Age Level: Young Adult
Release Date: November 2, 2021
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Trigger Warnings: Grief, loss of loved one, death, car accident
5 out of 5 stars
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.
Heartbroken, Julie skips his funeral, throws out his things, and tries everything to forget him and the tragic way he died. But a message Sam left behind in her yearbook forces back memories. Desperate to hear his voice one more time, Julie calls Sam’s cellphone just to listen to his voicemail.
And Sam picks up the phone.
In a miraculous turn of events, Julie’s been given a second chance at goodbye. The connection is temporary. But hearing Sam’s voice makes her fall for him all over again, and with each call it becomes harder to let him go. However, keeping her otherworldly calls with Sam a secret isn’t easy, especially when Julie witnesses the suffering Sam’s family is going through. Unable to stand by the sidelines and watch their shared loved ones in pain, Julie is torn between spilling the truth about her calls with Sam and risking their connection and losing him forever.
I have NEVER cried this much from reading a book. You’ve Reached Sam is a beautifully written, heartbreaking, gut-wrenching, and realistic book about the death of Julie’s boyfriend, Sam and her journey towards healing and acceptance.
I was very happy to be able to read an ARC of it because I was absolutely intrigued after reading the synopsis. I went into the book not knowing what to expect. Very quickly, I found myself completely immersed into this story – it didn’t feel like I was reading anymore. It was like watching a movie or even living inside of the story. Every time I picked up the book, I was whisked back into Julie’s world, Julie’s emotions, Julie’s heartbreak.
Dealing with grief.
Julie starts off as a really bad friend. She goes through cycles of avoiding her friends, feeling guilt for Sam’s death, and detachment from the world and relationships around her. Although some may find this part repetitive, I did not. It was a realistic look into the life of a grieving person trying to make sense of the world and how to move on in life without the person they used to spend the most time with and the person they made plans with to spend the rest of their life with. It was especially heartbreaking for me as I imagined being in Julie’s shoes with my boyfriend.
Character-driven story & magic realism.
This was a very character-driven story. There is not a whole lot going on plot-wise but so much goes on in terms of Julie and her emotions. It was like following along her grief journey and even living it in her shoes to some extent. The fact that she could talk to her dead boyfriend was obviously magic realism. There are no explanations, and some of the attempted explanations don’t fully make sense but for me, that was completely okay. We don’t know where Sam was, why he could talk to Julie, or how he knew he had to go soon but it was okay – it felt like we weren’t supposed to understand those things since they are literally out of this life.
Sam & Julie.
Throughout the book, there were some flashbacks of when Sam and Julie were together and just seeing what their dynamic was like which also allowed me to feel the loss of Sam even more. They both seemed to really get along well and love each other. While there are no perfect relationships in life, Julie’s grieving mind goes to all the positive moments between her and Sam. It is evident early on that Julie didn’t get along well with Sam’s friends because they felt that she took him away from them. Sam loved Julie so much that he sacrificed time with friends for time with Julie. Although this is not a sign of a super healthy relationship, we need to keep in mind that Julie and Sam are high school students.
Their behaviours were indicative of deep, young love. They hung out all the time, talked about their futures together, Sam’s mom even regularly packed lunch for Julie. I really felt Julie’s loss throughout the book and even more so when she had to say goodbye to Sam for the last time. That part wrecked me up so badly. There was this one line that really did it for me and released the floodgates. I’m not going to mention it here because I don’t want to spoil too much but I would love to talk about it if you ever read this book and want to reach out.
Overall, it was good to see Julie slowly reconnect with family, friends, and find a renewed purpose. Sam helped with that but she also slowly began to recover as her phone calls with Sam became more and more sparse due to their static connection. She gained more confidence and made new friends along the way.
The ending was oh so bittersweet. Yes, it felt kind of sudden. Yes, I wanted more. Yes, I know many readers would have enjoyed another ending. But I loved the way Dustin Thao ended this book. Just like in reality, grief takes a long time to recover from – it’s a slow process. If you’ve ever lost someone that meant a lot to you, you’ll know that you never really ever forget them. Just like grief and moving on in real life, one day you realize you just have to move on. It isn’t always something that comes naturally; it is something that you must decide to do. This was all illustrated so well in this book.
*A big thanks to Netgalley and Wednesday Books for providing me with this ARC in exchange for an honest and fair review.
Although after finishing the book, I felt such deep sorrow and felt I needed some type to really mourn Sam, mourn the situation, this book also showed me the importance of friends, family, and hope. Hope that you can carry on and that no matter how faint it seems, it is there.
I just can’t stop thinking about this book, this story, these characters. They relate so much to me because one of my friends from high school passed away suddenly roughly one year ago from a car accident. She left her family and her long-term boyfriend behind and I can only imagine what agony they have and are still going through.
I don’t know why days after reading this book, I am still wrecked by it. Every so often, a book comes along that you just really connect well with and this was that for me. I wish this book was out already so I can talk about it with other people and see what their thoughts are. Please let me know if this book is on your TBR so we can talk about it when you’ve read it!