If I Stay meets Your Name in this heartfelt novel about love, loss, and what it means to say goodbye.
Seventeen-year-old Julie has her future all planned out—move out of her small town with her boyfriend, Sam, attend college in the city, spend a summer in Japan. But then Sam dies. And everything changes. Desperate to hear his voice one more time, Julie calls Sam’s cell phone to listen to his voicemail. And Sam picks up the phone.
What would you do if you had a second chance at goodbye?
Filled with a diverse cast of characters, the heartache of first love and loss, and the kind of friends that can get you through anything, plus a touch of magic, You’ve Reached Sam will make an instant connection with anyone looking for a big emotional romance of a read.
Title : You’ve Reached Sam
Author : Dustin Thao
Format : eARC
Page Count : 304
Genre : YA romance
Publisher : Wednesday Books
Release Date : November 2, 2021
Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ .5
Hollis’ 1.5 star review
I am totally shocked that a book I expected to love, or at least like, barely rates the latter. Once again, the concept is better than the execution.
It’s really hard to be invested in a tragedy, and in grief, when the main character is just.. unlikeable. Not because she’s meant to be. But she just fails to be charming, sympathetic, consistent, or.. well.. likeable. I couldn’t understand why this poor dead boy had loved her for so long or why people were so inclined to be so nice for her. I know, it sounds harsh, but I’m not being mean for fun. I’m truly baffled. I kid you not, there’s a line in the book that says ‘the empathy from being a writer’ is what makes her connect to another person’s pain. Pain she had been happy to ignore twice before; not to mention.. you don’t need to be a writer to feel for other people? And she routinely would forget to do this all the time in light of her own feelings? So.. make it make sense?
Listen, everyone’s grief journey is valid. I’m not saying she isn’t allowed to throw away her boyfriend’s things, delete any and all texts, voicemails, and photos, and literally purge his existence from her life.. all of which she does in the opening chapters. But she would also act surprised every time someone else was sad, or mentioned him, or was processing their own grief, and in between those bizarre realizations, she could be unfeeling, rude, oblivious, and just self-absorbed, all while being sad and processing her own grief. Eye twitch.
Despite this enduring connection to Sam after his death — I mean this literally, he picks up the phone when she calls him, after he’s died — I never once understood the connection (I said it twice in one sentence on purpose because it was used something like sixty times in this book and I swear I’ll see the word “connection” on the back of my eyelids when I sleep tonight). We had numerous flashbacks to their early days, some bits in the middle, and honestly they were both pretty much bland potatoes. No character, really, had much of a personality which I mean sometimes does happen with the window dressing second characters but I didn’t quite expect it from the romantic force driving the book, too.
Also, can we talk about the fact that this special connection.. wasn’t so special after all? Like, I don’t want to say more because spoilers but that.. I mean, why? How? Why? So many little things just don’t line up or seem to make sense, really.
We’ll just call this what it was : a flop. Between the uninspiring writing combined with the lack of emotional resonance, this is a story that has a mishmash of the most basic YA tropes, though not even done well, with the unique hook of having a magical phone that connects to a lost loved one to reel you in. Nothing more. Would not recommend.
** I received an ARC from NetGalley and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **