2 Sentence Summary
Every Last Word is a gripping young-adult novel that delves into the complexities of adolescence and mental health. Tamara Ireland Stone skillfully explores themes of toxic relationships, self-acceptance, and the power of forgiveness.
Summary Read Time: Less than 5 minutes
Actual Book Length: 358
First Published in: 2015
Below is the detailed yet quick Every Last Word book summary:
The book starts with a brief snapshot set six months ahead of the main narrative. This scene is crucial in illustrating the depth of Samantha’s mental struggle and its drastic influence on her life. Valentine’s Day finds Samantha and her popular friends, the Crazy Eights, at school, engaged in a spirit committee event involving the preparation of roses. Amidst this seemingly normal task, Samantha is gripped by a dark obsession to impulsively cut Olivia’s hair off.
As the story unfolds, we find Samantha in one of her last summer swimming sessions, a sport she cherishes. Swimming is more than just an athletic pursuit for Samantha; it’s her sanctuary, where she feels free from the constraints of her obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). As the summer swim season draws to an end, Samantha reluctantly prepares to let go of “Summer Sam” – a persona reflecting her relaxed, carefree side which is mostly apparent outside the school premises.
At school, her association with the Crazy Eights tends to aggravate her OCD symptoms. The impending start of school signals a shift from the relaxed “Summer Sam” to a version of herself where her compulsive tendencies are more pronounced. The paradox between these two sides of Samantha forms an important aspect of her journey.
On the opening day of school, Samantha is greeted by her locker, festively decorated by the Crazy Eights to celebrate her summer birthday. It’s then that she encounters Caroline, whose relaxed and makeup-free appearance starkly contrasts with the Crazy Eights. Caroline sparks Samantha’s curiosity with hints of a secret club that promises to be a game-changer. Despite her regular sessions with Sue, her therapist and one of the few aware of her mental struggles, Samantha keeps her budding friendship with Caroline under wraps. She’s eager for their meeting in the school theater on Thursday to unravel the secret club.
As the awaited Thursday dawns, Caroline guides Samantha into the depths of the theater’s basement, unveiling a hidden haven plastered with poetry of varying sizes. This secret sanctuary, known as Poet’s Corner, hosts a clandestine poetry club every Thursday. Initially, AJ, the informal head of the club, is reluctant about Samantha’s inclusion, but gradually warms up to her. Parallelly, Samantha’s bond with the Crazy Eights starts fraying.
The fracture becomes evident during Alexis’s birthday spa celebration, where Samantha, deemed the least valuable by group-leader Alexis, faces exclusion. The unpleasant experience at the spa overwhelms Samantha, leading her to leave early, teary-eyed. It’s Caroline who comes to her rescue, providing solace in their shared passion for poetry for the rest of the evening.
Upon discovering Poet’s Corner, Samantha kindles a deep love for writing. A poetic outpouring ensues after her first encounter with the club, stirring a longing to share her verses. Simultaneously, an amorous connection sparks between her and AJ, while her bond with Caroline flourishes. However, her friendship with the Crazy Eights turns increasingly bitter and strained.
Samantha experiences a transformative change. Her obsessive routines around the number three wane, and a newfound self-assuredness dawns. She even considers pausing her therapy sessions with Sue, yearning for a semblance of normalcy. But, when AJ reveals Caroline’s tragic death in 2007, Samantha’s world shatters. The crushing revelation that Caroline has been an imaginative construct sends Samantha into a psychological crisis, fearing that AJ might abandon her upon seeing her mental health struggles.
Following recovery under Sue’s careful guidance, Samantha learns to accept Caroline as a significant coping strategy invoked in stressful times. Despite the oddity, “Caroline” was crucial in guiding her towards better mental health. Samantha takes a massive leap forward as she ends her toxic ties with the Crazy Eights. By the novel’s end, she accepts her identity—embracing her struggle with OCD and more—and finds solace in her poetry, etched from the theatre seats overlooking Poet’s Corner.