How do I even start? This is one emotional whopper of a read!
Think 13 Reasons Why (recently released as a TV series on Netflix) and Silver Linings Playbook.
Sam McAllister is just your typical teenage girl, or so she seems. Underneath the straightened hair and expertly applied makeup is a secret she’s desperately trying to hide from her well-dressed, well-manicured friends, who look like they’ve just stepped off the cover of Teen Vogue. Sam suffers from Purely-Obsessional OCD and is constantly consumed by a dark stream of thoughts and worries that she struggles to turn off. If her friends ever found out, her life would be over.
Tamara Ireland Stone, New York Times bestselling author, has done an exceptional job of capturing the mind of a teenage girl who has a mental health disorder. Sam just wants to be ‘normal’, like the other girls in her school, like her friends… but having Purely-Obsessional OCD is a struggle to deal with on a daily basis, and even more difficult to cover up. Tamara opens a window into Sam’s mind which allows us to access her innermost thoughts and feelings, and to peer out through her eyes.
The instant I slide my fingers through the handles, this thought hits me out of nowhere, and before I have time to react I feel my brain sink its teeth in and latch on tight, already preparing to fight me for it.
I’ll massacre those syrupy sweet, carefully written notes. Every single one of them.
…Then I’ll take the scissors to Olivia’s ponytail and cut right through that hair tie.
“I need a glass of water,” I say, standing and hoping none of them notice the sweat beading up on my forehead.
A balance is struck between Sam’s inner dialogue and her outside persona which is expertly captured by Tamara and conveyed directly to the reader. Having the opportunity to delve so deeply into Sam’s mind-set invokes a sense of closeness with the character. I was drawn in, so much so that when the final twist came, I personally felt Sam’s confusion, bewilderment and panic as if it were my own. I felt the slow realisation, like swimming through murky water, or breaking into a field of thick fog, eventually seeing the clarity of thought and the dread of its truth. I didn’t even see it coming.
Every Last Word is a really important story for teenagers and adults alike as it helps to promote awareness of mental health issues. There is still an enormous amount of stigma attached to mental illness and most don’t have the proper awareness or understanding to fully appreciate how a disorder can affect an individual. Some may feel fear towards those suffering from a mental illness when in reality it doesn’t necessarily mean that the sufferer has a bad character or will inevitably hurt someone.
We can see this from Sam who is ultimately a typical teenager, albeit with an added element to her (which I think makes her that much more interesting). She is shown to be a compassionate, sincere and loyal human being countless times throughout the book; when she sticks up for her friends, makes up for past grievances and has the ability to be trustworthy by respecting others privacy without gossiping. However, because the stigma of mental illness still persists, many like Sam may feel socially isolated and alone, unable to talk about their issues and afraid of revealing that they too, suffer from a disorder. Sam also proves herself to have a brave and courageous character as she pulls away from her toxic relationships which trap her in a cycle of heightened illness, discovering more positive and rewarding relationships. By doing so, she is able to lessen her illness and find a sense of solace she never knew existed. Sam is a role model and a guide to other sufferers who have similarly experienced, or are in the same kind of position.
I must say, I enjoyed reading about a character who was different from the norm. I’d never heard of Purely-Obsessional OCD before so it was refreshing to venture into a mind I literally knew nothing about.
Every Last Word is not just your typical YA fiction about high school dramas, boy troubles and bullying: it dives head first into real life, difficult topics without shying away from all the hard, gritty details.
It’s unheard of for me to give 10/10 but this one hits the mark. Read it!
(£8.99, p/b, 384pp, 9781484723647)
Post by Sarah