Posts tagged ‘sam’

October 24th, 2011

I’ll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan; Review

by Madeleine Rex

Title: I’ll Be There

Author: Holly Goldberg Sloan

Published: May 17th, 2011

Number of Pages: 400

Rating: 4/5


Raised by an unstable father who keeps the family constantly on the move, Sam Border hasn’t been in a classroom since the second grade. He’s always been the rock for his younger brother Riddle, who stopped speaking long ago and instead makes sense of the world through his strange and intricate drawings. It’s said that the two boys speak with one voice–and that voice is Sam’s.

Then, Sam meets Emily Bell, and everything changes. The two share an immediate and intense attraction, and soon Sam and Riddle find themselves welcomed into the Bell’s home. Faced with normalcy for the first time, they know it’s too good to last.

Told from multiple perspectives, Holly Goldberg Sloan’s debut novel offers readers fresh voices and a gripping story, with vivid glimpses into the lives of many unique characters. Beautifully written and emotionally profound, I’ll Be There is a story about connections both big and small, and deftly explores the many ways that our lives are woven together. [From Goodreads]


She could not really sing.

That was just a fact.

But it was also a fact that she was riveting. She was raw and exposed and not really hitting the notes right. But she was singing to him.

Why him?

He wasn’t imagining it.

The girl with the long brown hair had her small hands held tight at her sides and, maybe because of how bad she was, or because she was staring right at him and seemed to be singing right to him, he couldn’t look away.

She was saying she’d be there.

But no one was ever there. That’s the way it was. Who was she to tell him such a thing?

It was intimate and suddenly painful.

Not just for her.

But now for him.

Very painful.


I’ll Be There is definitely an unconventional YA novel. It takes many risks with its oddly sparse dialogue and very character-driven plot, but – at least in my case – they pay off.

Sam is such an endearing character. I’m inclined to call him the main character, but I feel like I might be cheating a few others out of the title. Either way, he’s a focal point, and he deserves to be. He’s very complex in a subtle, quiet sort of way, and I think that’s just, well, adorable. Not to mention the fact that I love it when characters are passionate about something, particularly when their life is generally rather drab. That something gives them the pleasure, lightness, and hope that the rest of their life fails to provide. In Sam’s case, the something is music. His appreciation for it is catching.

That passion takes on a slightly different role when Sam meets Emily. The way they meet and the initial connection they make is so stinkin’ cute! Seriously – anyone would probably fall for it. But though I thought Emily was a splendid girl and all, I didn’t adore her quite like Sam did. She’s sweet and good (not overwhelmingly so), and I think we’d be friends if we met, but in comparison to Sam and his brother, Riddle, her internal light was a little dimmer.

Please excuse the extensive character analyses. Like I said, this book is carried by its characters, so they’re naturally the focus of this review, too. Anyway…

Riddle! How intriguing is this little guy? Immediately, you’d tag him as different. He may even come off as having some sort of mental disability. However, it becomes clearer throughout the novel that he is bright and absolutely seeping with potential. He, like his brother, has a passion – sketching the intricate parts that make things work. Just things. He’s not interested in anything specifically. He grabs his handy dandy phone book and starts doodling on its pages. I would have loved to learn more about him, but alas, the book’s already pretty long!

Both Sam’s and Riddle’s interests are both natural passions/hobbies and coping mechanisms. They’ve been living a life deprived of love, compassion, and tolerance. They don’t have the basic essentials, like a comfortable home and education. Sam was taken out of school after second grade, and I’m not sure if Riddle ever went (I read this a while ago. Can you tell?). Their mother is gone, and their father is a schizophrenic with some anger issues. Needless to say, they have a dysfunctional family, and this is one of the major reasons they start to spend more and more time with Emily’s family.

As the story develops, tension sizzles between Emily’s parents and Sam, and then between Sam’s father and Emily’s family, and, finally, between Sam’s father and Sam and Riddle. I was surprised by how dramatic the climax was due to the fact that the events leading up to it were pretty mellow. I have to admit that I’ll Be There requires a little suspension of disbelief. The whole situation is a long-shot. All the more reason to enjoy it while you can, right?

Holly Goldberg Sloan’s choice of narration is quite interesting. She alternates between points of view, but that’s relatively common. It was the general lack of dialogue that surprised me. There’s usually a lot of dialogue in young adult novels. (Probably because some totally crazy people skip over everything else.) The characters, naturally, spoke to each other often, but the author chose to relate this to the reader in ways that didn’t require dialogue – without quotation marks and the he saids/she saids. Though this caught me off guard at the beginning, I swiftly grew accustomed to it and must admit that the book benefited from this style. The prose, structure, and style of the narration flattered the story and characters perfectly.

Ultimately, I’ll Be There is a super endearing and intriguingly odd book that wrenched my heart strings often enough to keep me rapidly flipping the pages. I recommend it to anyone looking for a different sort of reading experience that is cute, soft, adorable, and also strangely dark. Like I said before, some suspension of disbelief is required in order to enjoy it, but it’s definitely worth the effort.

