You’ve Reached Sam by Dustin Thao

Having spent 15 weeks on the New York Times young adult bestseller list, You’ve Reached Sam starts out as a feel-good story about two teens, Sam and Julie, who are very much in love and have their future planned out together.  The fact that the story doesn’t end there is what sets this young adult novel apart from the average romance.

One day, on the way to pick up Julie, Sam dies in a tragic car accident.  Julie deals with her overwhelming grief by skipping Sam’s funeral, isolating herself from those who knew and loved Sam, and trying to eliminate any trace of things that remind her of him.  However, Julie so deeply misses Sam one day that she dials his number to hear his voice one last time.   To her amazement, Sam answers the phone.

Thus begins an over-the-phone connection that Sam makes clear is only temporary, but becomes a conduit through which things they had never said to one another are expressed.  Sam is able to gently help Julie through her grief and encourages her to reconnect with friends and loved ones who are mourning, too.  In short, from beyond the grave, he nudges her back to life.

Thao manages to portray this mystical connection in a way that is believable.  Whether you view the communication between Julie and Sam as literal or as a symbol of how one moves through the stages of grief, the story will tug at your heartstrings.  Because, through it, you will feel things that all humans can resonate with – the thrill of young love, facing loss, and dealing with grief.  If you are one to be moved to tears by a novel, have your tissues on hand.

Reviewed by Bryan Latimer, Zauel Library