Review: Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone

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Overall Score: 9/10

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Mental Health

Series: No

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Release Date: June 16th, 2015

Source: Bookclub

Book 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.

Review

I wouldn’t have picked this book up on my own but, after finishing it, I was incredibly glad that someone in my book club picked this one. It was sweet, touching, and had a great message.

The story revolves around Samantha, or Sam, a high schooler who is trying to hide her OCD from everyone except her family and therapist. Since I have no reference point, I don’t know how accurate the portrayal of her OCD is. However, I do believe that the author does a good job of examining the current stigma regarding mental illness, particularly in the context of high school.

This book had some definite similarities to The Dead Poets Society (minus a Robin Williams character) but it worked. Through poetry, many of the characters in the novel find freedom and a way to deal with major life events. The other members of the Poet’s Corner were well-developed characters and the community they built was something wonderful to see. The romance wasn’t the highlight of the book for me but it wasn’t off-putting either.

Sam’s journey through the novel was not what I was expecting. Seeing her learn how to trust, both in herself and others, was the highlight of the novel for me. Her character really grows in a variety of ways in this book. She identifies toxic friendships, finds her inner strength, and learns to accept herself for who she is.

This book was a joy to read, with interesting characters and a charming plot. While it didn’t delve as deeply into some topics as i would have liked, it was a very good young adult book that has a universal message.

Review: First Light by Bill Rancic

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Overall Score: 8.5/10

Genre: Fiction, Survival, Contemporary

Series: No

Publisher: G. P. Putnam’s Sons

Release Date: November 1, 2016

Source: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher through the Penguin First to Read program in exchange for an honest review

Book Summary (From GoodReads)

A father from Chicago takes a road trip to the city of Whitehorse, in Yukon Territory, with his wife and son. During the car ride, they reveal to the boy their harrowing experience surviving a horrific plane crash in the wilderness ten years before, which is how the boy, in fact, came to be born.

Set amid the deep, wild woods of the Yukon, First Light tells the story of Daniel Albrecht and Kerry Egan, young lovers leaving a work trip in Alaska to plan their wedding back home in Chicago. Not long into their trip, both engines of their plane catch fire and send them careening into a mountainside in the middle of a terrible snowstorm. Kerry is seriously injured in the accident, and it soon becomes clear that search-and-rescue teams aren’t going to find the survivors in time to save her. Daniel—the one person with survival experience amid the passengers—makes the courageous decision to find help and bring it back to the rest of the passengers, hoping against hope he might save the woman he loves. He leaves Kerry in the care of their coworker, Phil Velez, himself seriously injured in the crash, and takes off into the woods to find a town, a house with a telephone, a road. Something.

But Daniel’s choices are made all the more difficult by the presence of his boss, a stubborn man more interested in results than taking care of people. Only one man will come out of their trek alive, but it still may not be in time to save Kerry and the others back at the crash site, slowly dying from their injuries.

As the parents’ story draws to a close, the truth about the boy’s life, and the identity of his father, will at last be revealed.

Review

This book was very unexpected. It was tender, emotional, and utterly captivating. Even though you knew from the beginning that two of the main characters survive, this book manages to stay extremely high-tension. It balances the actions necessary for survival with the emotional development of the characters.

The book does an excellent job of setting up the characters, giving you a background on their skills and setting up relationships. Even before the plane crash, the reader becomes emotionally attached to the main characters. The fight for survival seems incredibly realistic and at times brutal. The personas that the characters had in their previous lives are stripped away as they discover new aspects to themselves. While Daniel was incredibly brave, the emotional development that Phil went through was perhaps the most touching aspect of the story for me.

This is an intense read that grabs the reader and doesn’t let them go. It stays with you after the last page, haunting in its portrayal of what individuals will do to survive. While I wish the current relationship between the parents had been developed a little more, there were hints as to the depths of emotion they felt for each other.