Hello fellow bookworms ✒ Normally I don’t open Reviews with a little text but this is a more unusual review today! As we’re nearing the en do the year I was reflecting back on all books that I had read this year … and kept getting stuck on Every Last Word every time. I read this book back in January and really, really, really liked it but never ended up giving it 5 Stars (I legit wrote 4.9999 Stars in my Reviews because the decision was that hard). However, now I noticed that I kept thinking about this book (in a good way) and that the story really left in impact – so I decided to bump up the rating to the 5 stars this book deserves! There are just so many things I love and appreciate about the book and tat’s why I’m also posting the review here as I review all 5 star reads on my blog! 🥰
CW’s: OCD, Toxic Friendships, Mentions of Past Bullying & Suicide
Representation 🌷 Purely Obsessional OCD
If you could read my mind, you wouldn’t be smiling.
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.
“I have a tendency to overthink things, especially when it comes to my friends, and I don’t know…I take things too personally. I mean, it isn’t always them. Sometimes it’s me. I just don’t always know when it’s them and when it’s me, you know?”
Every Last Word was such a heartwrenching book, I definitely wish that it got more love, because it offers such a fantastic insight into messy friendships, mental health and expressing yourself through writing! The ending made this book incredibly memorable and had me sitting on the edge of my seat the entire time because I couldn’t stop reading! 😱
Sam is a really great narrator! 💗 She is flawed and in such a toxic friend group, meaning she did some things that she was not proud of because she was an accomplice. However, Sam has a lot more inside her, that she doesn’t out due to her friends as she is afraid to be herself around them. There is Summer Sam, who loves to swim and loves words, but she has to keep that part of herself hidden, as well as the fact that she has purely OCD. Sam was a very relatable character, in the sense that she was insecure and afraid to lose her friends (meaning her stability in high school life) even though they were terrible. Later she definitely owns up to her mistakes and gladly makes new friends in the poet corner, but we definitely explore her struggles to move on from what she knows is not a good friend group!
The toxic friendship rep was amazing 💗 You don’t see that explored that often, even though friendships can be just as toxic and relationships. Here you really see the daily microaggressions, the subtle things and the fight of the girls to be perfect and in control. The friends were never portrayed as monsters, they had good sides as well as bad sides and that is realistic, as this made Sam question if it was the right choice to leave them. The emotional manipulation really came though, as Sam often questioned if she wasn’t just too sensitive and making things bigger than they were. I liked how she stood up to them later and cut them, as they were dragging her down. Hailey especially was a bit different, as she was at the bottom of the friendship hierarchy, but even she was flawed.
Of course, the poet’s corner is such a cool concept 💗 I loved to see what writing meant to all the people present and how it united all the amazing people Sam meets. Even the secondary characters were so very well fleshed out like Emily with her sick mother or the girl who wrote things on fast-food receipts. I liked that they had this secret project and could share their writing as a way to cope with the world. I’m not a poet, but I’m also a writer, so I could very well relate to them!
That brings me to the romance between Sam and AJ 💗 It was so well done, this is the enemies to lovers we all deserve. I love how she owned up to what she and her friends did to him back then and was respectful of his feelings first as she was complicit in the bullying him in middle school. This is how you handle a difficult situation when there was bullying involved in the past and one character has to own up to that. This is the only right way to write such a romance. AJ is a sweetheart and so understanding, but also quite and a musician, so he was very interesting to watch. They are both very cute together!
Caroline was an interesting friend and never overbearing 💗 She helped Sam so much and was always there for her. She did never tell her what to do and instead give hints and nudges but didn’t try to control everything like Sam’s other friends.
Now to the reason why I SCREAMED reading that ending 💗
THIS PLOT TWIST!!!! I never saw it coming and it really made sure that the book left a big impact. The first half of the story was amazing too, but the ending completely blew me away, and definitely took me off guard which doesn’t happen very often anymore 😱
It shocked me so much that … Caroline was a hallucination and that Sam dreamed her up to help her in this stressful situation (coping with her illness and her toxic friends). She was using the deceased Caroline, who founded the poet’s corner (the book is also coming full circle, very nice) as a vision to help her detach from her reality for a while. It was amazing to think back about it all and notice how Caroline never spoke up in the meetings and how she wasn’t even in their phone group. I did not notice enough, but maybe in a reread I could find even more hints! I did find it odd when Caroline suddenly approached Sam in the beginning without really knowing her, but I brushed that off … and then in the late-night meeting when no one spoke up about her not having a turn … that got my senses tingling, but nothing in-between!
The mental health rep was amazing as well 💗 It’s not own voices, as the author had a girl with purely OCD in her family, but didn’t have it herself. It seems very well researched and I truly liked that we saw a different type of OCD, that I had not seen represented before! As for what Pure OCD is:
“Purely Obsessional OCD, also known as Pure O, is a type of OCD in which a sufferer engages in hidden compulsions. Instead of combating their intrusive thoughts with visible rituals such as hand-washing or counting, they perform repetitive, mental rituals to minimize stress.” Source
IN CONCLUSION: Every Last Word is definitely a must-read and such a fantastic contemporary with mental health rep! I loved everything from the main character to the writing element and the romance!
Have you read Every Last Word? What’s your favorite book dealing with writing/poetry? 💗