A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
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.
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
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.
Violence & Scariness
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.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
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.
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Occasional strong language: "f--k," "bitch," "a--hole," "douche," "s--t"; insults such as "loser, "freak"; mocking jokes about AJ's stuttering.
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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.
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.
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