October 23, 2015

Book Review: Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone

Every Last WordEvery Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone
Rating: /5

Get a copy here!

It took me so long to write this review down because the thing with reviewing a book that grabbed special place in your heart is worrying that the review you write wouldn’t justify the perfection of the book. Every Last Word did that to me.

Sixteen years old Samantha McAllister had been diagnosed with Purely-Obsessional OCD, which means she had a difficulty to control her own mind. Sam was easily obsessed over certain things, constantly filled with morbid thoughts of almost anything, and always second-guessing every single thing, both good and bad things. If things were good, Sam would feel the urge to doubt and mull over it until she thought she didn’t deserve it. If things were bad, Sam’s brain seemed like it always had a way to vision it to an extremely worse level. It made Sam struggle with daily life, moreover being one of the popular girls at school. Telling her best-friends of the popular circle was out of the question because even without her keeping a secret, their relationship was already a big fat challenge for Sam. Talking to psychiatrist and swimming had been two things that made her fight a little more bearable to face. But Sam’s life didn’t just last during that two sessions of talking and merging with the water; Sam had a whole 24/7 for 365 days to deal with every year. A whole years to dodge her mind from being ‘invaded’, to hide her number three-related habit from people, to pretend her life was normal.
When a girl named Caroline said hello a few lockers away from her, Sam never thought it would be a start of something more. Caroline who’s nothing like Sam’s best-friends became so much more when Sam caught herself telling Caroline her secrets with ease. Caroline was also the one who introduced Sam to a place where no one but school’s underdogs knew about. A place called ‘Poet’s Corner’ which Sam laughed at when Caroline said it would change her life, but turned out true. Sam met so many amazing people in that exclusive poetry club; people who she never saw around at school before because she’s too focus on her circle of friends. Writing poems helped her so much to transfer her overflowed thoughts into a better media than anxious feelings. Meeting those people with similar mindset and interest had shifted Sam’s perspective of seeing life. With a mental support from Caroline, slowly Sam started to find more courage to keep her fighting the anxiety. Especially when AJ, the boy who once shared a quite bitter history with her back then was now the one who gave her a much more important reason to change for better. Being among the ‘poets’, Sam realized that she had been missing the meaning of true friendship for years. The comfort, the feeling of being a part of something, the way it warms your soul without a word being said, Sam had never really found it before. When Sam started to find her place in her new circle of friends, Caroline insisted that Sam told the rest of the group about her sickness. But how could one confess that she had a problem with her mind? That it was constantly swarming with things she should’ve never thought in the first place? Finding new friends were definitely not an easy business for Sam. And to lost them all through a confession about her sanity?
Sam thought it was enough of having Caroline as the only friend she told her sickness to because Caroline got her like none of her friends ever did. And surely Sam wasn’t about to find out if the rest of the group felt the same way about her. Not even with AJ. But when what Sam had been holding tightly onto burst forth into debris of inconceivable reality, she was forced to face the real battle she’d been avoiding all along. That sometimes hiding a part of yourself, whatever it is, wouldn’t make your life any easier than just letting it paints a color to the portrait that captures every side that is you.

I always love books that deal with mental illness issue. I don’t know. It’s just that I never really meet any person who’s dealing with one. I want to know about it in a form that is not just a bunch of scientific facts on medical journals. I want a story of people who lives with it; I want a social perspective about it. And so I choose fiction read to help me fulfill my need on that. Bipolar, Schizophrenia, Down Syndrome, I read about all that but never an OCD one. Well, I read one but it’s more to the compulsive type and wasn’t really the main focus of the story. That’s why the second I read the blurb of Every Last Word on GR I knew that I had to read this one. No further questions needed.

Enlightening Details of Topic
First of all, I know almost nothing about OCD before and I’m really glad that the author did describe EVERYTHING about it in this book. Unlike every book about mental illness that I’ve read before where the story was mostly told from the perspective of the characters who didn’t suffer the illness, Every Last Word was told from the very person who’s diagnosed with OCD, Sam. We got a clear picture of Sam’s struggle to fight her illness, how it affected her social skills, her never-ending haunting fear that maybe she was indeed crazy. Though many would assume that this book would be really sad and all, I think that Every Last Word was a bit more to the heartwarming side than heartbreaking. Sam who’s been living with OCD since at a very young age actually had been doing real good handling her own situation. She had this psychiatrist who really knows what to do to help her, a very supporting family, and whenever her anxiety kicked in, she knew exactly what action should she do to tone it down. It was that as she grew up, the need to feel ‘normal’ was one thing that had been pressuring her. Sam just wanted to be like any of her friends whose their only secret was which boy they hooked up with last weekend, that their only worry was what dress to wear on party tomorrow night. Sam wanted to be able to share all her burdens to her friends, having a long heart-to-heart talk with someone her age, not a shrink or anyone on her family. That’s why the appearance of Caroline in her life was like a highlight of her long ‘lonely’ time. She found herself pouring her heart out to Caroline, something she never even thought of doing with her childhood best-friends.

Relatable Character
I’m sure that so many people could relate with Sam’s character (I could). The feeling of wanting to be ‘normal’ is something that almost everyone ever felt at least once in their life. It doesn’t have to be something grand, but it is all out there, the definition of ‘normal’ that everyone dreams of having: ‘I’m-smart-like-them’ normal, ‘I’m-that-easy-going-as-them’ normal, ‘I-have-a-pretty-hair-as-hers’ normal. All of that is the kind of ‘normal’s that you would easily overlook as you grow up and earn your own share of wisdom about life. In Sam’s case, she’s having an I-don’t-have-such-restless-and-uncontrollable-mind kind of normal which made her attempt to make peace with it was a little tricky. That’s where the professional-help played a major role in this situation. The author successfully captured every moment of real life of people with OCD through the neat and well-built plot of the story.

Real Portrayal of Friendship
I like the dynamic of teenage friendship in this book. Tamara didn’t necessarily add too much drama into it because Sam was not a complete timid character and despite her anxiety issue, she didn’t mind uttering her opinion when a situation was disadvantaging her side. The author also didn’t actually pointing out that Sam’s choosing poets-friends over Crazy Eights (Sam’s group of popular friends) meant the former is the good kids group and the later is the bad kids group. It was more like that as life changing, so does people. People grew up, and along with that they would form a new opinion toward certain things. Sam used to be that popular girl who enjoyed making fun of unpopular kids and as she grew up and life made her see and experience a lot of things on her own, she realized that what she’d done before was awful. Her friends might not―or hadn’t yet―realize that because they didn’t go through the same thing Sam did. And it was fine; it’s not the end of their life. It was something that happened all the time: people changed, people move on. Sam might not be a solid part of Crazy Eights anymore, but she wasn’t necessarily an enemy either.

Captivating Romance
Sam’s romance with AJ was something to die for. I loved how it was slowly built and how their moments weren’t just these meaningless cute scenes of two people in love. It was more. Sam and AJ were bound through a bitter past, an understanding of being an outcast, and a shared passion of writing poetry. AJ helped Sam to go through whatever it was Sam was dealing with as Sam learned to understand what AJ used to feel like being someone ‘different’ than the rest. When Sam struggled with her own guilt of keeping AJ in the dark about her illness, AJ was so patient to not pushing her and to wait for Sam to tell him everything on her own will.

A LOT of Feels
Reading this book made me feel a lot of things all at once but strangely not sad. I was amazed with Sam’s struggle to make peace with herself. I was touched by the sincerity of AJ’s love to Sam. I cried because I was relief that Sam got such a great support team behind her back, ranging from wonderful psychiatrist to amazing boyfriend. I cried because I was glad that everything was finally working in the end. I was in awe with all of those beautiful poetries everyone writes in this book. I was charmed by every little detail the author slipped here and there to strengthen the connection between every element in the story. I was in total speechless when that major heart-attack trigger twist was unraveled making me furiously flipping back the pages all the way to the first chapter and reread it right in that moment because I JUST COULDN’T BELIEVE MY EYES WITH WHAT I READ.

Final Thought(s)
I really enjoyed how Tamara presented such a heavy topic in a way that didn’t frustrate readers with its dark tone or its medical-y science-y explanation of the illness, but there were enough important details about OCD that the readers could get from a fiction book. It’s obvious with the way the author relayed the story that the reason she wrote this book in the first place wasn’t solely to increase awareness of people about this illness. It’s also to encourage them who’s diagnosed with the same illness as Sam to understand that they’re not alone; that there are another ‘Sue’ who will help them going through their situation, that somewhere out there, there will be another ‘poetry’ for them, another ‘Poet’s Corner’, another ‘AJ’ that will support them throughout the way.
Every Last Word tells a story of a teen with mental illness trying to ‘fit’ in with her surroundings. It might be heartbreaking for some but I opt with the term heartwarming and touching since that exactly what this book made me feels. And this might be such a long (and boring) review to read, but I could suggest you to skip this review and just read the book.
That’s, people, how badly I recommend you to read this book.
P.S. If you’re the kind of reader who enjoys music while reading, I suggest you to visit Tamara’s website to find her playlist(s) for the book. It’s so good and splendidly fitting!

Love, read, and review,
Cynthia D.


  1. I think that first paragraph says a lot about how much you loved this book! I'm so glad :) lovely review also

    Enchanted by YA: http://enchantedbyya.blogspot.co.uk/2015/10/sunday-post-1.html

    1. Hi Anna,

      Yes, I guess so :)
      The book is so good that I feel like jotting down every single feeling I had within me when reading this book.
      Anyway, thanks for visiting! :D