Every Last Word
Author: Tamara Ireland Stone
Release Date: June 16th, 2015
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. (Goodreads)
I shouldn’t be reading the notes.
**Thank you to NetGalley, Disney Hyperion, and Tamara Ireland Stone for this eBook**
So, based on this tweet, I’m sure you can guess how the rest of my review is going to go. If you follow me on Twitter, my new blog account as well but mostly my multi-purpose account, then you may have seen me gush over and over again about this book and tweet Tamara incessantly. I would love to guarantee that this will be a structured, well-planned review but I can tell you right now that it wont be. This book did too many things to me.
For those that missed it, here are a few snippets of my gushing.
I quite literally struggled to read parts of this book through tears because, no matter how fast I wiped them away, more just kept coming.
This book rocked me to the core. It made me take a look and evaluate where I was at in terms of my own mental health. Sure, I don’t have OCD (or any other diagnosed mental illness) like Sam does. That doesn’t mean I can just look the other way when it comes to this aspect of my personal health. I put myself through various metacognitive exercises while reading Every Last Word. I thought about how I see myself, what I think about myself, and how often I agonize over what I believe everyone else is thinking about me. These were hard things to evaluate for me. I knew I wasn’t in a great place. I knew that one of my biggest downfalls is being too hard on myself.
In Canada, there is a campaign called “Bell Let’s Talk“. It is aimed at raising money for mental health initiatives as well as eliminating the stigma associated with mental illness. I think it’s an incredible campaign and I’m really glad it has received so much support and good feedback. Unfortunately for me, although I knew my friends support Bell Let’s Talk, I still didn’t feel comfortable talking to them about the struggles I was having. This is where I really started to connect with the story. Sam works so hard to hide everything she’s going through and doesn’t feel like she can tell anybody. I felt the exact same way for most of my life. I just kind of dealt with things by myself and hoped for the best. It hit me hard to see a character going through this same type of conflict and see her struggling so hard.
Her evolution and growth throughout the story is what got me the hardest. With the influence of the right people, you start to see changes in her and he mental state. Of course nobody will ever be cured of their struggles overnight by making a few small changes; it’s true, however, that surrounding yourself with good people and eliminating stressors definitely helps. I realized that I went through similar growth myself…and it happened quickly and unexpectedly like Sam’s. Although rare, sometimes you do just happen upon the right person at the right time…and sometimes you quickly open up to them more than you’ll ever open up to people you’ve known your whole life.
I know a lot of people will disagree with that point of view. A lot of my friends have, even though I insist that I’ve had it happen to me. Where I’m going with this is that Every Last Word made me realize what I’ve found this year and how much he’s done for me. I found my own version of AJ; someone I’m not only able to open up to but also someone I feel totally comfortable opening up to which is new for me.
And here is where this book changed my life:
I told this person that I’d been reading a book that made me think about a lot of things. I mentioned that it was helping me realize that not everything I do or produce (in relation to stuff that I write be it blogs, cover letters, etc.) has to be or can be perfect. This launched what I think is the most raw, honest, and cathartic conversation I’ve ever had with another person.
I am SO grateful to Tamara Ireland Stone for writing the incredible book that opened these flood gates and started the conversation that proved to me it’s not actually that scary to talk to loved ones about how you feel and that you are not a burden for needing help from those you trust. I won’t pretend that things are perfect after the experiences related to the book because they aren’t. What has changed is that I’m less inclined to bottle things up because I think nobody cares. I open up more when I’m stressed and need a shoulder or helping hand. I don’t feel as abnormal for having such hard days. And I no longer feel like I’m floundering around without a support system.
Having gone through a teacher education degree, my “teacher brain” was firing while reading this. I can only imagine that I’m not the only one who has and will learn a lot about themselves from reading it. This could be exactly what a student needs if they’re struggling mentally/emotionally but feel like they can’t or shouldn’t talk to people about it. Or maybe it will help the ones that feel like they’re alone in what they’re experiencing. Do I think that many people with severe mental illnesses suffer more than is depicted in Every Last Word? Of course. As with anything, this isn’t a one-size-fits-all topic. Everyone experiences it differently but I definitely think it’s an incredible starting place. The more we feel comfortable talking about issues of mental health, the more equipped we’ll be to deal with them ourselves or lend a hand to friends in need.
I’ve had a really rough week but thanks to how much more comfortable I feel talking about when I’m struggling and can’t handle what’s going on in my life (which, in large part, came as a result of reading this), I got through it and was able to talk to those closest to me about it.
This is exactly why I think this book is so incredible. I 150% recommend it. If I used star ratings, 5 wouldn’t be enough but I wouldn’t be able to pick an appropriate number.
Buy it, borrow it…whatever it takes. Just read it. Please. It could change you. Or help you change someone else’s life. And the feels….OH THE FEELS. I’m on the verge of crying as I type this just thinking about the book. When my finished copy comes in, I’m going at it with ALL THE STICKY NOTES.
I’ll end my review with this:
Words are powerful. I requested this book on a whim and look what it did for me. Never be afraid to share your story and experiences. You might just be the next person to make me cry with your beautiful words…and if not me, then someone else.