First of all, I must let you know that I know nothing but the general idea of OCD, which the main character Sam has. What I’m familiar with are depression, anxiety disorders and ADHD, and that they differ from person to person. I’m also quite unfamiliar with bullying because despite being bullied in high school and college, I lived in my own bubble most of the time. So, the bullying pretty much flew over my head until someone told me that I was being bullied. So, if I misspeak, generalize or gloss over or anything like that over something, I apologize in advance. I’m merely speaking from personal experiences.
Now, for the review.
Although I think that the author has made a valiant effort in writing about a character with OCD, I feel that the same effort isn’t really extended to the other characters. AJ, while sweet, was generally ‘meh’ to me. Caroline, who’d be a great best friend in real life, was pretty much two-dimensional as well. Honestly, everyone but Sam felt two-dimensional to me. They weren’t really complex the way humans are, and normally, I’m okay with that because they aren’t the main characters. However, it’s disappointing when it comes to Caroline since she’s super close to Sam, and AJ, who was previously bullied by Sam but later becomes her boyfriend. Plus, why introduce so many characters in a standalone book when they’re all simply going to be flat? Is there really a need for a huge posse like the Eights? Especially when more characters—members of the Poet’s Corner—are going to be introduced soon after?
Furthermore, despite the plot being rather cliche, the emotions are certainly there. By this, I mean that I could feel Sam’s turmoils. I was happy when she was happy, sad when she was sad. I know very little of and I don’t have OCD but I could relate to Sam because well, the human condition is universal. Unfortunately, this doesn’t make the book realistic. Bullying is pretty much glossed over here and as alluded earlier, the effects of bullying on AJ has no depth to it. Unlike my obliviousness while I was bullied, AJ wasn’t oblivious. He knew he was bullied at the time of it taking place. Therefore, it’s unrealistic for him to go from hating/disliking Sam to attraction in what seems like the blink of an eye.
Other than that, the bits related to poetry is a plus. Even though I like none of the poems included here (which are actually alright for the characters in this book, considering their ages), the incorporation of a secret poets’ club actually made Every Last Word more relatable to me. However, I must also admit that I’m skeptical that secret clubs are actually a thing in high schools, particularly secret clubs with their own secret rooms. Like, how?
In short, Every Last Word was relatable but unrealistic. On one hand, this book shows that people with mental illnesses can be ‘normal’ (I’m using quotation marks here because ‘normal’ is a relative thing). On the other hand, this book can be labeled as another typical YA book that romanticizes/trivializes serious illnesses and social problems. My reason for this duality is a double-edged sword as it takes into account that Every Last Word could’ve been written with Sam not having OCD at all and that I would’ve still experienced the same emotions I did while reading it. Nevertheless, Every Last Word is a sweet and sentimental read, good for days when you simply want a contemporary something that ends with ‘happily ever after’.