Sunday, 10 May 2015

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Mental Health May Review: Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone

Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland StoneNetGalleyEvery Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone (eProof) - 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.
From Goodreads.

I'd not read anything by Tamara Ireland Stone before reading Every Last Word, so I didn't know what to expect. Every Last Word is a fantastic story, with a beautiful romance, of a girl dealing with her OCD and learning to accept herself.

Sam and her friends have been popular for as long as she can remember. However, as time has gone on, being popular has come be difficult, with all the expectations. Look good all the time, say the right thing, keep your place at the top of the social ladder at all costs, or lose everything. This is even harder for Sam who suffers with Purely-Obsessional OCD, so being and perfect is on her mind all the time. Then she meets Caroline, with whom the expectations just fall away. With Caroline, she can just be herself without fear of judgement. When Caroline brings her along to Poet's Corner, a secret group of students who write and read out poetry, Sam finds a place she feels she belongs, and she slowly starts to feel better, more normal. But then Sam makes a discovery that turns everything she knows on it's head, and Sam ends up fearing her mind even more.

Every Last Word is brilliant! Sam is such an amazing character, and through her, I got to see a side of OCD I haven't before. She has Purely-Obsessional OCD, which means, for her, it's mostly internal, having obsessed thoughts that she can't let go of; a spiral of thoughts that she can't control and can't stop, which can cause her to have anxiety attacks as she's so scared she might act on her thoughts, or they simply just freak her out. Some of her thoughts aren't that unfamiliar - I'm sure everyone has had the fear of not fitting in, or what their friends might think of them - but where we might push the thoughts aside and try to think of something else, Sam can't do that. They go on and on and on, and they're all-consuming. It scares her, and she hates it; hates the way she thinks, how theirs a glitch in her brain, how she's not "normal".

She has an absolutely wonderful relationship with the psychologist, Sue, who is just brilliant, and really helps Sam get on top of her mental illness. She really tries to get Sam to change the way she sees her OCD, so instead of seeing it as something to despise, it's something that's special, because she sees things differently to others. These moments come a little later on in the book, but I just loved them, because throughout this novel, with Sam's opinion of her OCD, I was reminded of the first half of this post on Hello Giggles, An Open Letter to My Anxiety-Riddled Brain - although Sam suffers with anxiety as well, her negativity on her mental illness is more towards her OCD, but there is a similarity in her feeling towards her mind and her brain. But with Sue's efforts to change how Sam sees it, I was reminded of the second half. The post is amazing for understanding what people who suffer with anxiety go through, and helped me to understand where Sam was coming from better. As someone who doesn't have OCD, Every Last Word seems to be an amazing book for promoting understanding.

As well as being a brilliant book on OCD, it's also a really great story. Sam's friends are simply awful, so I was so happy when she met Caroline, who is so laid back and care-free. She has had her own issues in the past, and so is able to help Sam with her own, without judgement - the first person Sam has ever told about her illness outside her family. To be understood, able to trust, and just be is so freeing to Sam, she and Caroline form a close friendship very quickly. And when she's introduced to Poet's Corner, Sam finds an outlet for her thoughts through writing, and more people who just accept her for her. She doesn't confide in them about her illness, but they don't pile expectations on her to be perfect, and she feels at home amongst them, which she has only felt before during the summer holidays, when she's competing in swimming competitions. And there's also AJ, and the sweet, sweet romance that develops between them. I loved the Poet's Corner, seeing these people reading out very different poems and the sense of belonging they all felt there. I loved it so much, I've been inspired to start writing my own crappy poetry again!

There was a part of the book I did, for a while, feel kind of annoyed about. As I was reading, I was thinking, "I must talk about this in my review." I felt let down by a certain aspect of the story. But then we had the twist. There is a big, major twist that I did not see coming at all, and completely explained and made sense of the aspect I had a problem with. The twist is just brilliant, it completely wowed me! At times in the story, it felt that Sam's mental illness wasn't as focal as Sam's time with those in Poet's Corner and Caroline. But then you get the twist, and realise it flows throughout. It's just so, so clever, and I felt all kinds of things; shock, sadness, sympathy. I know I've said it already, but it's just brilliant!

Every Last Word is an incredible story, one I highly recommend! I am now so eager to read the rest of Stone's novels; she's not an author to miss.

Thank you to Disney-Hyperion via NetGalley for the eProof.

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Published: 16th June 2015
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Tamara Ireland Stone's Website

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