May 14th, 2010

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater; Review

by Madeleine Rex

Title: Shiver

Author: Maggie Stiefvater

Published: August 1st, 2009

Number of Pages: 400

Rating: 3/5


I’d found heaven and grabbed it as tightly as I could, but it was unraveling, an insubstantial thread sliding between my fingers, too fine to hold.”


I know, I know. This is one of those books that I should have read months ago. I feel like it’s been out forever, though it was only last August that Shiver, the first book in The Wolves of Mercy Falls series, first swept the nation.

I ultimately enjoyed the book and feel incredibly impatient for the sequel, but I realized along the way that, to me, this book was Twilight reworked. Albeit, Twilight done better (perhaps I’m just sick of Twilight), but still the stories seemed remarkably similar, not to mention the main characters. Grace was independent because her parents were a bit neglectful in the father/mother ways, and learned to cook well because she makes dinner so often, etc. All the same, I liked the characters in Shiver more. Grace, so far, has proven to be quite less annoying than Bella, and I absolutely loved her mother. (Did anyone notice that Paul and Sam were also names of werewolves in the Twilight series? Just an observation.)

Grace, as I said, is a strikingly independent character. She has a small group of close friends, but her most loyal friend is the wolf in her back yard. The one with the gold eyes.

As a young girl, Grace found herself being nuzzled by a seemingly enormous pack of wolves. Bloody and bitten, she was in too much of a daze to struggle against the ravenous and rough hounds. The one with the gold eyes, though… he wasn’t threatening. He sniffed at her – and the rest is sort of a blur. One thing’s for certain however: The bond between Grace and her wolf is so strong that it’s virtually unbreakable.

And then Grace, under unlikely and frightening circumstances, finds herself face-to-face with her wolf, now a boy, with the same familiar and unmistakable eyes. Unfortunately, Sam has to struggle wholeheartedly to remain human, and the warmth of fall is fading to be replaced by a cold winter, which, for Sam, may never end – leaving him a wolf forever.

I was happy to find that Sam is an admirable character, for the most part. I loved his timidity and wolf-i-ness, and his love for words and books even more. The fact that Grace didn’t seem to relinquish her individuality for her love was also heartening. I think that far too often, the women (and occasionally the men) are portrayed as slaves to their love.

The plot moved forward splendidly, unfolding at a steady pace that kept me turning page upon page upon page. I read this book very quickly and enjoyed [almost] every moment. The ending was also quite original, and the end of the end done in an expert way that was extremely fun and artistic. I finished satiated yet starved for the next book (Linger, which comes out later this year).

Spoiler Alert. I was disappointed that Sam and Grace had sex. I read the scene that lead to that event (the book is clean, ultimately. They don’t show much.) in my class and felt like throwing up simply because I was mad, disappointed, and shocked simultaneously, which, by the way, is quite nauseating. She’s seventeen for goodness’ sake, and, yes, I am aware that teenagers have sex (although, for the record, not all of them do), but my greatest worry was that Grace didn’t seem to think about it at all, before or after. She never pondered over the decision – and let’s face it, it was a big one. I know that lots of people wouldn’t be fazed a bit by this plot development, but I could have done without it, and I would have a greater respect for the characters. End of Spoiler.

I liked Maggie’s tone and voice, which seeped through everything. Some of the minute details that she included made the book so much more than it could have been. I love running into something that’s simply special. There was a particular scene in a candy shop that was delectable (forgive me the pun – although, I’ll admit, it was kind of intended).

The alternating points of view were done very well. I was hardly ever confused as to whose POV I was reading from, and even at those rare times, my confusion was short-lived. Both characters had distinct and relatable voices that I could immediately connect with. Particularly Sam. I loved his chapters.

Overall, I can easily see why this book has become immensely popular, and I liked. There were scenes and comments that I could have done without, but the book an enjoyable page-turner that I would instantly recommend to a majority of YA readers. It’s Twilight done better, in my opinion, and (don’t shoot me), Twilight wasn’t all that bad.

It’s time for a confession. I feel that this review has led me to this moment purposefully.

Yes, I was a stinkin’ lovin’ Twilighter. I was incredibly obsessive and read sentences at a time between assignments in class. I read all night. They were some of the first books I read while walking down the hall (a habit of mine, now). I read them before the big Twilight boom. I read them before people even talked about Team Edward and Team Jacob. But I read them. And I loved them. I made my mom read them as well, and just about everyone I could convince. I realize that the books weren’t all that great in the long run, but you’ve got to admit: They were pretty darned awesome for a while there.

Now, that I’ve got that off my chest: Happy reading to all!

P.S. I’m sorry all my posts have been book reviews lately. I have no idea what to blog about. Any ideas?