Last week, I stayed up until 3 a.m. reading this absolute gem of a book. Every Last Word is a witty, real, vivid story and I loved it. Exploring the ways we think, feel, and show our authentic selves, the characters in this story captured my heart. Parts of the story were raw, relatable, and crushing. There were moments where you soared along with the characters. The biggest thing I can tell you about this book? The instant I finished it, I wanted to restart it all over again. If you’re looking for more book recommendations, check out the 8 books I’m most excited for in 2018 post I shared last week here!
Every Last Word: Goodreads Description
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.
My Own Summary
Samantha (aka Sam) is such a whole, well-developed, and complex character. She struggles with OCD, obsessive compulsive disorder. The form Sam has focuses on the thoughts or obsessions rather than the compulsions. Sam leads a sort of double life: there’s Samantha, who’s a part of the mean, popular, cutthroat girls at school. Then there’s “Sam”, the summer version of herself-wholly devoted to swimming and more able to be authentic.
Sam’s struggles intensify as a new school year begins. Caroline incidentally starts a chain of events that force Sam to question who she is and whether that’s who she wants to be.
There are unexpected plot twists. At times, I felt that heart-in-throat tightening because I could relate so much to being in high school, struggling to be true and real, despite what others may think. Every Last Word stays true to its title; every detail in the book fits, and whether you like it or not, contributes beautifully to the overall story.
Every Last Word: Best Parts + Final Thoughts
I adored the moments where we observed Sam become confident. In the water, with a pen in hand, or with AJ, I fell in love with those moments. The descriptive language in the book was beautiful, but not overdone. It was a balance and blend of everything I love in a YA contemporary. Notes of forgiveness, freedom, and compassion developed in the raw beauty of finding out who you are. More importantly, I loved the elements of friendship explored in the book. Sure, you can ‘be friends’ with someone your whole life. If they don’t know or accept the real you, they aren’t really a friend. What Sam finds in Poet’s Corner is what I think everyone seeks out. People who will accept, love, and support you, flawed or not.
So many of the minor, supporting characters in this novel were dazzling. Sue, Sam’s therapist, was a comforting presence. The research the author did in regards to treatment of the disorder was thorough, and it shone through in the writing. Sam’s family supports her and takes care of her in such lovely ways. Even when she is misguided, she has people who unconditionally accept her, and she knows it-part of why she can grow and change.
I’m recommending this book to everyone I know. There’s a magic in the story. It’s easy to fall into the lines, the poignant but relatable plot. The characters leapt off the page and into my heart. Some poor reviews I saw of this book hated that Sam made mistakes, especially that she hid her diagnosis from those around her. However, I strongly disagree with that point as being a flaw in the novel. Sam wanted to find some foundation of normal in her life. When she finds Poet’s Corner, she experiences a level of friendship and acceptance she didn’t know was possible. I don’t blame her for wanting to protect herself, out of fear of losing that safe place.
Genuine is the best word to describe this book. I am in love and to be honest, this is by far one of the best books I’ve read lately. If I had to guess, I’d say this book will be one I re-read over and over again!
I hope you are having an amazing week. If you pick up this book, drop me a line and let me know your thoughts.