After a quick check of the archives, I can confirm that this book has been on my monthly TBR since February… that’s nearly 5 months ago!
At last, I got sick of apologising for not getting around to it, and forced myself to sit down and read the first chapter. It’s safe to say that after that I got hooked, so I’m so glad I finally bit the bullet!
I got really inspired to read this novel in February after I finished Under Rose Tainted Skies by Lousie Gornall. Not to self-diagnose, but I feel like protagonists’ suffering from OCD are like heightened versions of myself, and so I find their stories really compelling.
As a protagonist, I’m surprised by how much I liked Sam. Usually, I’m not the type of reader who enjoys the perspective of the misunderstood-cool-girl, but there was something about the way Sam was written that made her really likable (if you want to see a case where this was done badly, check out The Rain by Virginia Bergin). Even without her OCD to manage, Sam’s growth and increasing maturity throughout the story was really inspiring to watch. Throughout the book, she really learned how to treat herself better, and how friendship is supposed to feel. I just think that’s a great message for anyone, whether they have mental health struggles or not.
On yet another positive note, I loved AJ. I got that little fluttery feeling in my chest a few times throughout their romance (one of the times I was reading it at the hairdresser and had to physically stop myself from making any audible happy noises). It’s one of my favourite relationships in a long time. However, there was a definite balance and respect in the novel, as it wasn’t AJ who saved Sam, but Sam who saved herself – yet another really important message when it comes to mental health.
Unusually, I don’t have much to say about this book’s family dynamic since Sam’s parents didn’t really feature at all throughout the story, apart from a few fleeting moments with her mum. I quite liked that decision in a way, it allowed the text to really focus in on the importance of healthy friendships and the whole high school experience, rather than defining Sam by a difficult home life.
However…okay, so I’m about to ruin my status as an English student… but I really don’t enjoy poetry. I’d like to say that this was the exception, but it’s just not true. My least favourite Poet was Sydney. It was a nice concept, the whole food-wrapper thing, but I just sort of wanted the poems to have more depth, a little bit of symbolism here or there, rather than a poem that was literally just about doughnuts. The one exception to this rule was the novel’s namesake, ‘Every Last Word’, it was quite beautiful and got me all choked up.
One of the dangers of this genre is always that mental illness will be overly romanticised, but I think Stone managed to escape this trap relatively well. Sam’s OCD wasn’t romanticised and it wasn’t sugar-coated but was still easy to digest as a third party (the first few pages really set up Sam’s struggle nicely). However, later in the novel, I did think the presentation of teen suicide was quite idealistic, but we’ll think more about that in the spoilery section…
… which is starting now, so avert your eyes, non-spoilery people.
So, as I was saying, romanticising suicide. I think I made most of my points very clear in my Thirteen Reasons Why review a couple of months ago, so I’ll keep it brief. It felt, to me, that Caroline was presented as a bit of a martyr. A saint-like character, if you will, who was looking down on all the misfits and helping them out. I think this idea was heightened through the nonchalance regarding Caroline’s method of suicide, overdosing on sleeping pills seemed almost poetic in and of itself. As this isn’t a novel focused on suicide, I didn’t get too hung up on it, but it could be dangerous depending on the reader’s mental state and history.
Now, for the reason this book isn’t getting 5/5 stars (yet again) – the plot twist. I had figured out what was coming 60% of the way through the book, nearly 15% before it was officially revealed. It felt very We Were Liars-esque, which I enjoyed, but it just wasn’t as well executed as I would have liked.
Overall, as I alluded to in that last section, I gave this novel 4/5 stars (the same rating as Under Rose Tainted Skies). To all those people who told me to get my act together because I’d love this book, you were right. It was beautiful and strangely inspirational, I’d definitely recommend it!
I’m curious to know what books you guys have left sitting on your TBR for ages? Are you still excited to read them, or just a little unwilling to let them go? Let me know in the comments!