Every Last Word – 5/5
I was very intrigued by this book when I first heard about it, as I typically am when I hear of a new YA book dealing with mental health illness. I think mental health is a super aspect of life that I always appreciate when authors try to work it into a story they are creating. I have definitely read books that haven’t worked as well, while others have worked masterfully. I will say, though, I fully acknowledge that mental health in real life is going to be nothing like any book that any author can write, unless it’s more memoir-like. That is typically what I go into every mental health illness-related book thinking, so as to have lower expectations.
Now, onto the book: Every Last Word is a book about a girl with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and her struggles while being in high school. The main character, Sam, stumbles upon a Poetry Club at her school and finds some solace in the poetry written by others and eventually, herself. Sam is one of the popular girls in her school, so one can clearly imagine that being part of a poetry club probably isn’t the coolest thing to do. (Note: There will be spoilers in this review!!)
I will start by sharing that I think that Tamara Ireland Stone did a pretty good job conveying OCD in a pretty real and honest manner, which I completely appreciated. I have a very personal connection with OCD and so, I was very nervous going into this book. OCD is one of those mental health illnesses that is really negatively and inaccurately portrayed in media. It’s also one of those things that people just say without thinking, “I’m so OCD about my pens…”, etc. Because of that, I am always nervous to see portrayals of OCD, but I am happy to say that I think that this book did a pretty good job. The author does share at the end her interest with the disorder, her research, and resources for those that may need them.
While I have read some critiques about the main character, Sam, I actually really enjoyed the book because of her. I liked reading that she was part of the popular crowd and that she was a rather typical teenager, in the way that she was concerned with her image and what others thought of her. I feel that this is a very accurate description of teenagers, and when you add in a mental health illness component paints a complicated picture of teenage life. I appreciated being able to read about a character where the mental health illness wasn’t obvious because in reality, it is not always obvious. I felt that the creation of Sam’s character was pretty accurate and honest to today’s teenagers experience.
The big climax of Sam dealing with her mental health illness was what truly solidified my love and appreciation for this book. When Caroline was revealed to be who she was – my mind was definitely blown. It was so beautiful and tragic, that I literally felt chills down my spine while I was reading it. For Sam to have created a whole person to help her through her anxiety and OCD, was jarring and telling all at the same time. It was a clear depiction of how mental health illnesses are connected and how they can morph over time, depending on changes in peoples situations. While at first it may seem hopeless, the way this scene was written showed so much resilience in Sam.
Really truly, I am so grateful for this book and am very happy that I took my time reading it this past month. This book will definitely hold a very special place in my heart and I am grateful for authors like Tamara Ireland Stone for writing books where I can see myself as the lead, despite whatever limitations that I feel I have. I would definitely encourage anyone to read this and to also continue to pick up books that depict mental health illness. The stigma needs to be broken and the conversations need to be had, and I believe that books are a great way to do just that.
What are some issues that you believe needs to be more readily depicted in YA literature today?