What does it mean to be normal? At what point can we stop hiding our true selves to allow others to know our idiosyncrasies? Can we keep our friends once they know we are not perfect? Tamara Ireland Stone addresses these and many more teen angst (or ‘life angst’) questions in her lovely novel Every Last Word.
Samantha (Sam) McCallister is your standard sixteen year old, on the surface. To the casual observer in the school hallway or cafeteria, Samantha is popular, pulled together, appropriately funny, a member of the elite Crazy-8s, and is someone to envy. Sam knows different. The Samantha she presents to the world is like a costume worn throughout the school year. In the summertime, away from the Crazy-8s, Sam is relaxed, in control, and self-assured. Amongst her friends, Samantha is hiding a secret; she has purely-obsessive OCD and is repulsed by the dark thoughts that seem to appear from nowhere.
With the new school year, Samantha does something unexpected and makes a new friend. Caroline is vastly different from the Crazy-8s. Caroline calls her Sam. She listens and seems to read Sam. Caroline introduces Sam to a secret society that comes together over words. As Sam explores this new group, she learns to express herself through her written words.
Every Last Word is a novel that transcends its genre. Tamara Ireland Stone has crafted a well-written novel showing the complexities of life. Her characters are engaging. Samantha (Sam) McCallister is a wonderful character. She is fun, young, and not perfect no matter how hard she tries to be. It is easy to feel empathetic for Sam’s plight; she fears losing her long-time friends but begins to question whether the Crazy-8s are true friends.
Every Last Word is not about OCD. It’s a book about healing, learning to live, learning to forgive one’s self, and mostly learning to accept one’s self and know that no one is perfect. Every Last Word is a story for anyone, no matter their age, dealing with doubt, negativity, and a need to fit in. This is a novel about finding one’s voice, taking pleasure and comfort in words, and a discovery of the value of true friendship.
Nina Longfield is a writer living in Oregon’s fertile wine country. When she is not reading or writing in her spare time, Nina enjoys hiking in the hills surrounding her cabin.
Review copy was provided by Disney-Hyperion. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.