Review: Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone

41SS8CrR6yL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_So I read a lot of young adult books. Enough that there are times when I think that I’ve read every possible scenario involving teenage love-drama-angst-not fitting in-bullying-teasing-etc. And yes, the storylines can become stale and/or familiar from time to time. But books like this one are the reason I keep at it, the reason I keep reading almost anything I can get my hands on. Not all of them, however, reach the level of this one.

A teenager with OCD. That alone was enough to grab my attention. But that by itself is not enough to carry a story. This one has so much more.

On the outside, Samantha has it all. She’s part of the in-crowd, popular girls who have been friends since they were little. She has a good family, does well enough in school, and is a star swimmer. There’s more to Samantha than meets the eye, however. In addition to all these things, she has OCD. Her mind is consumed by obsessive thoughts-the number 3, questions she must find the answer to, people she can’t stop thinking about.

With the help of her family and excellent therapy, she does a good job of hiding it. Appearances can be deceiving, though. On the inside, she panics at the thought of losing the approval of her friends. Friends who, if she’s completely honest with herself, really aren’t that nice to begin with. But they provide her with a safety net, and that’s what she needs.

Then one day she meets Caroline, who is the complete opposite of what she’s used to. And more importantly, Caroline leads her to Poet’s Corner, a hidden little nook of people just like her. With Caroline’s encouragement, Samantha begins to branch out, to share parts of herself she’s never exposed to others.

And then there’s AJ. Because what would a young adult story be without a love interest? AJ is exactly what Samantha needs. He’s calming and comforting, and through his love she finds the courage to be herself. But the OCD is always there, lurking, threatening everything Samantha’s found. She can’t bring herself to tell AJ about her struggles because in his eyes she feels normal.

This book broke my heart. I cried inside thinking of everything that Samantha went through each and every day. And yes, I know that it’s fiction. But it’s truth for many young people. It’s full of sadness, and it’s full of hope. There’s friendship lost as well as friendship found. The inner struggle that Samantha faces is very real as are her feelings of loneliness. And at the end of the book is a story that you won’t soon forget.

~Thalia

Buy It Now: Every Last Word

Review: Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin

Ann_MMartinWhenever I’m talking books with someone, there are a select few that I always feel the need to push. Wonder, Out of My Mind, Counting by 7s, The Book Thief…these are some of the ones I label as “Oh my gosh, you have got to read this one!” This newest book from Ann M. Martin makes that elite list.

Meet Rose, a young girl who’s just a little bit different. On the high end of the autism scale, she’s also obsessed with many different things-prime numbers, following the rules, and above all else, homonyms. She even keeps an ongoing list of homonyms she discovers. Needless to say, these are things that don’t exactly endear her to her classmates. While the ostracizing never quite reaches the level found in some other books of this genre, it’s still enough to make her feel like an outcast. She’s also dealing with the disappearance of her mother as well as life with a dad who borders on being verbally abusive and neglectful. One of the few bright spots in Rose’s life is her Uncle Walden who tries to act as a buffer between Rose and her dad.

And then, of course, there’s Rain. She’s Rose’s constant companion, her confidant, the soft spot in an otherwise sharp-edged world. She provides comfort and much needed stability to Rose. No matter how loud-bright-harsh the outside world is, Rain is there to soothe her. But when Rain is lost during a storm and then miraculously found, Rose’s strict adherence to “the rules” force her to make a very tough decision.

Rose is a character who will break your heart while at the same time giving you hope. She’s honest and straight forward while at the same time seemingly immune to what others think of her. The story evokes such emotion from the reader. Sadness for Rose, concern for Rain, and finally admiration for Rose and the challenges and decisions she faces. Ann M. Martin has written a winner with this one. Likely most well-know for her Babysitter’s Club series from many years back, this one puts her into a whole new category for me. While fans of that series will definitely appreciate this story as well, it’s in an entirely different league, destined to go down as one of those books that most, if not all, young people are familiar with. Five plus stars for me!

~Thalia

Buy it Now: Rain Reign