Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Pair It With: Every Last Word and The Ruby Oliver Series

I kept thinking about E. Lockhart's Ruby Oliver series as I read Every Last Word, Tamara Ireland Stone's new book that is out today. The comparison is definitely a compliment, as I love just about everything that E. Lockhart puts out. Both books feature mental health issues, toxic friends, and supportive therapists. Ruby Oliver is decidedly the more lighthearted and witty of the two, while Every Last Word is the more poetic and serious.   

Every Last Word also reminds me of Made You Up and Challenger Deep, two other books about mental health that came out in the last couple of months, and that we featured here.

Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone
Publisher/Year: Disney-Hyperion - June 2015
Genres: Contemporary YA 

Source: ARC through NetGalley

Samantha McAllister does a good job fitting in. She's one of the popular girls, gets decent grades, and is hoping to earn a athletic scholarship.

What no one at school knows is that Samantha has to work really hard to keep her Purely-Obsessional OCD a secret. Her toxic friends, who won't even call her Sam despite her requests, only make her condition worse, but she can't imagine leaving her group. Because if there's one thing worse than toxic friends, it's not having any friends at all.

After a rough run-in with her so-called friends, Samantha meets Caroline, who calls her Sam, doesn't judge, can empathize with her health issues, and lends an understanding ear. Caroline introduces Sam to Poet's Corner, a secret club that is devoted to verse and one another. Sam is particularly draw to AJ, the guitar-playing leader of the group.

Every Last Word has many beautiful moments. The issues of friendship and acceptance of self are applicable to anyone. I so appreciated Sam's wonderful therapist, Sue, and her supportive family. And I felt so relieved for Sam as she found a true friend. Caroline opens up Sam's world. She introduces her to Poet's Corner, a place that may just change her life. Once there, Sam makes more true friends, starts writing, and plucks up her courage. She also gets to know AJ.

Tamara Ireland Stone's novel is clearly well-researched and that matters. Sam's health issues are handled so, so well.  Even more important, this book delivers some powerful emotions. Some of the poetry really hit me hard. And then I found myself silently wiping away tears for the whole last third of the book. This book surprised me in more ways than one.

Every Last Word is out June 16th, 2015. 

                                                                               Ruby Oliver #1-4 by E. Lockhart
                                                                                 Publisher/Year: Delcorte Press - 2005-2010
                                                                                 Genres: Contemporary YA 

                                                                                 Source: My Local Library

Ruby Oliver's sophomore year isn't going so well. In less than a week Ruby has lost her boyfriend and her best friends. Suddenly rumors are flying, and Ruby finds herself the pariah of Tate Preparatory. That's when the panic attacks start.

In four installments, E. Lockhart takes us through Ruby's life post-incident. Ruby begins seeing a therapist, Doctor Z., who helps her manage her attacks and her life. It's not easy. Throughout the four installments Ruby continues to have a tough time with her friendships, her parents, her panic attacks and, most of all, boys, but there are definite improvements along the way.

My very favorite thing about the Ruby Oliver series is Ruby's voice and her use of language. It's so distinctly individual, and I love her lists, her rules, and her questioning of her rules. 
These stories are funny, often painfully so. Ruby also offers real insights into human nature while her self-awareness remains painfully lacking which is what makes her story so funny and so cringe-worthy all at once. At times her story is almost too true to life, reinforcing how glad I am not to be in high school anymore.

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