I'll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
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.
This one took me completely off-guard. I just put it down and I can't stop smiling. The basis of the story is Sam and Riddle are two boys ages 17 and 12 whose father is paranoid schizophrenic. Being anti-establishment, Clarence Border, their father, pulled the boys out of school and taught them to be invisible and afraid. Their reality consisted of living in a truck, illegally in some kind of shelter or outside. Food was obtained by dumpster diving after a restaurant had opened but the sun had gone down. In some regards, the story reminded me of Room by Emma Donahue in that the life experiences did not line up with the rest of society's reality. Holly Sloan exceptionally makes the contrasts and times each event with artistic flair.
So Sam and Riddle are surviving, as they have done when Sam stumbles across Emily. This is not your usual teen-age angst/soulmate love story. It's a story about believing in someone no matter what and always being there to support them. This theme extends to many of the characters of the book in a wonderful and quirky manner.
Setting: Pacific Northwest. At least that's where it starts. When trouble begins and Clarence inevitably hears voices, he starts to drive to the mostly uninhabited areas of southern Utah which happens to be an area that I have been having a love affair with for the past 26 years. Sloan's description of the outdoors and survival completely fascinated me and provided accurate description of Utah terrain.
Every character played a role and every role contributed to the story. Some were starring roles while others were placed simply for irony.
Really loved it.
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