by Holly Goldberg Sloan
Will you look at that cover?!?! I've been lusting and aching to read this book the moment I saw it, and especially after the rather positive reviews. It seemed like the absolute perfect contemp read for me.
Some apologies in advance for how long this review is.
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.
My Expectations: Super high. Plus, the blurbs from some of my favourite authors... oh I expected big things.
Delivery: Oh it was so good. So, so good, the characters, the writing! Eeep!
Put-down-ability: the 3rd person POV didn't put me off at all, 3/10
Beautiful. Magical. Thoughtful. Suspenseful. There are so many words that can be used to describe this book that I feel slightly inadequate to be sitting here just thinking of things I liked and disliked about it. There are days I wish I could sit in front of a computer and write, and if that ever happens, I would pray that the words would spill out like the words in this book.
Sloan’s prose is utterly beautiful, it’s the rhythm and the style that adds a unidentifiable quality to the book, the way sections and chapters end, the way the dialogue, or lack thereof, sets the tone, the way small actions are brought to life. The third person POV allowed the story to be told from perspectives of characters major and minor, and with that the richness and complexities of the plot shone. I don’t even know what it is about it because it’s not too descriptive, it’s not too metaphorical, it’s just… there.
The plot itself is a blend of heartbreak and hope; I thought that the multiple sub-plots that swirled around the Border brother’s allowed characters to weave in and out of each other’s lives filling up the emotion-quota with love. The way the Border boys changed through the story made them incredibly distinctive and while their bond isn’t exactly original, Sloan managed to make it unique.
I felt the flaw in this book was in the secondary characters, and it does break my own heart to find flaws in this type of book that seems to have been written for me. Emily. Oh Emily, I liked you so much yet when you turned Bella-Swan-comatose you made me hate you and hate you and hate you because you’re so much better than that. Debbie Sweetcake Bell, I wish I could find an imperfection in you, and in that sense, it made you flawed. Clarence, I believe you were entirely unstable the whole time, but should I blame you?
But then you have the two boys, Sam and Riddle, you have the boys who grew up without a mother and without the paternal love that a child should never be deprived of. You have the genius musician and the talented artist, and you have the caring, mysterious, yet hopeful boy and the quiet, animal-loving kid. The misfortune that befell these two is tragic and it just seemed to pile up as things fell apart, but then they fell together again. And I loved these boys so hard it’s not even funny, and during the second half when the scenes switched POVs, I was feverishly waiting to get back to reading about them. And Sam and Emily? Dude, I cannot even express the swoon in this, I’ll just say it’s alarmingly sweet and tasteful and full of magnetic chemistry.
The ending was idealistic, blending in a hefty dose of much-needed karma. I wanted it to be true, I wanted it so bad to feel right but it just… didn’t. But I won’t let it take away from gorgeous story that was told.
Rating in HP Terms: Exceeds Expectations
Recommended for: All YA contemp fans! It feels like something you guys would really appreciate :)
Acknowledgements: none! :( usual comment: not cool
8.6/10 – because I’ll Be There is amazing. I really loved so many parts of it, I adored the writing style, I loved the brothers and the intricate plot full of backstory and rich in characters was impressive. I was less impressed with some of the characters* but ultimately, this is a story about love and family and the relationships between people: families and strangers and the people who come into and out of your lives and how they change you and define you. It’s about little moments that can make or break you, and how people can be lost and people can be found. This book is exquisite and I can rave about it all day.
*the reason why my rating is slightly lower considering the gush-fest that is my review
author website (seriously check it out, she has playlists!)