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review 2017-03-24 15:50
Every Last Word Book Review
Every Last Word - Tamara Ireland Stone

I enjoyed this, and really liked the aspect of having a main character with OCD. I thought the author portrayed this character very well as I could really feel her anxiety and stress over keeping her disability a secret from her friends.


Samantha has been a part of the popular kids for some time, but they don't really know who she is. They have no idea she suffers from OCD. So when she befriends Caroline she gets into Poet's Corner and it changes everything, from who she is to who her friends might be.


This is one of the better books dealing with mental illness in YA and something I would recommend to others looking for those type of books. Three stars mainly because its not something totally memorable or my overall genre.

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text 2016-10-18 03:48
Responsibly Handling Mental Health in YA Literature
Challenger Deep - Neal Shusterman
Every Last Word - Tamara Ireland Stone

Last weekend my husband and I attended NerdCon: Stories in Minneapolis. The first session I went to was titled "Mental Health in Young Adult Literature," and it was presented by Amanda MacGregor with Teen Librarian Toolbox -- a GREAT resource for those working in teen services or anyone who cares about YA lit. (This session made me miss my days as a teen services librarian so much.)


MacGregor talked a lot about how common mental illness is among teens (and the population in general -- up to 25 percent of us will experience mental illness firsthand in our lives) and the importance of its presence in teen literature to show teens who have mental health struggles that they are not alone, and to foster greater compassion in those who don't struggle personally. She stressed that it's important that YA lit neither stigmatize nor romanticize mental illness, and that it show that help is possible. A work of fiction may be the first time a teen encounters someone who has a mind that works the same way as their own.


MacGregor shared her own lifelong struggle with anxiety, and she shared writing from YA authors who had written about mental illness, many of whom had personal experience with the mental health issues faced by their characters.


I agreed with MacGregor about the importance of portraying mental illness in a sensitive way when writing for young audiences, and I found myself examining my middle-grade novel through that lens.


Authors often talk about writing the book that they wished they'd had when they were young. I did the same, and much of what my protagonist, Maddy, goes through, I also experienced at her age. That includes my first brush with depression.


I struggled with depression throughout my adolescence, encountering it for the first time when I was about 10 years old -- from there it would come and go in waves, hitting its apex when I was 16; I finally found relief when I was prescribed antidepressants to treat my chronic migraines.


My novel opens with Maddy's suicide attempt; later in the book she experiments with self-harm. She is also the victim of bullying, to which, I would argue, depression is a natural response. She is never clinically diagnosed -- I have never received a clinical diagnosis, either. She does encounter the concept of mental illness through her father, who falls into a depression after he loses his job. Because his depression interferes with his ability to contribute fully as a parent, Maddy's mother pushes him to get help, and he does. So Maddy is aware that depression exists, and also that help exists for it. She even wonders briefly if she (and her mother) should get treatment. But she never sets foot in a therapist's office, and she finds other ways to heal.


I have no doubt that adolescents struggling with mental illness fall through the cracks all the time. Part of it is that we just expect teenagers to be "moody" or "difficult." As an adult or a parent, I'm sure it's difficult to discern when a teenager's struggles are a natural result of the seismic hormonal and social changes of that age, and when they signify an underlying chemical issue that should be professionally or medically treated. And often, teens themselves do not have the vocabulary to name what they are experiencing -- or the agency to ask for help.


In light of MacGregor's discussion, I find myself questioning whether it is irresponsible to portray mental illness without explicitly naming it in books aimed at children. Part of the challenge is that mental illness exists on a spectrum and is somewhat subjective, despite the existence of diagnostic questionnaires and the DSM-V. Although I, as the author, can diagnose depression in my main character, a reader could argue, based on the events of the story, that she has schizophrenia and/or dissociative identity disorder. I don't agree with either of those diagnoses, but I certainly wouldn't try to talk a reader out of that interpretation.


So the state of Maddy's mental health, while described in some detail in the book, is never named. This wasn't a decision I made consciously; and now that I have become more conscious of it, I'm resistant to changing it. Primarily this is because, unlike books such as Challenger Deep or Every Last Word, my novel is not ABOUT mental illness. Some of the characters in it are afflicted, just like some of the population is. Up until this point, I've always felt that what's important is for young readers to recognize themselves in the feelings and experiences of a book's protagonist -- not necessarily that they have names for all those experiences.


But I'm having trouble thinking of similar books for young people that portray mental illness without explicitly naming it. It seems like characters in YA novels are either diagnosed with a named mental illness before or within the course of the story, or they are assumed to be mentally healthy. Does the genre have room for middle ground? And if it does, do you know of books that occupy that space?



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review 2016-10-03 11:36
Finding Your Voice in Every Last Word
Every Last Word - Tamara Ireland Stone

This was her last poem


When I heard about Every Last Word, I was looking forward getting the book. It was a real challenge for me searching through all the bookstores and only one major bookstore in Kuala Lumpur will able to order for me. Waited more than a month for it and when I got it, I read it and am glad I had it.


