Every Last Word Review: Romantic and Beautiful but some Questionable OCD Elements

January 11, 2017 by Jenna | 4 stars, Books, Reviews

Every Last Word Review: Romantic and Beautiful but some Questionable OCD ElementsEvery Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone
Published by Disney-Hyperion on June 16th 2015
Source: Purchased
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
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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.

Every Last Word has been on my shelf for an extremely long time and it definitely did not disappoint when I picked it up. It’s a contemporary romance novel with a main character who has OCD and I thought it was an extremely sweet story with some more serious themes. I did find some of the OCD rep to be a little bit questionable at times, which I’ll go into in more detail below.

 

This novel is about Sam who has had obsessive compulsive disorder since she was young. She’s been hiding it from her group of friends the entire time but is always worried that it’ll be exposed. She starts off a new semester by meeting a new friend, Caroline, and realising that her group of friends that she’s had since Kindergarten creates a very toxic environment for her. Caroline introduces her to a new group of people at the Poet’s Corner and Sam discovers the true meaning of friendship and is able to be more comfortable in herself. I really loved the plot of the story for the most part. I enjoyed the friendship aspects of the book and how it was explored. I really loved the romance in the book as well and enjoyed the second chance romance aspect of it (one of my all-time favourite romance tropes!).

However, there was a twist in the second half of the book that I wasn’t a fan of. I found it to be a bit unrealistic and also a bit outside of Sam’s diagnosis of OCD. Obviously, mental illnesses manifest in different ways for different people but this twist in the book is not really characteristic of OCD. I also had a few problems with some of the other OCD aspects of the book. Sam is described as having purely obsessional OCD and this point is emphasised many times in the book. However, from what I read in the novel, Sam actually demonstrates a range of different compulsions and we don’t actually get to know very much about her actual obsessions besides a short scene at the very start of the book. Sure, Tamara Ireland Stone makes a big deal out of Sam being obsessed with lots of different boys and being so obsessed with a person that she can’t stop herself from stalking them online, but that’s not really what we’d typically classify as an obsession in psychology. An obsession in OCD is an intrusive thought that persists and cannot be ignored usually because of the worry that something catastrophic is going to happen to them or the people around them, and being obsessed with boys falls a bit outside that realm. I should also acknowledge that purely obsessional OCD does involve some compulsions but these compulsions are usually all mental or cognitive compulsions. The compulsions that Sam displays in the novel are mainly physical compulsions, such as scratching the starting block at the pool three times before each race. Again, I should emphasise that OCD manifests very differently for different people so maybe this is just a case that’s different to what I’ve encountered as a psychology major.

I also didn’t think that there was enough of the OCD elements in the novel. As I was reading the book, I realised that we hardly get to see Sam struggle from her mental illness. She has many struggles with her friends being complete cows to her and everyone else, and she struggles with hiding her OCD, but we don’t actually get to see her OCD besides a few recurring things such as her obsession with the number 3 and being unable to park her car unless the number on the odometer ends in 3. OCD is one of the most debilitating mental illnesses because of how much time individuals engage in obsessions and compulsions each day and I don’t think this came across to me as much as it should have in this novel. And to be quite honest, I think the story could have been just as successful if Sam was described as not having OCD, because to me it was something that was applied at a surface level and wasn’t integral enough to the story. If you’re looking specifically for a story about OCD, Teresa Toten’s The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B has much better rep and gives readers a better idea of the difficulties that people with OCD go through daily.

Having said that, I still really enjoyed the novel and everything that happened. I liked the characters in the book (apart from Sam’s friends who are definitely the Mean Girls of the novel) and the character development that Sam went through. I didn’t quite believe her OCD but I did think that Tamara Ireland Stone highlighted the difficulties in every day life really well. I loved that Sam was a swimmer and that she was so focused on her goal of getting a scholarship to college. And most of all, I really liked how Sam gradually distanced herself from her former friends in order to get better. I also really enjoyed all the members of the Poet’s Corner, especially AJ, who’s the love interest. I thought he was a really interesting character and I liked the role that he played in Sam’s story.

Even though I had some issues with the OCD elements in Every Last Word, I still thought that it was an enjoyable read. I liked the plot of the story and I really enjoyed Sam’s character development and the friendship aspects of the book.

Rating: 4 out of 5

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Jenna is an Aussie blogger and reader who loves to indulge in great books and great food. She is a doctor (of philosophy) and can usually be found fangirling about something, devouring delicious food, or taking a nap. You can find her on Twitter @readwithjenna and on Instagram @readingwithjenna.

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31 responses to “Every Last Word Review: Romantic and Beautiful but some Questionable OCD Elements

  1. I haven't read this yet, but I'm glad you enjoyed it! I haven't read any books that feature a MC with OCD, but I remember being really ignorant about the mental illness. Like I thought it was basically being super organized, but then I realized that that was a stereotype rather than an accurate portrayal. ANYWAYS I still don't know much about OCD, but the definition I am now familiar with and what you stated doesn't fit with being obsessed with boys. Though I would never know since I don't have the illness myself!

    Awesome review Jenna! I hope to get to this at some point.

    • Thanks Val! I can see how people who don't really know much about OCD would think that this book had really great rep. It goes into some difficulties that the MC has because of her condition, but it actually explores it on a really surface level. As a contemporary romance story, it works really well, but it definitely falls short on the OCD aspect. I guess that just highlights why we need more #ownvoices stories!

  2. YESSSS Jenna! Yes, yes, yes! I agree with you SO wholeheartedly about this one. I have seen so few reviews mention the OCD piece- to the point where I was almost doubting myself for feeling like it was misrepresented! Like you, I still enjoyed the book, but the "incident" felt incredibly severe, especially since, like you said, we didn't get a ton of glimpses into the OCD to begin with. Plus that is really not generally how OCD manifests at all, it's like, a separate disorder. Which would have been okay, if it had been explained? I also agree with you that the character development was REALLY strong, so that was good too. GREAT review!

    • YAYYY! I'm so glad that you agree with me on this one, Shannon! I spent ages reflecting on the book because I wasn't sure if I had just missed something. But when a book makes me question everything, I guess that's how you know it's got some questionable elements? That twist towards the end was just so bizarre. Like that's just a completely different diagnosis. I was not a fan of that at all. But the rest of the elements in the book were really great so I'm kinda torn on how I feel about this one.

  3. Cyn @ Bookmunchies

    I'm glad there's more books on mental health but that's too bad that it became a bit unrealistic in the second half. I'm happy to hear that overall though, it was an enjoyable read and I do love good friendships in books (: Lovely review, Jenna!

    • Thanks Cyn! I was a bit torn on this one because as much as I didn't like the mental illness rep in the novel, I still really liked the rest of it. The romance was really great and I liked the character development a lot. Just not sure if I can completely recommend it though.

  4. Somewhat Reserved

    Hm, I feel that the author has made an effort but I think the book Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne captures OCD in a better way.

    • I've heard lots of great things about Am I Normal Yet? but haven't had a chance to check it out. I'll definitely keep an eye out for it at the bookstore!

  5. Ehhhhh it does sound questionable. It seems like OCD being used to explain obsession with boys is kind of trivialising it? Not that I would know, but it just seems weird to me. Mental illness rep is so difficult because it always manifests in different ways for individuals. Thanks for the review, though, loved your thoughts on it <3

    • Thanks Emily! Yeah the OCD rep was definitely questionable in this novel. Mental illness definitely manifests in different ways but there is a general criteria that needs to be stuck to… otherwise we wouldn't have diagnoses. This book kind of took OCD beyond what it should have been. But I really loved the rest of it so I'm a bit torn on this one.

  6. Bieke (Nelly B.)

    I have a copy of this one to read on my Kobo! I should get to it soon. Hopefully. Maybe. XD

  7. Marianne @ Boricuan Bookworms

    Oh, I'm glad I read your review! I'll definitely be referring people to it once I write mine. I didn't know the OCD wasn't accurately represented, I just assumed it was based on the author's note at the end. However I did enjoy reading Sam's story and liked that it was therapy-positive. I thought the plot twist near the end was kind of sketchy, though. Lovely review!

