You’ve Reached Sam by Dustin Thao

How do you move forward when everything you love in on the line?

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.

TITLE: You've Reached Sam
AUTHOR: Dustin Thao
PUBLISHER: Wednesday Books
YEAR: 2021
LENGTH: 304 pages
AGE: Young Adult
GENRE: Contemporary

*I received a free review copy in exchange for an honest review of this book. 

Queer Rep Summary: Gay/Achillean Secondary Character(s).

This is about a teenage girl dealing with guilt, grief, and loss. She's struggling with how her ways of dealing with her grief keep not fitting in with her friends and classmates who are grieving the same person, but not all quite the same loss. 

I kept thinking it was going to, at some point, explain how they were able to talk on the phone. The question was raised repeatedly, but Sam doesn't know and Julie never learns how or why it worked. I wish it hadn't felt like maybe the answer would appear, and I hope that anyone planning to read it can have a better experience from knowing not to wait for that reveal which never comes. Setting aside my longing for a literal answer, the way the connection manifested felt like it paralleled (and perhaps reinforced) the shape of Julie’s grief. That resonance was important and worked well in the story. It's very focused on her and her focus on Sam for much of the book, gradually showing more of her other connections and relationships as she's able to start thinking about people other than him and about things other than her loss. The change comes slowly enough to feel real and makes for a thoughtfully done and very poignant portrayal of grief.

CW for ableist language (brief), racism, grief (graphic), toxic relationship (backstory), sexual harassment (brief), violence, alcohol, death.

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A teenage boy in a jean jacket in blue lighting on the left, a teenage girl in a pink jacket on the right. The boy is under dark blue lighting and the girl is under a pink sky and cherry tree. Their hands clasp across the dividing line as they hold their phones in their free hands.


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