Every Last Word opens with Samantha hanging out with her friends, working on a school activity. But her brain isn’t working like everyone else’s. Though they are supposed to be clipping roses and attaching notes, seeing the scissors triggers something in her brain. Her brain imagines taking those scissors and chopping the roses to smithereens and then putting them to her friends’ hair. What is wrong with her??
There’s a lot of talk in children’s lit about the fact that “We Need Diverse Books.” Books need to reflect teens and the images they face. An issue that anyone who has any contact with teens knows is relevant and present today is mental illness. Whether it’s depression, anxiety, or like Sam’s case, OCD, I guarantee you that every teen either deals with one of these issues or has a friend who does. That’s why I was glad to read this typical YA novel that featured this issue. By typical, I mean that it’s your normal YA novel, and the issues are normal issues teens face: mean girls, boyfriends, crushes, friendship, hobbies, personal change, and yes fears and worries.
Samantha has been friends with the same girls since elementary school. They call themselves the Crazy Eights, but they’ve changed since elementary school. Sam has taken more interest in her swimming, and in the summer, when she’s really focused on it, she feels like her true self. Her psychiatrist tries to encourage her to find some new friends, ones who will support her, and at the beginning of her junior year, it seems like that might just happen. She not only finds new friends, but finds her voice.
This novel ends with a surprise twist. I didn’t see it coming, but it worked. I was completely hooked by all the characters. Some were stereotypical (mean girls, emo poets), but most stood out as individuals. Sam’s changes as well as her internal dialogue carried the story and made me care what happened to her.
I stole extra minutes to devote to this novel.