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This is a spoiler-free review. Parts that may be deemed spoilers will be marked.
I honestly didn’t have that high of expectations when I first picked up Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone. I was watching a book review video on YouTube when my ears perked up at the sound of OCD. Without knowing anything else about the book, I went to the library and picked it up the same day.
Every Last Word is a YA novel about 16-year-old Samantha. She’s a swimmer, popular, and looks just like everybody else. But underneath it all, she suffers from Pure-Obsessional OCD. She second-guesses every move, thought, and word in her life. She goes to therapy every Wednesday, but the last thing she wants is a change in her life.
However, one day she meets a new friend, Caroline. Caroline introduces Sam to Poet’s Corner, a hidden room in her school underneath the theater. It’s run by a tight-knit group of outcasts. Sam is drawn to them instantly, especially to AJ who plays the guitar. Slowly, she beings to feel normal than she ever did when she was part of the popular crowd. She might even start to feel recovered…
I’m always wary about watching or reading anything that involves mental illness. Somehow, I feel like it’ll never live up to the realism of these disorders. Most authors sugarcoat mental illnesses and lay a blanket across all the ugly.
As soon as I started reading Every Last Word, my expectations began to build. I knew nothing about the book going into it, except that the main character has Pure-O OCD. For the first 250 pages or so, I didn’t want to put the book down. I kept wanting to find more and more ways I could relate to someone.
It’s so hard to explain OCD to other people, yet there were parts that were so honest I was moved to tears. I even read several scenes out loud to my boyfriend and cried at how closely I could relate to it.
From pages 175-184 (in the hardcover copy), the words resonated with me so much. The anxiety. The pain. All of it felt so real to the point I felt like I was in Sam’s body.
The following quote takes place the night after Sam comes home from her crush AJ’s house for the first time. She found a picture of him and his ex-girlfriend, and her obsessions lead her to compulsively check and try to gain as much information as she possibly could about his ex and their previous relationship.
I’ve been manically opening window after window, clicking on link after link, scanning site after site, but I’m still following this white rabbit down the hole, trying to feed my brain enough information to reach my own personal wonderland.
This next passage was so incredibly moving for me. Because of my Relationship OCD, I cried at how real this was. How honest. How heart-wrenching and absolutely devastating for anyone in a relationship with ROCD.
I shouldn’t be doing this. Devon doesn’t live here, and she and AJ aren’t together…My logical mind knows these things are true, but still, when I close my eyes, there’s this image of AJ and Devon twisted up in the sheets together. His mom isn’t home until six o’clock on weeknights. His brother’s never home either. He loved her and he still might. How often did they meet at his house after school? Did they cut classes, spending full days together in his bed? They must have, at least once. Serious relationship, empty house, that’s what you do.
I don’t want to think about the two of them, arms and legs intertwined under his blue comforter, but I still can’t fall asleep because I can’t get the image out of my head.
I kind of want to photocopy several chapters of the book. They’re incredibly triggering to my OCD, but they remind me that I’m not alone in this. I want to be reminded of why recovery is so important.
PROS AND CONS
1. The poetry: The poetry was well executed, and it added another dimension to the novel.
2. It shows change can be good: Sam’s lifelong-friends are absolutely horrible bullies. She realizes that it’s never too late to make a change to better yourself, even if that means leaving people behind.
3. Opens discussion about Pure-O OCD: I guarantee that so many people have not heard about Pure-O. Every Last Word helped bring this mental illness to life.
4. The author did her research: I love that Stone actually took her time to do her research, and it shows in many of the examples of OCD in the book.
5. Shows a positive portrayal of therapy: I loooove that Sam has a healthy relationship with therapy and understands the importance of keeping up with it.
6. Talks about medication: Sam is on medication, and even though she doesn’t consistently take it, the book shows how beneficial being on meds for mental illness can be.
1. Inconsistent portrayal of OCD: When it was on-point, it was on-point. But I found there were a lot of instances, especially towards the last 100 pages of the book, that OCD should have been there when it wasn’t.
2. The romance was too much: I’m all for romance, and I love love. But seriously? Was the constant making out necessary? It definitely took away from the flow of the story and made the love story elements feel forced.
3. Sets up an expectation that love cures mental illness: I hate this, I hate this, Oh my God, I hate this! If love cured mental illnesses, I would have been cured years ago. Love does not cure mental illness.
4. The ending: I’m sorry, but the last 100 pages absolutely ruined the book for me. It was kind of a cop out and sugarcoated recovery from OCD by throwing a twist in there. Hated the ending!
I absolutely loved the first two-thirds of the book. I connected with Sam’s pain, and I feel like a lot of the OCD aspects were portrayed really well.
Still, I really, really didn’t want this book to let me down. But, because of the ending, it did. I think it failed a lot of people who have OCD.
If you don’t have OCD but would like to know more about it, then absolutely read Every Last Word. But be wary of a few untruths and inaccuracies in the novel. And be prepared for an ending that will shock you.
Final score: 3.5 out of 5
- Relationship OCD and the Fantasy of Finding “The One”
- 8 Offensive Phrases People with OCD are Sick of Hearing
- 3 Coping Mechanisms That Help Me Fight My OCD
Have you read Every Last Word? What book would you recommend I read next?
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