If you’ve ever felt anxiety about playing the popularity game, you will have some understanding of this protagonist’s struggle. Her anxiety is on a much larger scale as a result of Purely Obsessional OCD. I have heard of OCD, but little has been said about this facet of the condition, probably because it is a little easier to hide than the OCD that manifests in more physical compulsions. Regardless of her condition, it is pretty easy to understand the journey she is making to find her true place in the world, so I think this book will be one that plenty of readers can enjoy. While I found it a little bit of a slow read, it is getting a lot of buzz.
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.
First, you need to know that this book is very different from Tamara Ireland Stone’s other two books (contemporary YA with a time travel element – excellent reads). Every Last Word is still a contemporary ya romance, but stylistically, it didn’t feel like the same writer to me. Second, you need to know it is still worth reading. These characters are dealing with relevant issues from the teen world — mental illness, growing apart from friends, insecurities, bullying, and popularity. I will say that I was bored by parts — there was poetry, and I don’t deal well with poetry, true story. Just as I was about to start scanning my way to the end, a plot twist renewed my interest and kept me engaged until the final page. Sam is a character that many teen readers will understand. Even though hers is on a large scale, the anxiety, conflicts, and obsessions will be familiar. Her growth through the book is believably paced, and it will inspire empathy and hope. The love interest in this book is a little bland (you know, like most real-life love interests who normal folk actually get to date and marry), but he does clearly develop a bond with Sam that rings true, and the relationship will be satisfying for most readers.
I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.