I’ll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date: May 2011
Synopsis: Emily Bell believes in destiny. To her, being forced to sing a solo in the church choir–despite her average voice–is fate: because it’s while she’s singing that she first sees Sam. At first sight, they are connected. Sam Border wishes he could escape, but there’s nowhere for him to run. He and his little brother, Riddle, have spent their entire lives constantly uprooted by their unstable father. That is, until Sam sees Emily. That’s when everything changes. As Sam and Riddle are welcomed into the Bells’ lives, they witness the warmth and protection of a family for the first time. But when tragedy strikes, they’re left fighting for survival in the desolate wilderness, and wondering if they’ll ever find a place where they can belong.
Comments: I liked this book so it’s my “Recommended Book of April”. When I first started this book, I had a feeling it was going to be one of those literary family drama books. You know the ones… where they are praised by librarians and educators and wins literary awards and it’s just BORING… well boring for some teen readers. Side note: I have nothing against award winners… but I seem to run into this problem when I recommend books. Anyway, I just finished one of those “boring” books. Jandy Nelson’s I’ll Give You the Sun (I’m way behind in book reviews… like WAY behind… lazy bug got me… but you’ll see a book comment/review for Sun soon… ish…) and I greatly enjoyed it (still talking about Sun) and thus, it filled my quota for literary family, self – identifying, coming of age books for the time being. I’m an action-plot-filled-with-awesome-characters type of guy. Typically – hence I gravitate towards fantasy and science fiction. But this book did not follow the path it seemed to have paved in those first few chapters and I am thankful for it and thus I liked it a great deal.
Our two main characters in the book: Emily and Sam, are both likable characters. Of course, Sam is insanely hot… of the male model kind and he doesn’t know it. Before you roll your eyes… cause that’s what I did… by the end of the book I was willing to accept the fact that Sam was ridiculously gorgeous and didn’t know it. Because really, put yourself in his situation: where you’re in a not so good family place and you’re constantly traveling, where your life is constantly changing and your only attachment to reality and grounding is your younger brother who is practically mute, where your contact with others is minimal at most… you wouldn’t know you’re ridiculously good looking, nor would you care because you’ll put all your care into trying to cope. Sam is a nice guy. He is different from all the other guys… as Emily pointed out.
Emily is our female lead. She is your typical nice good girl raised in a nurturing kind family environment. So when she meets Sam she has these strange ideals about him. Yes, it is practically a love at first sight kind of book… but the thing that makes this works is the fact that Emily, whose perspective the romance seems to be mostly seen from, comes to the realization of the fantasies she has imposed in their relationship and come to terms with the reality of their relationships. Unlike in most other YA books, where the fantasy is fed and unaltered to the very bitter end.
This book is third person omniscient. You’ll get little details about situations and characters that only an all knowing being can know and it works for this book, creating a subtle and gentle tone to the book… which counterbalances the dark themes of the novel. Although it does get almost campy at times, when ever the character Bobby enter the pages due to his circumstances and actions.
This is a love story. The love of family. The love of friends. The love of brotherhood. The love of acceptance. And the the lack thereof in these circumstances. So romance is not the main theme, though it is there – which made the book much more tolerable for me. Put in the survival part a little past mid-way through and I found myself finishing the book in one sitting.
I greatly enjoyed this book and I hope people give it a chance.
(Covers are hyper-linked to their Goodreads’ page.)
Why the Recommendation: In both books, our romance partners rely on one another to sort out their not so good lives. They grow on one another and soon before they notice, things begin to change. From that change, hope begins to bloom and suddenly they realize they want to break away from their current broken worlds.
Why the Recommendation: The main character in this book also suffers at the hands of his father, much like Sam in I’ll Be There. Both book depicts the cruelty and the lack of hope victims of domestic violence feels and their yearning for something new and better but always finding themselves to force those feelings away.
Why the Recommendation: This is another complex family matters book. Another story about a young person neglected for a good part of her life. Rather than a male perspective we have Ruby, a young woman who didn’t have much – thrust into a new world, where she receives more privileges than she anticipates. Both books explores the hesitations of individuals who has had it bad and suddenly finding themselves receiving good things. Because everything just seems too good to be true.