Review: Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone

Every Last WordTitle: Every Last Word

Author: Tamara Ireland Stone

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Release Date: June 16th, 2015

Interest: Contemp / Author / Mental Illness

Source: Finished copy received from the publisher

Summary (From Goodreads):

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.

Tamara Ireland Stone was signing copies of Every Last Word at NCTE and she spoke on a panel at the ALAN workshop. When I came home from my trip I was overwhelmed with the sudden large variety of books to choose from, so I kept up my own personal book pass through the Thanksgiving weekend. Before I returned to work I began reading the first chapter of Every Last Word, which I had signed at NCTE. I was hooked within the first few pages of the chapter. The combination of Sam’s stand-out voice and the obsessional thoughts she has in that opening scene grabbed me more than most opening chapters to books do. From that point on I could barely set the book down.

It’s important to me as a teacher that I read books about teens with mental illness because I know many of my students are suffering silently. I haven’t read many books about characters with OCD, especially Purely-Obsessional OCD. I didn’t even know it existed, but after reading Sam’s story I have to believe that more of my students will relate to her character than I could accurately guess. On the surface Sam is concerned with fitting in, wearing the right outfits, earning a swimming scholarship, and doing well in school. Beneath all of that, however, Sam fears that people will discover her OCD and think she’s crazy. Sam fears that she’s crazy. She fears the unfortunate stigmas attached to mental illness and seeking help from a therapist.

I commend Tamara Ireland Stone for writing this book because she’s written it in such a way that teens who are suffering from OCD and anxiety are going to find themselves within the pages. Teens who do not suffer from anxiety or OCD will gain an important understanding about those who do. It’s my hope that my students who read Every Last Word will be more understanding of their friends who are like Sam and won’t judge their peers who seek counseling. I’m thrilled that Sam finds Poet’s Corner because it truly shows how therapeutic it is to write, which is something I tell my students on a regular basis. I hope my students who read this will believe me now (if they didn’t before) when I talk about the benefits of writing. I’m even considering creating some kind of Poet’s Corner in my classroom for my students to share their poems and songs.

Overall, this is a compelling novel featuring a strong character, solid friendships, a sweet romance, and a great portrayal of mental illness and coping with said illness. I hope Every Last Word reaches a large audience of readers and lands in many classroom and school libraries.


Review: Time Between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone

Title: Time Between Us

Author: Tamara Ireland Stone

Publisher: Hyperion

Release Date: October 9th, 2012

Interest: 2012 Debut Author / Time Travel

Source: ARC provided by publisher via NetGalley

Summary (From Goodreads): Anna and Bennett were never supposed to meet: she lives in 1995 Chicago and he lives in 2012 San Francisco. But Bennett has the unique ability to travel through time and space, which brings him into Anna’s life, and with him a new world of adventure and possibility.

As their relationship deepens, the two face the reality that time may knock Bennett back to where he belongs, even as a devastating crisis throws everything they believe into question. Against a ticking clock, Anna and Bennett are forced to ask themselves how far they can push the bounds of fate, what consequences they can bear in order to stay together, and whether their love can stand the test of time.

Fresh, exciting, and deeply romantic, Time Between Us is a stunning, spellbinding debut from an extraordinary new voice in YA fiction.

Sigh.  Time Between Us is a wonderful debut!  It’s romantic, fast-paced, and time travel done right.

In all honesty, it’s been a few months since I’ve read Tamara Ireland Stone’s debut, and I didn’t write my review right after I finished it like I should have.  For that reason, I’m making a list of everything I loved about it.

  • Time travel has been a popular plot element in YA lately, but most of the ones I’ve read have been lacking.  The time travel has been interesting, but there’s usually something missing.  That’s not the case in Time Between Us.  I loved the pacing and the format.
  • I hope this is chosen as a YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers because I know I’ll be able to hook my reluctant readers with Time Between Us.  The boys, maybe not, but the girls will definitely love it.  They’ll be intrigued by the mysterious beginning set in 2011 and the transition to 1995 in the next chapter.  I read this chapter and couldn’t help but wonder how it was going to tie in later.  I was so excited when I made the connection!
  • Anna is immediately drawn to Bennett because he appears mysteriously when she’s running and then shows up at school, but denies being at the track.  This is intriguing and kept my attention.  What I really appreciate about this set up is that there isn’t insta-love.  Sure, Anna wants to know more about Bennett, but their attraction and romance builds.  Their romance is sweeping and sweet.  It isn’t over the top and unbelievable.
  • This quote is a good example of how the relationship starts & how Anna feels about Bennett’s time traveling abilities in regards to their relationship: “I’ve spent the whole night thinking about how it will end, but right now, there’s only one thing I want to think about: there will be a middle.”  Isn’t that how many of us feel about relationships?  We don’t know where it will go, but we know there’s a middle to enjoy.
  • Anna is dynamic and a character readers can look up to.  She’s forced into tough situations that require her to be independent and make decisions she normally wouldn’t make.  There’s one decision I was afraid she was going to ignore, but I ended up being impressed with the action she took.  It’s one that some girls might not make in fear of what could be missed, but she does what’s right for her as an individual.

I read Tamara Ireland Stone’s debut in a day.  It’s romantic, exciting, mysterious, hard to put down, and at times heart breaking.  It’s a must read that I’m most definitely buying to share with my students.  I’m looking forward to reading more of her books.

%d bloggers like this: