June 16, 2015
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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.
Every Last Word has a pretty intense beginning, but one that does a fantastic job introducing readers to Sam - and her Purely-Obsessional OCD. It isn't the OCD that one might typically think of - ie with the need to do something a certain number of times - rather Sam can't seem to stop thinking.
It's something she does everything she can to keep secret from the Crazy Eights, her lifelong group of best friends. They may have all been friends for years, but they're also hypercritical of each other and Sam knows that if she let her 'crazy' out, they'd turn on her.
Something else feels necessary to keep secret is her new friend, Caroline. Different from the Eights, Caroline is someone Sam feels she can be honest with, even tell about her OCD. When Caroline takes Sam to Poet's Corner, a secret, hidden room where a group meets for poetry, things begin to change for Sam.
I like that when we're first introduced to Samantha, it's through an example of how her OCD can impact (and disrupt) her life. Then, when school starts, she's with her friends and trying to be 'normal' we know just how much she is dealing with. The author did a great job including Sam's OCD in the story without making it the story. It is a part of Sam's life and who she is, but not all.
The characters are nicely done. Sam's group of friends is done really well. Through who is - and who is not - in the group we get a sense of how they act, how they treat each other and that's only reinforced later, with a bolder example. When we see how they are, it's more understandable why Sam thinks she needs to keep everything secret.
One of the characters did make me think something, which would be spoilery to explain, when we're first seeing them and I was happy to see that it turned out not to be an absurd thought. It's something that isn't blatantly obvious, but when it is shows makes perfect sense.
I enjoyed the new relationships Sam makes through Poet's Corner. The room itself - and what happens there - is definitely unique and wonderful but it's the people there, what they help bring out in Sam and who they all become to each other that's really special.
Another, somewhat small, thing I really appreciated about Every Last Word was how the chapter title format reflected something Sam does. It was something unnecessary but something that made the book that much better.
Sam, the poetry, her OCD, the characters and their relationships all work together for a very enjoyable story.
digital galley received for review, from publisher, via NetGalley