Published by Disney-Hyperion on June 16th 2015
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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