Published by Disney Hyperion on June 16th, 2015
Genres: coming of age, contemporary, young adult
Buy on Amazon
If you could read my mind, you wouldn't be smiling.
Samantha McAllister looks just like the rest of the popular girls in her junior class. But hidden beneath the straightened hair and expertly applied makeup is a secret that her friends would never understand: Sam has Purely-Obsessional OCD and is consumed by a stream of dark thoughts and worries that she can't turn off.
Second-guessing every move, thought, and word makes daily life a struggle, and it doesn't help that her lifelong friends will turn toxic at the first sign of a wrong outfit, wrong lunch, or wrong crush. Yet Sam knows she'd be truly crazy to leave the protection of the most popular girls in school. So when Sam meets Caroline, she has to keep her new friend with a refreshing sense of humor and no style a secret, right up there with Sam's weekly visits to her psychiatrist.
Caroline introduces Sam to Poet's Corner, a hidden room and a tight-knit group of misfits who have been ignored by the school at large. Sam is drawn to them immediately, especially a guitar-playing guy with a talent for verse, and starts to discover a whole new side of herself. Slowly, she begins to feel more "normal" than she ever has as part of the popular crowd . . . until she finds a new reason to question her sanity and all she holds dear.
Yeah, another book I snagged from NetGalley after a few fellow book lovers started to add it to their lists. Seriously, you all are just so awesome for adding all of these wonderful books. My poor e-reader, however, is getting stuffed full of lovely ARCs.
Anyways, the cover was cute, and I was instantly attracted to the description of a popular girl with a mental disorder: OCD. At the same time, I was preparing myself for a sterilized story that was just two steps away from a Lifetime movie, or a pamphlet for highs schools on the hidden diseases of the mind. This has been my previous experience with mental health books.
I hope that I can articulate how wonderful the book turned out, in the end. I was so, so, so wrong. This isn’t an excuse to pump out a story to simply raise awareness, this is a story of a girl with no confidence, ghosts of the past, poetry, and becoming a better person than you were yesterday. All the feels, y’all, ALL THE FEELS.
The main point that I wish to tackle first and foremost is how the author uses Taylor’s condition to define what she thinks about herself and how she reacts to her surroundings, instead of using it to define Taylor, period. So many books highlight and bring attention to the topic of the chosen disorder or disease. Many authors, also, do a wonderful job educating the audience, but the character development suffers due to the content. The main characters become a caracture of the disorder, like a walking brochure on the quirky, different world of said MC. The subject matter of the story is the main focus; everything else is a prop.
But not this one.
Every Last Word completely avoids this pitfall. Ireland tells a story of a girl with OCD, not the story of OCD itself. Taylor feels like a real person. She fits into her world, instead of the world building around her. Her personality spreads out past the illness and sets her up for other problems, such as lack of confidence, overcoming the stereotype, breaking out of her obsessive rituals and learning how to coexist with herself.
It was beneficial that I identified with Taylor and her low self esteem. Look, I’d LOVE to be Katniss or Rose Hathaway or Karou. But I’m not.
I was never a spunky, headstrong girl. I was a child scared of the world and the people in it. Taylor is also not a Katniss. She’s a meek, scared girl who is just simply finding a comfortable place in life. Taylor’s biggest enemy is her fear, and she is its henchman.
An author who can pull off this type of story is one worth watching. The ending isn’t a huge, marshmallow sundae of lessons learned and everyone eating a cake of rainbows. This book is more about the choices you make, and the impact these decisions make on your life and your character. I love a contemporary novel that steers away from the sweet, sugary resolution and instead sticks with reality and maturity.
Going back to the OCD aspect, the author does strive to still send a message without sacrificing her main character to do so. It was very enjoyable to see how Taylor’s life was impacted, and how she handles some of the stigmas surrounding her condition. For example, someone points out that they were under the impression the people with OCD were very meticulous about a cleanliness while standing in the middle of Taylor’s war-zone room. Taylor responds that it is a misconception about OCD people. The author sets out to tear down some of the more common stereotypes of this condition.
Can I mention how happy I am that there is an author that discusses the benefits of medication and therapy? Just, all the points for this reason right here. The author does communicate through Taylor that it does take testing and time to find the right combination, instead of dismissing medical assistance as just a sham. And I appreciate that there is finally a reasonable voice for this subject. Medication is not for everyone. Therapy is not for everyone. Medication and therapy can be used to treat the symptoms of an ill person. Some people NEED medication, therapy, or both. By YA standards, doctors and therapist are just evil and self-absorbed do-gooders looking to victimize the MC even further.
For the story itself, don’t fear that this becomes a PSA about OCD. The story of self discovery, finding acceptance with others and finding acceptance with yourself is charming, realistic and very poetic. The romance was one of the best I have seen, since the author decided to explore making the relationship work instead of focusing on just getting to the point where the two date.
Finally, what made me decide to give this 5 stars was the twist. I didn’t see it coming.
The only weaknesses I found in the novel were small, minor things: I wish the novel had featured more poetry, and there were some instances where I wanted to see more storytelling, such as time with the Crazy Eights. Sometimes, some potential for an inside look at the dynamics between Taylor and her popular friends was skipped over to progress the story.
This is a book with brains, and a heart. The story was emotional yet enthralling, and the author depends on the growth of the character to display her knowledge on the subject. This is one of the strongest mental illness books I have ran across, but it doesn’t just stick to that identity. The story encourages the reader to explore the beauty of the words we all have in us, while delivering an honest, realistic and quite touching romance.
I was excited to start this book, and now I am ever more excited to tell everyone to grab up this on ASAP!!