You see, the reason why I have been looking forward to read Every Last Word because its theme is set about on poetry. Enter Samantha McAllister - a young teenage girl stepping up part of a popular group of mean girls, holding their status as the most prettiest of the group in school. But there is a secret that Samantha harbors - she's a purely obsessive OCD on things she has been trying to control and hide among her peers. When she met Caroline, a girl that truly understands her, Caroline guides her to a secret room where a group of people write poems... and where people like them hates Samantha. Drawn immediately towards these misfits, she tries to balance her life between writing poetry and being part of mean girls. What she found through poetry, is her true self that she long to let the world know about.


Every Last Word is quite an emotional read. I wept a little and able to feel what Samantha feels - her love of writing poems and how writing able to cure her OCD problem. Finding love through poetry and how Caroline discover Samantha's inner voice and through with it, a blessing in disguise in a twist! I enjoy mostly are the characters that were introduce slowly, the conflicts involve but there is a slight issue when it comes to writing about 'mean girls' that is hard to dislike. I felt it was pretty tame but through it all, everything is a voice of its own.


There's a feel good feeling reading Every Last Word and its a little gem of its own that I love about it even more since it does centers about poetry. For this, Tamara Ireland Stone has written an enjoyable book that focus on teenagers today finding their real self and through poetry, they express who they really are.

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text 2016-09-27 02:48
Book 73/100: Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone
Every Last Word - Tamara Ireland Stone

Around the Year Reading Challenge Item #34: A book about mental illness


This is one of the better YA books I've read this year. Samantha's voice feels believable and does not reduce her to her mental illness, which is OCD with a focus on obsessive thoughts. Although Sam keeps her OCD secret from her friends and crush, and this provides some of the tension, it's reassuring to know that her family and her therapist are in on her struggles and are there to support her, so the OCD never feels overwhelming and Samantha's predicaments never veer toward despair.


The story thread about Samantha dealing with her group of friends, "mean girls" who often prey on her insecurities and make the idea of coming out about her OCD unthinkable, is well handled. Although we don't get to know all the girls in the group in depth, and some of them are basically just names, Stone does a good job of showing that they are more than their place in the hierarchy, and she intersperses happy memories and a long history together that makes it easy to see why Sam can't easily just break away from them. From her association with them, she has access to a privileged place on the school's social strata, and this serves as "golden handcuffs" that traps her.


Woven alongside this story is one about Samantha discovering a new group of friends, poets who secretly meet to share their work twice a week. This is how she finds the strength to begin leaving her toxic friendships behind, and she also finds a way to give voice to what it feels like to live with OCD. She has a crush on one of the boys in the group, and for me this book's main drawback was the amount of time it spent on teen lovey-dovey stuff, although at least the object of Sam's affection feels like an individual and is not "perfect" (he's a stutterer, has his own insecurities, can't swim, etc.) I sort of secretly wanted this to be a lesbian story since Samantha and Caroline had such great chemistry, but I liked the ultimate explanation for why they "clicked," too. I also really loved the book's themes about the healing power of writing, the idea that those who have mental illness derive certain blessings from their condition and the sensitive way it handled Samantha's reliance on escapism.


A good read, overall, and one that delivers more than it promises.

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review 2016-08-25 11:10
Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone Review
Every Last Word - Tamara Ireland Stone

Goodreads Synopsis: 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 went into this book thinking it would be about a girl with your typical OCD problems of everything having to be in the right place etc but what I got was something much more! Samantha grew so much throughout this book from a girl too afraid to step a toe out of place in fear her friends would ridicule her, to a girl brave enough to step outside her comfort zone and let people get to know the real her.


This was such a beautiful story about not just OCD but about how growing apart from your friends is a part of life and it’s okay to find new friends. This story has also brought awareness to the issue of OCD and how most people nowadays throw around that term because they like things done a certain way, but there are those out there dealing with OCD on a much bigger scale who are afraid to talk about it for fear of being labelled weird.


I’m not a fan of poetry but I looked forward to her time in poets corner and hearing their poems as it showed poetry can be something fun to do outside of the classroom, and can be used in a therapeutic and positive way. I loved AJ and how although Samantha hurt him in the past he was able to look past that and forgive her. The relationship aspect also didn’t take away from the overall story and was done very well.


This story has touched my heart. Tamara Ireland Stone did an excellent job of creating an honest story filled with so much emotion. Although this book dealt with some serious issues it wasn’t a heavy read. It was in no way dramatic because it didn’t need to be, you kept reading because of the journey Samantha was going on. She grew so much throughout this book and learned to accept herself for who she is. I also loved the update on “C” who inspired the story, it made it even more real.


I cannot recommend this book enough I loved loved loved it! It was very well written and was an easy, fast read, 5 big stars from me!

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