Friday, July 8, 2016

Book Review: Every Last Word

Every Last Word
Tamara Ireland Stone
Amy Rubinate (narrator)
Ideal Audiobooks, 2015
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Mental Illness
Source: Thanks to SYNC Audio for the free audio files!
Rating: 4 out of 5

Samantha McAllister has a secret that she's been hiding from her best friends, The Eights, since she was eleven.  Samantha has OCD, the purely obsessional kind where she starts thinking about one topic or problem or just a teeny tiny idea and she can't move past it.  She's obsessed with the number three and will drive around until the milage on her car ends with a three before parking.  Somehow she has done a tremendous job of keeping this from her friends who are the most popular girls in school and have very high expectations for how they should all look, act, feel, etc.  When Samantha meets Caroline, though, she's pulled into the world of Poet's Corner.  With Caroline's help, Samantha begins to write and share with this group of writers.  But as she finds herself becoming more entrenched in Poet's Corner, she realizes that there are a lot of secrets and eventually she will have to start letting them out--if she can manage it. 

I liked this book more than I had anticipated.  From the description and the first chapter or so I thought this was going to be about a bunch of mean girls--and it is in a way.  The Eights are truly mean girls who just exacerbate Samantha's OCD and anxiety, creating hierarchies of friendship within their group.  Intentionally leaving one girl out of an invitation and letting her know. Awfulness.  But it's also about Samantha learning not only how to step away from them, but how to accept herself.  PLUS!  I was totally thrown by events in the last few chapters.

Samantha is dealing with a serious mental illness throughout this book, and her life.  She meets weekly with a psychiatrist, is on medication to help control her obsessions and help her sleep, and her parents are super supportive and help her work through obsessive thoughts.  This isn't is a story about a girl who is magically cured of her mental illness and never needs to see her psychiatrist or take meds again.  She makes progress, yes, but she still has a network that surrounds her.

Poetry is a huge component of this book.  Teens writing poetry that is deep and meaningful to them and shows who they are.  It's not the poetry you'll study and try to write in college, which I appreciated because it made it more realistic.  It was very emotional and held everything these kids needed to say or experience or hold onto while they struggled through their days in high school.  It reminded me of the poetry I wrote in high school and kept tucked away inside notebooks and folders for my eyes only. It's a way that Samantha uses to help channel some of her anxiety and obsessions.

I really enjoyed how we were able to walk with Samantha through her journey.  I liked her story.  Yes she has OCD and struggles with it, but I think that this story is still very relatable even if you don't suffer from a mental illness.  She's a high school girl dealing with cliques and trying to find herself--a self that she's comfortable with and can accept.  Something we're all trying to do!

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