Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone follows popular high school student Samantha McAllister who strives to hide her OCD from her peers. However, Samantha second guesses her choice when a new friend introduces her to a secret poet society in her school. Soon, Samantha finds herself opening up to the diverse groups of friends in the poet society. However, Samantha soon struggles with a new symptom that threatens to take her new life away.
This year, I wanted to read more books that feature characters with mental illnesses. I had seen Every Last Word at the bookstore and thought it could make a great addition to my TBR. Since I enjoy reading about characters that aren’t typically the focus of young adult novels (for example, the popular girl), I knew I wanted to read this book ASAP. While this book wasn’t exactly what I expected, there were still a lot of parts that I enjoyed.
One of my favorite aspects of this book was watching Samantha take ownership of her life. In this book, Samantha sees herself as two people: the carefree girl in the summer and then the girl dragged around by her friends during the school year. I feel like in YA we rarely see a girl distance herself from problematic friends in a healthy way. I really appreciate how these this aspect played out in the book and think it provides a great message for readers the same age as Samantha.
I also really enjoyed the first half of this book. I liked seeing Samantha develop new relationships with the people in Poet’s Corner. This book shows what a strong group of supportive friends looks like. Samantha learns that you should never feel uncomfortable sharing such a big part of your life with your friends. This is another positive message that I appreciated reading about and think could have a positive impact on younger readers.
That being said, there are a few aspects of this book that I felt needed improvement. In this book, I felt like Samantha’s OCD wasn’t portrayed in a consistent way. In the first chapter, it suggests that one of Samantha’s struggles is thinking intrusive, negative thoughts like cutting her friend’s hair while she’s holding scissors. I didn’t think this was really carried out through the book or when it did manifest, it only concerned her imagining herself kissing boys. However, the book was consistent when explaining Samantha’s obsession with the number three and how it impacted her daily life.
My largest gripe with this book is the path it takes in the second half. I really dislike when a book throws in an unnecessary twists that makes a part in earlier in the story so that it never actually happened (think We Were Liars). While I understand that Samantha’s OCD or any other mental illness she may experience can change or manifest itself in different ways, I really didn’t like this twist in the story because I think it took away from some of her own character growth. Additionally, this trope is probably my least favorite to read in books so it really put a damper on the ending for me.
Overall, Every Last Word was on okay book for me. While I really enjoyed the second half, I really didn’t care for the second half of the book for the plot twist it utilized. I give Every Last Word three out of five stars.