ARC Review: You’ve Reached Sam by Dustin Thao

  • Title: You’ve Reached Sam
  • Author: Dustin Thao
  • Publisher: Wednesday
  • Release Date: 11/9/21
  • Genre: Romance
  • Age Range: Young Adult
  • Content Warnings: grief, death, divorce/separated parents, racism, car crash
  • Rating: ★★★
  • Publisher’s Summary: 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.

Of course, we all wish that we were able to call our loved ones who have passed away on the phone. Julie is lucky enough to be able to do that when she loses her boyfriend, Sam. She holds a lot of guilt and grief surrounding his death, and it is clear she is in need of a way to move on and heal.

What I struggled with is that, at least, initially, Julie uses the fact that she can speak to Sam as an excuse not to move on or heal. She misses vigils for Sam and stops talking to her friends. She doesn’t show up when others need her. While I understand that grief can be (and is often) isolating, it was hard for me to reconcile Julie actively letting down her friends in those ways.

Sam does tell Julie that he’s worried about her not moving on, but he also is certainly part of the problem. He tells her that she can’t tell anyone about their conversations, and that if she does, their connection would be terminated. Of course, this messaging is going to cause Julie to pull away from the people around her.

I am glad that Julie’s relationship to her grief changes throughout the story. She realizes the importance of being there for her friends and for Sam’s family in their moments of need. That growth is so important to her grieving process, and I am happy she is able to work to repair those broken relationships. However, up to that point, it is hard to connect with a character who is not treating those around her well.

You’ve Reached Sam gives the reader snippets into Julie and Sam’s relationship before his death, which helps the reader invest in their relationship and shows the reader what Julie has lost. It is clear that their romantic relationship was based on a strong friendship, which is so important. It remains clear that their phone relationship doesn’t live up to their previous relationship.

You’ve Reached Sam didn’t have the emotional impact for me that I expected, but it is certainly a story that addresses grief with thought and care.

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