every last word

New Books: Every Last Word

Every Last Word
By Tamara Ireland Stone
The few lamps we left on softly illuminate the walls, and I think about all the paper around us, all this love and pain and fear and hope. We’re surrounded by words. Nothing about this moment could be more perfect, because I’m absolutely in love with this room and the people in it, on the wall and otherwise.

High school was really, really hard for me. Not the school part—that was fine. But the getting through the day in one piece emotionally—I never mastered that. Books are what saved me, I think. High school is when I discovered Sartre and Nietzsche, Dostoyevsky and Samuel Beckett, Vonnegut and Margaret Atwood. And it’s when I discovered poetry: the compressed, held-in, deliberately nuanced poetry of people like Emily Dickinson and the sprawling-all-over-the-page, messy, intense poetry of people like Ted Hughes. I read poetry, and I wasn’t alone.

I tell you this not because I think my high school experience is especially interesting or unique (though I guess it must have seemed that way to me at the time) but so that you know my opinions about Every Last Word are completely and totally not objective. Because this is a book about a girl named Samantha, struggling to survive high school, who discovers poetry and—ultimately—gets saved by it.

It’s not only about that. Samantha has OCD, and the book does a pretty good job weaving in her compulsions in a way that feels normal and not forced. (Some people criticized the way the book resolves Sam’s OCD—I didn’t think it oversimplified mental illness or tied things up too neatly in a bow, but your mileage may vary.) Sam’s OCD is her deepest darkest secret, the one she goes out of her way to hide from her cool girl clique friends. So when she meets Caroline, who doesn’t seem to care what anybody thinks, and finds her way into a secret poetry club in the school basement, she’s equal parts terrified and exhilarated. As Sam finds her first real friends and learns how to express herself, she also discovers that maybe OCD is something she can learn to live with without losing herself.

There’s a twist at the end of the book that feels a little overdramatic—I don’t think the story needed it, honestly—but since there are plenty of times when someone could have accused me of being overdramatic in high school, I can let it go. I’m also kind of over the whole everybody-needs-a-boyfriend thing that happens in a lot of YA novels. But these are small quibbles—I liked the book a lot. (I especially liked that falling in love with poetry and learning to express herself did not automatically make Sam a totally talented poet.) I think I would have loved it as a teenager—though I would have been a little jealous that there was no secret poet’s society operating at my own school.

Stuff We Like :: 10.23.15

home|school|life's Friday roundup of the best homeschool links, reads, tools, and other fun stuff has lots of ideas and resources.

We are busy working on Halloween costumes and top-secret birthday presents here at Casa Sharony. We may also have planned our entire Thanksgiving menu last weekend. I love fall.

around the web

I am not a theme park person, but I would make an exception for a nature-centric theme park created by Hayao Miyazaki. Wouldn’t you?

I thought I was a big Little House fan, but these scientists may have me beat. I love when different disciplines come together like this.

David Bowie paper dolls. No comment needed.


at home/school/life

in the magazine: Our subscription cost is going up at the end of October, so renew your subscription before then if you like the $15 price tag.

on the blog: In the spirit of Halloween reading, we hooked a reader up with some of our favorite scary books.

on pinterest: I want to make some of these super-cute leaf creatures with the kids.


reading list

We were late on the Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Magical Creatures craze, but my son is now completely obsessed. It’s a really fun readaloud.

I read a lot of books that don’t always end up in the magazine.A few books that I read and liked but don’t have immediate plans to review: Every Last Word, about a secret high school poetry club and a girl struggling with mental health problems; The Peddler’s Road, a Pied Piper story that I really enjoyed until it did that thing where it ends on a dramatic cliffhanger for no good reason; and The Rise and Rise of Tabitha Baird, which was fluffy, fun, and British.

Jason is reading The Name of the Wind and really digging it. I have a hard time getting into fantasy books, but it sounds like this one is worth checking out if you enjoy them.


at home

I’m pretending that it’s for the class I’m going to be teaching this winter, but I’m really just binge-watching Doctor Who because I can.

I started a Saroyan to knit while I’m hanging in the waiting room at physical therapy. I love the little leaves along the edge—I’m using red yarn, so it’s like knitting autumn.

I am weirdly obsessed with learning to play mah jongg. Does anybody play? I love bridge, and we inherited a gorgeous mah jongg set from my mother-in-law … but it may just be the non-weight-bearing talking.