Title: Every Last Word
Author: Tamara Ireland Stone
Publication: June 16, 2015
Main Plot: Samantha has been hiding her OCD from most of the people she knows for six years. Her disorder causes her to obsess over things that most "normal" girls wouldn't, and she wants nothing more than to shut it all off and continue her life as one of the most popular girls in school. In searching for ways to quiet her mind and calm her obsessive thoughts, she discovers not only a place that feels more like home than anywhere else, but a group of people who feel more like home than those she's known her entire life.
You guys, I fell hard for this book. When I received the eARC from Disney Hyperion, I was a bit stunned. It was one of the first books I'd requested and I truly didn't expect to get it, so I hadn't even planned on it. So, when I did, I almost didn't know what to do with myself. I was about 70 pages into a book I was pretty excited to read and I had (and still have) so many novels on my shortened TBR. I told myself that I'd start it, just read the first chapter and see where things went from there. And it did more than spark my interest! The opening scene of Every Last Word is vivid and fast-paced, even a little uncomfortable, but most of all striking. I needed to know what this was all about, I needed to read more. And so I did. I sat on my sofa until the wee hours of the night and I devoured the entire book in a single sitting. And I adored it.
Every Last Word takes the typical trope of the popular girl who hates her popular friends and makes it entirely realistic. Sam doesn't outright hate her friends, she's simply outgrown them. She's at a point where she realizes how different they are, how negative of an impact they've had on her life recently, how many terrible things she's done in the past, and how terribly she's allowed herself to be treated all for the sake of their friendship. As she tries and schemes desperately to hide her disorder, she begins to realize, with the help of a few others, that keeping her "Crazy Eights" friendship alive is more trouble than it's worth. So when Sam finds this new group of people and Poet's Corner, a place where it seems everyone is accepted even when they don't accept themselves, it makes sense that she feels this intense connection for this place she barely knows. I loved exploring this new "world" with Sam because it was clear with every word Stone wrote, that this place was slowly becoming home for Sam, that it was exactly what she needed. And the characters! I normally save my adoration for main characters because they are the ones we see the most of. But wow, I just loved and really admired Stone's supporting characters in Poet's Corner, especially Caroline and Sydney and Emily. Stone managed to create these incredibly full and dynamic secondary characters within only a few intermittent paragraphs. It was brilliant, and so well-written, and it speaks volumes about her writing style and her as writer in general.
I also really appreciate Every Last Word for exposing me to OCD in a new and, most unexpectedly, entirely relatable way. At the beginning of the novel, Stone described the disorder in terms of an overwhelming thought, a thought you just can't seem to shake on your own, and then that thought becomes an impulse to act. This description brought the disorder into my realm of understanding rather easily. I'm always thinking, maybe not about the everyday things that someone experiencing obsessive thoughts might, but sometimes, when I'm considering bigger decisions or wondering what the hell I'm doing with my life, I get to repeating the same thing over and over and it burrows it's way into my brain affecting everything I do thereafter until I figure it out or expel it somehow. And later, somewhere towards the middle of the novel, Sam explains her obsessive thoughts in terms of a quest for answers or seeking some point where she feels full. Like a curiosity that she can't seem to shake despite knowing that she needs to give it up, or digging deeper into a topic or a person to satisfy the hunger to really know them. I'm definitely that kind of person, although not to that extent (I don't think). I have this hunger to just know things that can only really be satisfied by knowing more things which in turns creates more questions that need answering, that I'll eventually say "ok, that's enough" to and just shut off my brain. And it seemed to me that Sam just couldn't do that very well, couldn't shut it off. But I got it. It made sense to me, and at times when she'd jump down that rabbit hole of information, I understood why she did it.
Because of how easy it was for me to relate to Sam as the main character, I felt incredibly invested in the story. Towards the end of the novel, my heart was pounding in anticipation of what was going to happen next. It was a perfect blend of finding yourself, finding love and finding the thing you love most. I laughed out loud, I cried (silently I hope) and I smiled my way through the final 30 pages of the book (and lots through the middle as well).
Tamara, I need more of your novels.
All your novels.
Past and future.
Your novels today,
your novels tomorrow,
your novels forever.
Every last novel.