AUTHOR: Tamara Ireland Stone
PUBLICATION DATE: June 16, 2015
GENRE: realistic fiction/contemporary
GIVE IT TO: MS, HS
SUMMARY: Sixteen-year old Samantha McAllister seems to have it all. Caring family. Good looks. Popularity. But Samantha is hiding a huge secret…ever since she was a kid, she has had obsessive urges. Urges like taking scissors and cutting off all her friend’s hair. Like not being able to park unless her odometer ends with the number three. Samantha has seen a psychiatrist for years, and things have improved, but her obsessions still control every aspect of her life. Samantha starts to find some relief when a new friend at school introduces her to a secret poetry club that meets in a room underneath the high school’s theater. But the poetry club–and a boy who won’t give Samantha the time of day–are yet more secrets Samantha is keeping from her popular friends. How can Samantha control her impulses when she feels like she’s living two lives?
REVIEW: Wow, I loved this book, particularly in the development of Sam’s character and the character of her OCD. The human brain really is an amazing thing, and I love how sensitively the author handles Sam’s obsessive-compulsive behavior. The reader might not like or agree with the things Sam does, but then again, neither does Sam. She knows her obsessions are wrong. She knows she shouldn’t act on them. But that’s the beauty of Sam’s character. She’s sympathetic even though she does at times act on the obsessive thoughts that many would label as “crazy” behaviors.
I love Sam’s family, particularly her mother and psychiatrist. Without the support of these strong ladies, Sam would have a very difficult time functioning in daily life. She would give in to her obsessions a lot more often than she does. With so many YA novels today focusing on dysfunctional families, it’s always nice to see supportive parents that are dedicated to helping their daughter’s quest to be “normal.”
I loved the secret poetry club angle and how that helped Samantha “get out” her feelings and take steps to overcome her fears. The poetry club quickly becomes Sam’s safe place, and I loved how the club members supported each other through some really tough stuff. I wasn’t sure if I liked the “twist” that occurs, but by the time I finished the book, I decided it worked well for the story and helped to further develop Samantha’s character.
The romance is light and works well for the story. Sam develops a crush for a boy named AJ, who acts as a kind-of leader for the poetry club. I love that Sam doesn’t understand why AJ acts so aloof toward her and how it takes her some time to remember what had happened between them years before. Another nod to the development of Sam’s complex character.
THE BOTTOM LINE: A needed addition to today’s contemporary YA fiction. There are few books that deal with OCD so sensitively and realistically as Every Last Word. Character development, particularly the character of Samantha and her OCD, is stellar. It’s almost as if the OCD is itself a character. Well done!
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: On order. This will be very easy to talk up with my students. I always tell my library classes about what I am currently reading, and several students asked when we would get this book. Get it for students who like contemporary fiction with a dash of romance and a heaping spoonful of realism and hope.
- Overall: 4/5
- Creativity: 5/5
- Characters: 5/5
- Engrossing: 4/5
- Writing: 5/5
- Appeal to teens: 5/5
- Appropriate length to tell the story: 5/5
- Language: medium–includes fewer than 10 sh** and F-bombs
- Sexuality: medium–kissing/touching, off-the-page loss of virginity
- Violence: mild–some bullying/name-calling
- Drugs/Alcohol: none
- Other: suicide (not described)