You’ve Reached Sam by Dustin Thao || Book Review

You’ve Reached Sam has been slowly winning over the book community. Although it is slated to release only in November 2021, it is already considered a really good book in the community.

So when the book was available as “read now” on Netgalley for 48 hours, I jumped on the chance and nabbed it. I had to know whether it is as heartbreaking as everyone said.

about the book

you've reached sam book cover

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.

Trigger warnings: Grief, death of a loved one, sudden death, depression, bullying

my review

Reading You’ve Reached Sam was like being in a fever dream. I started it and I got sucked in. Nothing else in my life was in focus. It did not allow me to live my daily life until I finished reading it. And I wasn’t the same after finishing it.

the concept

We generally talk about the plot in book reviews. But for this book, I want to talk about the concept.

Julie, in a weak moment of grief, calls Sam’s phone number and he picks up. Immediately, we’re lulled into the conversation that Julie has with (dead? ghost?) Sam while being drenched in rain outdoors.

The book combines grief with magical realism to put across points that would look too harsh when told in plain words. While also totally stamping our hearts.

Using the concept of talking to Sam through her phone, Dustin Thao shows how it disconnects her from talking to other loved ones. The book portrays grief in its raw form, holding nothing back. It also shows how holding onto someone can be harmful.

Yes, it made me feel a LOT and I did cry at the end. Even while crying, I appreciated the way this message was shown instead of told like in other books that I’ve read.

I picked up this book wanting to cry and it delivered. The entire book is about grief but the feelings build up until the end where one paragraph broke me. It was done really well.

the writing

The book is written so well that the writing was almost non-existent. I did not notice the writing or the words themselves, I was just in the scene directly. It’s rare for a book to become a conduit to the story for me.

The writing in You’ve Reached Sam is very visual. The descriptions are so vivid, even when we are in dreams or memories. It really felt like I was experiencing everything with Julie.

Multiple times, I felt like the book is written keeping visual content in mind such as TV shows or movies. The plot and the imagery felt like that. It would make a great adaptation.

the characters

The book is completely character-driven. We go deep into Julie’s feelings, dreams, and fears. And we see her grow through the pain.

Sam didn’t feel real, and neither did his relationship with Julie. The character and the relationship were too perfect. When I mentioned this after finishing the book, Eleennae said that it is probably because Julie’s grief magnified it. And that makes a lot of sense.

Because we’re reading the book from Julie’s perspective after Sam has passed away, we see Sam and their relationship through rose-tinted glasses. It is hard to bring up bad points about someone after they’re dead. So that heavily contributed to Sam’s character, which was interesting and done very well.

The supporting characters held their own even though they were shown considerably lesser. Julie’s mother and friends were shown enough for us to connect to them as well. Especially Sam’s cousin Mika.

one tiny complaint

In the grand scheme of things, this is VERY small. It’s a tiny plot hole but it still annoyed me because it so clearly didn’t make sense.

MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD: A bunch of senior kids decide to start a club two months before graduation. That timeline doesn’t make sense?? And they wanted to make use of the snack budget that the school provides for clubs but they didn’t host any events and actually use the budget?? The plot didn’t serve any real purpose too. END OF SPOILERS.