Book Review// You’ve Reached Sam by Dustin Thao

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Author: Dustin Thao
Series: Standalone
Genre: Young Adult
Release Date: November 9, 2021
Book Length: 304
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Review: 2/5

My Review:

I knew this book would cause me pain and suffering, but I didn’t think it would be because I disliked it so much.

This is about 17-year old boyfriend and girlfriend Sam and Julie, and how Julie is affected by Sam’s death following a tragic car accident. Just when Julie thinks Sam is gone forever, she discovers that she can still communicate with him via phone calls. Even though he’s still with her now, it won’t be the case forever, and eventually, Julie has to learn to let go. 

The synopsis really had me intrigued, and not only that, but the cover is beautiful too. Unfortunately, the idea of this book was way better than its execution. 

This story is told through the eyes of Julie, and oh man was she the absolute worst character ever. While I don’t understand or agree with how she went about it (tossing out all of Sam’s things the same week he died, deleting all their texts, not showing up to his funeral, etc.) I had to remind myself that everyone grieves differently. It was really hard to do that though, because I can’t imagine someone who refuses to let go of the phone calls being okay with purging him from her life so quickly in all those other ways. This, before she even knew the phone calls were a thing she could do to continue their communication. It all seems very conflicting with the character that Thao created in Julie. What also really threw me off about Julie was that she would do nothing to better herself or any situation she was in, yet she complained as if she were the victim. For example, she kept mentioning that she was behind on all her assignments and barely did any work, yet she was surprised that she was doing poorly in her classes and didn’t get into the college of her choice. She also let down so many people – all her friends were stood up for anything they planned with her. Again, I understand the process of grief is different for everyone, but can you just stick to one promise you make to someone and stop being so predictable with always cancelling anyone who tries to support you? It’s a wonder she had any friends left by the end.

Aside from not feeling connected to Julie, I also didn’t feel the connection between her and Sam, or even with Sam for that matter. Everything the reader gathers about Sam is either from their phone conversations, or from random flashbacks she has of their time together. Most of the time, Sam was sweet, and it had me wondering how he fell for someone as selfish as Julie. There were other times though that Sam really had me annoyed, particularly during their phone calls. There was this one instance where he got really cold and short with her literally out of nowhere, and it felt like the conflict was put in the story out of force, not because it would be something these characters would have genuinely fought about. 

The magical element of Sam and Julie being about to communicate through the phone was cool, but there was never an explanation of why or how it happened. I guess not all magic needs an explanation, after all, it is magic. I don’t know though, I still wish there would have been some heart wrenching explanation for this. 

Despite all of that, the ending was heartbreaking and I couldn’t help but feel something about it. If this were executed in a different way, I may have felt that tiny spark I felt at the end throughout the entire thing, and maybe then I would have liked this better.

– Catherine

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