Friday, December 23, 2011
REVIEW: I'll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan
Audience: Young Adult/Teen
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Summary: Seventeen year-old Sam and his twelve-year-old brother Riddle have never had a normal life. A decade ago, they were kidnapped by their mentally unstable father, a criminal with a pathological fear of government and technology. Since then, the trio has traveled across the country, living in ramshackle places and avoiding the authorities at all costs. At a very young age, Sam learned that it would be up to him to ensure that he and his brother are fed and safe.
Riddle has never been to school, rarely speaks, and suffers from untreated asthma. He lugs around an old phone book filled with the impossibly detailed mechanical drawings he spends his days creating. Sam's escape is music; every Sunday, he visits a different church so that he can absorb the sounds of organs and pianos, clapping and singing. He sits in the back and remains anonymous. Then he meets Emily, who finally sees him and, eventually, introduces Sam and Riddle to her family. For the first time, the two boys feel connected to the real world, but what will happen when their father discovers their secret?
Intertwining a gripping survival story with a sweet tale of first love, I'll Be There is one of the best, most heartfelt books I've read in ages. It's one of those stories that completely mesmerizes you and still lingers in your mind weeks later. And puts a smile on your face. There is a magic to Sloan's prose: it is thoughtful and yet carries an immediacy that makes each page a joy to read. There is nothing flashy in her writing; it is vivid and precise, allowing the extraordinary characters and their predicaments to move the story along. Am I sounding a bit fan-girl crazy and over-the-top in my praise? I apologize. But. I love this book.
It's magical in a completely different way. It is all about the connections that people make, the brief intersections that can change your life. It is about how all the small, insignificant things can add up to larger ones. It is about family and belonging. Told from multiple points of view, covering everyone from Sam and Riddle, to Emily and her mother, to the boys' paranoid father Clarence, I'll Be There creates a world that is both intimate and infinite. The narration transitions seamlessly, weaving a rich and layered tale.This is a book that made me laugh, cry, gasp, and sigh with pleasure at the end, pausing for a moment to savor the extraordinary journey I had just completed.