On My Bookshelf: Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone

May 15, 2017

In Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone, Samantha can't stop thinking about boys, her friends, or anything that worries her because she suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. A new friendship seems to have a positive impact on her life and her control over her obsessions, but can it last? Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom application.
The basic plot from 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.
In Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone, Samantha can't stop thinking about boys, her friends, or anything that worries her because she suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. A new friendship seems to have a positive impact on her life and her control over her obsessions, but can it last? Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom application.

Why I liked it: In Every Last Word the main character suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, but displays more obsessive assumptions than compulsive ones. Samantha fixates on boys that she likes, imagines interactions with them that never occur in reality, and sees possibilities for relationships where there are none. Her compulsions center around the number three. She scratches the tape on the driving board three times before diving into the pool and she can only park when the number on her odometer ends with a three.

Samantha also suffers from high anxiety, much of it caused by her "perfect" group of friends. Similar to the group of friends in Before I Fall, Samantha's friends are the most popular girls at school; they're pretty, inseparable, and exclusive. The girls are also bullies. They are a stark contrast to the group of friends Samantha makes in the Poet's Corner, a group of individuals who are diverse, caring, and supportive.

In the novel, there is a lot of focus on the relationship between Samantha and her therapist. Their relationship was critical to Samantha's well being. Her therapist was able to see through Samantha's lies (as a trained professional should be able to do), but also treated Samantha like an adult. When Samantha stops taking some of her meds, her therapist works out an alternative plan rather than just reprimanding her or insisting she continue taking them. It is her therapist who first recommended writing to Samantha, a activity that becomes very cathartic for her.

Classroom application: The novel would be a perfect addition to literature circles focused on mental health issues, friendships, or the power of writing.

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of  Every Last Word for yourself, you can find it on Amazon here.

For more reading suggestions for students and teachers:



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