By Kaitlan Tatro
“There’s this one thought. It’s the one that never leaves. The one that scares me most. What if I’m crazy?”- Samantha McAllister
Samantha McAllister seems like your average, popular teenager, but underneath the style, makeup, and fake smile, Samantha is not an average teenager.
Tamara Ireland Stone’s latest novel Every Last Word is an entertaining read that has all the components that make a Young Adult novel great. The characters are endearing, the coming of age story is relatable, and the disorder Samantha faces is one the reader empathizes with.
Unlike many Young Adult novels, Stone creates a complex, yet familiar character to bring to light the troubling effects of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Samantha has lived with OCD from a young age, she experiences a constant influx of thoughts and quickly latches onto a single thought becoming obsessed with it. Sometimes so much so that it puts her in situations of anxiety and stress. Her condition makes trying to live a normal life very difficult, especially since going through high school is hard enough.
For Samantha, being part of the popular clique means constantly struggling to maintain the status quo within her group along with the pressures of having to look and act perfect all the time. Stone’s portrayal of this “Mean Girl” clique is a realistic view of the distinct groups that are a part of high school. She must find a way to hide her disorder and to put on a front every day to please her friends and remain in the group.
“Everyone’s got something. Some people are just better actors than others.”- AJ
Samantha lives in constant anxiety that someone will find out her secret. What is great about Stone’s writing is that, in the end, Samantha does not let her OCD consume her, she accepts it as part of her life and learns to manage it. One way that she copes with her disorder is by seeing her therapist, Sue, each week. Through Sue, Samantha is able to release her stress in a safe place by receiving advice and comfort. Stone creates Sue to illustrate how Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is empowering and helpful for OCD.
Another way Samantha seeks comfort, is through poetry. After discovering Poet’s Corner, a secret club where students write and share poetry, Samantha uses writing as a way to cope with her feelings and her disorder. Through the club, Samantha also finds new friends and falls for an understanding musician AJ.
By the end of the novel, Sam has grown into a healthier and more confident person. She is someone who is strong enough to remove the negativity from her life who makes what seems like a difficult disorder into something she can live with, and live with bravely. Sam overcomes obstacles and finds her true self.
Stone’s writing is fun, current, honest and is a must read for Young Adult fiction fans.
Stone writes in her author’s notes that she became interested in writing a story about a teen with OCD because of a family friend who was diagnosed. To create Samantha’s realistic portrayal of the disorder, Stone worked with her friend to get inside of her mind. Stone also researched extensively on OCD and especially Purely Obsessional OCD, Stone discovered that this subset of OCD is “where the emphasis is more on internal thoughts and images than external compulsions”.
Readers in similar situations can relate to Samantha and her daily struggles and can learn there are resources for help. Stone wants the reader to know that “if you or someone you know is struggling with OCD, anxiety, depression, or any other mental health concerns, [she] strongly encourage you to seek out your own Sue.”
To purchase her book buy it at a local book store or go here.
For other resources go to:
Teen Mental Health: www.teenmentalhealth.org
Beyond OCD: www.beyondocd.org/just-for-teens
OCD in Kids: www.kids.iocdf.org