Every Last Word

Book review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Every Last Word Book Poster Image
Popular with kids
Touching tale of girl with OCD finding love through poetry.

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 15 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Teens will learn a great deal about anxiety and the kind of OCD that is termed "purely obsessional" and that presents itself as more internal than external, meaning it's easier to hide but just as serious. Dispels myth that all people with OCD have the same symptoms, twitches, and rituals.

Positive Messages

Strong messages about the importance of therapy and the value of supportive friends and family to deal with mental illness and anxiety. Sam's story makes it clear why everyone needs friends who don't rank you or make you feel like you should be grateful to be seen with them. Sam's relationship with AJ proves it's possible to seek and receive forgiveness for past bullying or mean behavior toward another person. Their relationship also stresses how romance should be based in friendship, respect, and, ultimately, trust.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Dr. Pat is a dedicated therapist who genuinely cares about Sam and wants to give her the tools to deal with her OCD. She makes herself available outside of working hours to help Sam when she's having an emergency. Sam and AJ have a positive relationship that ends up helping Sam come to terms with how her illness is affecting her. Thanks to AJ and Caroline, Sam realizes she needs helpful, unconditional friends.


Sam's OCD causes her to fixate on things: What if she takes the scissors in her hands and stabs someone or cuts someone's hair? She can't control what triggers her obsessional thoughts, but she usually employs techniques to calm herself down and stop the spiral of negative thoughts.


A few passionate kisses and make-out sessions (in a pool, on a bed, in a car) and a momentous love scene (it's one character's first time) described more from an emotional perspective than a physical one. Sam has a history of obsessing about guys, most of whom are unavailable, making them easy to obsess over until she finds someone new.


Occasional strong language: "f--k," "bitch," "a--hole," "douche," "s--t"; insults such as "loser, "freak"; mocking jokes about AJ's stuttering.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Every Last Word is a contemporary young adult novel about a teen girl dealing with purely obsessional OCD and keeping it at bay enough to stay in the cool squad at her high school. The main character's mental illness and anxiety are explored in great detail, as is her ongoing therapy. The story features in-depth descriptions of the protagonist's obsessional thoughts and rituals. There is occasional strong language (including "f--k" and "s--t") and a scene in which a teen has sex for the first time, but it's not explicit or overly provocative for mature YA readers. Teens interested in reading about anxiety and mental illness will find Samantha an accessible and sympathetic character.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byrachelhansen000 June 15, 2020


I love this book. I've read it countless times and it's always amazing and relatable to anyone with a mental illness. It is beautifully written and so... Continue reading
Adult Written byCkelseaJane August 22, 2016

Must Read

I really enjoyed this book. Samantha is a great main character. I enjoy how the story talks about a girl who is popular, but doesn't exactly carry that sam... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bygossipgirlxoxo1 April 5, 2018

Amazing book, you don't have to be a poetry lover

This book is one of my favorites! You really get to see the world from a girl who has OCD's point of view. It's interesting to see how she deals with... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old May 22, 2021

Amazing book! Definitely recommend!!!!

MUST READ! I couldn't stop reading this! The plot was great so were the characters. It definitely made you feel for the characters, and it explained/showed... Continue reading

What's the story?

EVERY LAST WORD is a contemporary romance about 16-year-old Samantha, who's one of the most popular girls and best swimmers at her high school. She and her queen-bee besties have called themselves the "Crazy Eights" since middle school, even though only five girls remain in the clique. The thing is, Sam really does feel "crazy" because she suffers from purely obsessional OCD, a form of the disorder that manifests mostly internally with overwhelming and obsessive thoughts. As her friends begin to let her down junior year, Sam meets the quiet and contemplative Caroline, who introduces her to a hidden room in the school where a group of misfit, artistic kids hold secret "Poet's Corner" meetings. In the Poet's Corner, the students read their poetry without fear of judgment or ridicule. One of the members, AJ, is skeptical of popular girl Sam's interest in the club, but soon they're getting to know each other in a way she's never let anyone get close to her. As Sam draws closer to Caroline and Sam, she must decide whether to be completely truthful about her anxiety and mental illness.

Is it any good?

Compelling for its romance, nuanced portrayal of mental illness, and valuable description of the difference between fair-weather friendship and real support, this is a lovely and memorable story. Inspired by a teen with OCD, romance specialist Tamara Ireland Stone chronicles Sam's inner turmoil -- her impulse control; her difficult-to-control, spiraling thoughts; and her need to count and write and think, think, think, sometimes darkly and other times simply repetitively about everything.

It will be hard for some readers to understand why Sam stays in the Crazy Eights when they can be such mean girls (or worse, enablers of the head mean girl), but Stone expertly contrasts the way Sam relates to them with the way she interacts with the kids in Poet's Corner, particularly Caroline and AJ. When she's with them, she's herself, no matter how vulnerable she must be to tell them the truth. Stone makes sure Sam's journey is believably strewn with obstacles she needs a lot of help to conquer, and in Sam she has created a character of empathy and inner strength who should encourage teens to be truthful and surround themselves with true friends.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about books about mental illness. Why are they important for teens to read, even if they make readers uncomfortable? How are Bea and Beck an unlikely romance in contemporary YA fiction?

  • Do you think Every Last Word could help readers recognize obsessive-compulsive behavior and anxiety disorders they might be struggling with? How can readers learn from Sam and her therapy sessions?

  • How does the book portray teen sexuality? What do you think about the fact that AJ is more sexually experienced than Samantha? Is their relationship's development believable?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love coming-of-age and mental-illness stories

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