Middle school students have reading interests that run the gamut from Diary of a Wimpy Kid to Twilight. Sometimes as a parent it is hard to know what is age appropriate for your child. Through this blog, I will try to help parents make informed decisions about what is available in our library. I am hoping that this blog will be a resource for our parents, and that we can all work together to make our students life-long readers!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Every Last Word

Every Last Word
by Tamara Ireland Stone
From the publisher:
"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.

This book is an interesting, educational, and heartrending look at a young woman with Pure Obsessional OCD. The main character Samantha, or Sam as she prefers to be called, just wants to be normal. She hides her mental illness from everyone except her family and her amazing psychiatrist, Shrink Sue. It is very hard to hide, but she has worked out many strategies to help with that. For instance, she is obsessed with the number 3, so she can’t stop and park her car unless the odometer lands on a 3. She uses the excuse that her parents won’t let her drive anyone because she just got her license. When she can’t get out of driving someone, she pretends to miss a turn so she can keep driving until she hits the 3. It was very interesting to see some of her coping strategies – she had many of them. I also loved that she had an incredibly supportive family at the beginning. However, farther into the book there was a dichotomy between how the parents were portrayed in the beginning and how they acted throughout the rest of the book. Sam starts driving other people all the time, she leaves the house late at night to go swimming (she’s really not going swimming), and they suddenly don’t question those behaviors. 

She has an incredibly toxic group of friends who are the mean/popular girls in the school. (Query: Why do mean and popular so often go together? You would think the nice girls would be the popular girls.) She is so frightened that they will find out about her mental illness that it actually adds to her mental illness. Why does she stay with them? She feels like she doesn’t have anywhere else to go. That is until she makes a new friend who introduces her to “Poet’s Corner” – a group of kids who meet in a secret room and read poetry they have written to each other. After they read, they have glue sticks thrown at them and they proceed to glue their poem to the walls of the room. The new friend tells her this room and these people will change her life. They do.

There are many things I loved about this book. However, I would have loved it even more if not for the bad language, the making out, and loss of virginity. One of the many passages that bothered me:
“Then I blush, remembering how he kissed me in the water that night. How I wrapped my legs around his waist in the deep end, both of us clothed but kind of acting like we weren’t.”

If those things don’t bother you the way they bother me, then I definitely recommend Every Last Word. One of my 8th grade girls made me read it because she loved it so much, and wouldn’t talk to me until I finished (it took a while)…… actually, she wouldn’t talk to me unless she was asking if I had read it yet – which question was posed over and over again. 

There are many poems in this book, the one that captures the whole essence of the book (and was written in 3’s) is titled, Every Last Word.

These walls heard
me when no
one else could.

They gave my
words a home,
kept them safe.

Cheered, cried, listened
Changed my life
for the better.

It wasn’t enough.
But they heard
every last word.

Areas of concern:
*It was interesting that there were little to no uses of mild cuss words, but there were many uses of the “s” word and at least 5 of the “f” word.
*Quite a bit of sexual content as far as talking about hooking up and making out. A lot of intense kissing scenes described. “Kurt wasn’t a very good kisser. All tongue, jabbing into my mouth over and over again, circling way too fast.” The loss of virginity scene wasn’t terribly graphic, but still disturbing. 
*There is some bullying that never gets addressed and seems to just be expected.

Suggested Ages:
Publisher's Weekly - Ages 12+
School Library Journal - Grades 8+

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