In the acclaimed Every Last Word, a teenage girl finds herself struggling with an OCD diagnosis. Here are 20 amazing similar YA picks for your TBR list! Please note that this article may contain subjects that could be uncomfortable to some readers.
The young adult genre has become one of the most popular in recent years, with everything from The Hunger Games to The Maze Runner starting out as young adult books . While many YA novels are action-packed and part of a longer series, the genre also shines in intimate stories about young people navigating their struggles. In Tamara Ireland Stone’s Every Last Word, Samantha McCallister is a part of her high school’s popular clique, but none of them know that she is secretly battling OCD.
But when Sam meets Caroline, who knows her deepest secrets and makes her laugh, she begins to see a way to actually enjoy high school. Caroline brings her to the poetry corner, which is full of misfits and those she and her friends have ignored for years. As Sam begins to feel more “normal,” more and more about her former life and mental health are called into question.
Praised for its honest portrayals of mental health and its use of poetry throughout the story, Every Last Word has no shortage of fans. For those looking to read something similar, try one of the 20 books below.
Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman
Like Sam in Every Last Word, Starfish’s main character Kiko struggles with her mental health. For Kiko, social anxiety has taken over much of her life, making her a bit of a loner. Besides this diagnosis, she is also grappling with her half-Japanese identity and a narcissistic mother who she can’t count on. The only thing keeping her going is the goal of starting at Prism, her dream art school.
When Kiko doesn’t get into Prism, she takes off with an old friend to tour art schools on the west coast. The story then follows her story of finding the bravery within her and learning to take life into her own hands.
It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini
Under the weight of his own high expectations, teenage Craig checks himself into a psychiatric ward after he nearly takes his own life. When there, Craig meets a wide range of teenagers struggling with their own mental health. One of the classics of the genre, It’s Kind of a Funny Story follows Craig as he learns to confront his own problems and accept help from the people he loves.
Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow
Another story of a teenage girl battling her own demons, Girl in Pieces tells the story of Charlotte, who has lived a far darker life than most 17-year-olds. Her best friend died in a tragic accident, leading Charlotte to fend for herself on the streets. When she wakes up in the hospital after attempting to die by suicide, Charlotte has no home and no support system to turn to, and turns to self-harm. Girl in Pieces is the raw, heartbreaking, and hopeful tale of how Charlotte finds her way back to joy in life.
The Wicker King by K. Ancrum
For those who enjoy fantasy elements, The Wicker King is the perfect marriage of an escapist world and the reality of Every Last Word. August and Jack are best friends, but also opposites – August is a pyromaniac and a misfit, while Jack is a popular rugby player. But what only August knows is that Jack has hallucinations about a fantasy world, ruled by a Wicker King, and believes he has a prophecy to fulfill. As August tries to help Jack navigate this delusion, even he begins to find it difficult to convince himself it’s not real.
Am I Normal Yet? By Holly Bourne
Like Sam in Every Last Word, Evie has never felt normal. She hopes that a new college, with students who don’t know about her previous breakdown, and weaning off her meds will turn everything around for her. But without anyone to tell about her struggles, Evie begins spiraling again – but also develops feelings for someone new. In Am I Normal Yet?, readers will have to grapple with whether love making you crazy is a good thing or a bad one.
Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella
Indoors, Audrey must wear special sunglasses to protect her eyes, and forget about going outside. It feels like she will never live a normal life, until she meets her brother’s friend, Linus. While Linus makes everything feel more possible, Audrey quickly realizes she can’t rely on him to get her through life – she has to take those steps herself. Finding Audrey is a more light-hearted novel than Every Last Word, but touches on the same themes of mental health and love in the teenage years.
Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall
At the beginning of Under Rose-Tainted Skies, main character Nora does not leave her house and interacts with the world only through social media. But when Luke shows up at her door, he shows Nora she is more than her mental illnesses and a relationship develops. Nora loves Luke, but doesn’t know if he deserves someone who is so scared of the world, and she must decide if she can learn to be brave or will give him up forever. As she grapples with her identity and her fears, Nora will remind readers of Sam from Every Last Word.
My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga
Though this book begins with the dark teen, Aysel, obsessed with planning her own death, My Heart and Other Black Holes is an optimistic take on teen mental health. Aysel finds a website designed to meet suicide partners, and while Roman is her complete opposite, he seems the perfect fit. But as they begin to form a bond, Aysel finds more reasons to live than she’s ever had before – and now she must convince Roman of the same.
Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia
This novel follows Eliza, who is shy and odd in real life, but has a rich online life as the creator of a popular webcomic. When she meets a new student, Wallace, who is a prolific fanfiction writer for her comic, she begins to appreciate her real life more and more. But when her identity is leaked, her friendship with Wallace is called into question and she begins to question her own sanity. Eliza and Her Monsters explores mental health, creativity, and friendship in much the same way as Stone’s book.
A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard
Steffi feels invisible at her school, in part because she is selectively mute and rarely speaks. When a deaf student named Rhys joins her school, she is asked to be his tour guide since she knows sign language. The two form a strong bond and come to understand that communication comes in many forms, and find ways to overcome their own battles. A Quiet Kind of Thunder is a great option for those who love Every Last Word for its heavy themes and optimism both.
Made You Up by Francesca Zappia
Alex knows she is a high school senior, but she is generally unable to tell the difference between her real life and her delusions. Despite her battle with schizophrenia, Alex is determined to get into college, and her plan is going well until she runs into Miles. Suddenly she is living like a normal teenager, going to parties, falling in love, and otherwise enjoying herself. But in Made You Up, not everything is as it seems, and Alex may still be in for a surprise when she evaluates her reality.
You’d Be Home Now by Kathleen Glasgow
In You’d Be Home Now, readers meet Emory – a product of old family money, the “good” daughter, and all around well-liked. But when Emory is involved in a car accident that kills another girl, her friend is sent to rehab, and she must question who she is. As she begins to understand the secrets people in her town have, she also realizes she may be more than the town ever realized as well.
Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven
The two main characters of Holding Up the Universe have their own struggles: Libby was once known as “America’s Fattest Teen” and now lives with the death of her mother, while Jack has a condition known as face blindness. When the two meet and must perform community service together, they begin to change the way they see each other and themselves. Like Every Last Word, readers will be enthralled by these characters’ struggles and triumphs.
All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
In All the Bright Places, Theodore Finch struggles with mental illness and suicidal thoughts, though he is always stopped by a small good act. Violet is the opposite, but in the wake of her sister’s death, is faced with overwhelming grief. When the two meet and pair up on a project, they each learn from the other’s way of life. But as Violet is brought out of her grief and into life, Finch retreats more. This heartbreaking love story has also been made into a film.
The Words We Keep by Erin Stewart
While Every Last Word follows a protagonist with mental illness, The Words We Keep focuses on Lily, whose sister is struggling with self-harm and recently completed a treatment program. Lily meets a new student who was in the same program as her sister, forcing her to process her own trauma and reveal her secrets. The book explores poetry in depth, making it an even better fit for fans of Every Last Word and telling a relatable story about Lily finding her own voice.
The Way I Used to Be by Amber Smith
Following a student in the aftermath of a sexual assault, The Way I Used to Be is a wrenching story about a young woman finding strength after the unimaginable. The novel follows Eden through all four years of high school, covering everything from universal adolescent experiences to the brutal assault she faces. As Eden navigates life after trauma, readers watch her embrace her own power and strength.
How It Feels to Float by Helena Fox
Biz, the main character in How It Feels to Float, has what seems like a stable and happy life – good friends, a burgeoning crush, and a father she loves deeply. But what everyone doesn’t know is that her dad died when she was six. When an incident causes her dad’s presence to disappear, she must decide whether she carries on and processes her grief, or finds him again.
Words on Bathroom Walls by Julia Walton
Like Sam in Every Last Word, Adam is a teen trying to navigate high school while hiding ay mental illness – in his case, paranoid schizophrenia. Readers are introduced to the people who populate his delusions, and Adam begins to undergo an experimental treatment to cast them out. When he meets the girl of his dreams, Adam grapples with how he will tell her about his illness and whether his secrets have been helpful all along. Words on Bathroom Walls has also been made into a movie due to its popularity.
The Weight of Zero by Karen Fortunati
Zero is what Catherine calls the depression she experiences as a result of her bipolar disorder, and is something she must fight. The last time Zero appeared, she almost died by suicide – and she knows she will attempt again. But in The Weight of Zero, her depression is staved off as Cath begins to reconsider her own diagnosis and her life.
Paperweight by Meg Haston
Rather than the halls of a high school, Paperweight finds Stevie trapped in an eating disorder treatment center. Her life is regimented and controlled by therapists, and Stevie is stuck there for sixty days. But twenty-seven days into her treatment is the anniversary of her brother’s death which Stevie caused, and she plans to die by suicide on the same day. Though this book takes place in isolation, it is full of relativistic family dynamics and important stories about perseverance in the face of grief.