm having a tough time getting past the mean girls vibe and it affecting my overall experience with this book, quite frankly. I might set it aside for future read.

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  9. I don't know much about OCD so this book was definitely a good way to familiarize myself with it. Yeah that ending was sort of out of nowhere, and while I wasn't as bothered by it as you were, I can definitely see your point. I did really like all the poetry and the new friends she made.
    Lovely review, Jen!

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  10. I'm glad that the author did her research for what appears to be a fairly faithful representation of OCD - and I like the fact that the character was in therapy and on meds, and that it wasn't shown to be a stigmatised thing. However, that spoiler is definitely of the WTF variety!

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  11. Nick really liked this one so I'm hoping that means I do too since we usually like the same kind of books.

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  12. I agree with you that portraying medication and therapy as a positive and a solution is awesome. So many books out there right now showcase them as some sort of devil incarnate, which is quite disappointing to see to be honest. I also get why how having too many identities proved to be problematic. That sounds very all over the place and I personally want something more tighter so there is one focus instead of the MC being here and there and everywhere.

    Faye at The Social Potato

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  13. I have seen a lot of positive reviews. I am glad that you liked it even if the end threw you. It is good to know that the author not only did her research, but also delivered a balanced point of view regarding treatment.

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  14. Lovely review! Intrigued me about the book without giving away too much of the plot! Moving this up on my tbr. :-)

    ~Ishi @ heartinpages.wordpress.com

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