    • Thanks Marianne! The author's note confused me a bit and made me second guess myself as well. It was clear from the author's note that she tried to do a lot of research but none of it was really reflected in the actual novel. Especially a lot of the treatment and therapy aspects that Tamara Ireland Stone pointed out in the author's note. None of that was really in the novel. For me, there's really no point in pointing out in the author's note that the MC went through this, this and this BEFORE the novel started if it's not actually a part of the story? Having said that, I did really like the rest of the book and I loved the romance!

  8. Kelly

    This sounds really good, and I have read a lot of amazing things about this one. When I get the chance to read it, I'll probably go into it now with the things you pointed out in mind, though. I haven't read too many books about OCD, but the latest one that I read was Finding Perfect by Elly Swartz, and I though it was amazing. It's a middle grade novel, so if you like middle grade, definitely check this one out!

    • Oooh I haven't heard of Finding Perfect but I love middle grade books that explore diversity. I'll definitely be checking it out! Thanks for the rec!

  9. I've had this one on my Kindle for what feels like forever too Jenna and have never felt compelled to pick it up until now. I tend to really enjoy books featuring mental illness that are well written and well represented and although this sounds like a wonderful read even if the elements are are a little on the fluffy side. Wonderful review Jenna and looking forward to reading this one now <3

    • Yay, I'm glad I convinced you to pick it up, Kelly. It wasn't the best OCD book (or even a great OCD book) but the other elements in the novel were strong. I guess you just need to go into it without high expectations of great rep!

    • Thanks Brittany! I had to think long and hard about this book after finishing it because I wasn't sure if it was just me or if I had missed something. But when a novel does that to me or makes me feel uncomfortable recommending it, then there's definitely some issues with it.

  10. lekeishathebooknerd

    I thought it was just me that had a problem with the mental health issue in this book. I also listened to the audiobook and the narrator's voice didn't fit at all. I think I gave it 3 stars for effort, but I was really put off by the OCD. Yes, everyone is different, but I know more than I care to admit about OCD and a few other mental illnesses, to just let it slide. It gives readers who aren't familiar with the issues a very bad impression.

    • I'm so glad that you agree with me Lekeisha! I reflected so much after reading the novel because I didn't know if it was just me who had a problem with it and if I just misunderstood something. I think the author tried to do a lot of research but none of it was really reflected in the novel for me!

  11. No one truly knows how OCD works unless the writer was diagnosed with this disorder. As a reader, I feel guilty whenever I mention how well the author perfectly shows the character's affliction with great accuracy. You can do your research till the cows come home, but I'm sure the reality is a different story altogether.

    • Yeah I agree. I love reading mental health books because psychology is my field but I always feel awkward pointing out what I feel is inaccurate rep because the disorders manifest in such different ways for people and I don't want to disregard what might have been someone's experience with it. Also the same story with recommending what I think is good rep. But at the same time, I feel like individual differences shouldn't be an excuse for authors (who aren't #ownvoices authors) to do what they want with the disorder. My biggest gripe with this is that the author talks about all the research she did in the authors note, but none of this was really reflected in the actual novel.

  12. Geraldine

    I had this book on my TBR solely for the OCD elements to be honest! Even though it's a good book…I might skip it, just for The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B. Plus I feel I'd be so frustrated with friends being horrible – it's not something I'm used to, and I'd be so angry!

    • I totally agree with you! Having horrible and mean girls as friends isn't something that I've ever experienced and whenever I read about it, I get frustrated because I don't understand why they don't just leave that friendship group. I mean, logically, I know that it's hard but it's always frustrating for me to read about. If you're just looking for a book with great OCD elements, I'd definitely recommend skipping this one in favour of The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B. That novel just represents OCD so well and it's my go-to recommendation for OCD books!

  13. Grace @ RebelMommyBB

    I have owned this book for so long. I really need to pick it up. I am glad you enjoyed it despite the issues with the OCD represented in the book. Great review!

    • I hope you enjoy it if you do pick it up! I thought it was a cute story and had a lot of great elements. It was just a shame that the OCD aspect wasn't done as well as I would have liked.