Sometimes, I feel like Sam. And that’s important.
Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone is an important novel because it is a honest portrayal of a girl, Sam, who is diagnosed with OCD, with focus on “obsessive” rather than “compulsive.” The novel dives deep into Sam’s battle with OCD without ever feeling heavy and hopeless. It’s not about dying because of mental illness; rather, it’s about living a full life and finding those beautiful friendships that will support you through it all.
The plot is a basic boy-meets-girl, but that’s okay, since the novel is a character piece rather than a plot driven narrative. It’s about Sam dealing with her obsessions and learning how to talk to people honestly, and how sometimes one step back can lead to two steps forward.
Sam’s OCD changes throughout the novel, and it’s up to the reader to decide if it changes for better or for worse. I really appreciate how the novel isn’t black and white, and how it really lets you see that mental illness is an ever-changing spectrum: it’s not as simple as something that you have or you don’t, and it’s not something that disappears over night. Every Last Word is, above all else, honest.
I wish that we had got to explore some of the secondary characters, because they all seem lovely and interesting, and we only just get a taste of most of their backstories. I feel like knowing their battles with mental illness, or with coming out, or with whatever it is their dealing with would have really heightened the novel, but I understand the author’s choice to just focus on Sam. In fact, most of the things I didn’t like about the novel, I understand, so I respect. I didn’t particularly enjoy what we come to learn about Caroline, but I understand why the author did that, and I understand why [vague spoiler spoiler spoiler] she seemed to perfectly fit into both sides of Sam’s life– the Eights and the Poets. Maybe I feel like it was too convenient and too perfect, but I get it, so I can’t complain. (…too much. I can complain a little bit.)
I feel like Every Last Word is an important novel to read, for anyone who ever experiences mental illness. It’s nice to relate to Sam, and it’s nice to feel like you’re not the only one– because you aren’t. While the prose and poetry aren’t the greatest, Sam is. Sam is a fantastic character and I really love how even when she breaks, she stays strong. I can already tell that Sam’s story is going to stay in my memory for a long, long time.
3 (and a half) swim lanes out of 5.