Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I for I'll Be There, by Holly Goldberg Sloan (fiction) - connected by a song

In a song, music can speak louder than mere words,
In a friendship, hope can be renewed,
In a heartbeat, everything can be stolen from you.

When being unremarkable is ingrained and staying anonymous has been beaten into you, getting noticed is dangerous, worrying, possibly life-saving.

Sam loved reading books in his second-grade class, the last time the teen was in school. His little brother Riddle has never been to school, never seen a doctor for his wheezing breath and watering eyes. Their father hears voices, distrusts everything and everyone - even the sons he stole from their mother.

Since music is vital to this book, the author has put together a playlist for each major character (including the Bells' dog Felix) on her website, where you can also read chapter one of I'll Be There for free, and read the lyrics to the song that brings Sam and Emily together,of course.

Check out Sloan's debut novel at your local library or independent bookstore and enjoy its quiet interludes of friendships begun and rushing torrents of danger, with the unpredictable behavior of Sam and Riddle's dad as wild card.

Book info: I'll Be There / Holly Goldberg Sloan. Little Brown Books, 2011. [author's website] [publisher site] [video book recap]

My Recommendation: Her song was aimed straight for that guy in the back, the only person who didn’t know how badly Emily sang solos – and nothing would ever be the same for the two teens again.

For Emily, it was the last time that she’d let her music professor dad force her to do a solo. He just has to accept the fact that neither she nor little brother Jared had a musical bone in their bodies.

For Sam, it was just another church in just another town where his petty thief father Clarence had dragged him and his so-silent little brother Riddle over all these years. But music was the only beautiful thing in his life, and Sunday morning churches were a good place to find it.

Somehow, Emily and Sam find one another, find snippets of time to be together without alerting Sam’s unstable father. Riddle needs Sam to help him navigate the world, an unschooled child who speaks little and doodles constantly, filling phone book pages with detailed mechanical drawings. So eventually both boys meet Emily’s family – her dad amazed at Sam’s guitar talents, Riddle mesmerized by her mother and food that doesn’t come from fast food dumpsters.

Of course, the Bells have no idea that the boys’ dad is just staying in town until his small crimes attract police attention. Then, without warning, Clarence will listen to the voices in his head, bundle what he can into the old truck, grab the boys, and go somewhere, anywhere.

Emily’s classmate Bobby knows that she’s hiding something – must be, if she’s turning down dates with him – and uses private investigating skills learned from his mom to find out where Sam lives, the abandoned house they’re squatting in, the fake license plates on the truck. When Bobby snaps a cellphone photo of Sam’s dad, Clarence decides it’s time to skip town.

And the boys are gone from the Bells’ lives, just like that.

Emily falls into depression, Bobby pretends to help search for Sam to stay close to her, and the old truck rattles off further and further into the wilderness, driven by a crazy man who might finally decide that his sons are too much burden to keep carrying.

Can you find someone when they’re expert at being anonymous? Can the sheer force of love keep someone alive over the miles? Can the promise of a song defeat insanity’s desperation?

This well-crafted novel is lyric in description and rich in characters that readers will long remember as they hum the classic hit song whose title it shares. (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy courtesy of the publisher.


  1. Sounds like an interesting book. Thanks for the tip. Visiting from the A-Z challenge.


  2. Hi! I found you in the YA section for the IBBA nominations on Goodreads and thought I'd stop by and start following! :) It never hurts to make a few friends while trying to win votes. I hope you will consider stopping by my blog, and if you haven't voted for someone in the Adult Fiction category, voting for me! http://authorjess.blogspot.com/2012/04/grand-opening-giveaway.html

  3. Always interesting to find good YA books. Visiting also from A-Z!

    I'm leaving you my A-Z link as blogger
    always identifies me as my shared blog with other poets - my A-Z is this one: http://www.lizbrownleepoet.com

  4. This sounds like a good read: glad I found you through A-Z! I'm always looking for YA that rocks.

    1. Kathy, Jessica, Liz & Jen - Glad you stopped by & hope you'll visit often = a wide range of genres and styles in the YA books ahead.

      The A-to-Z has been quite the fun challenge, hasn't it?!

  5. How weird that this book has both a Clarence and an Emily, momma!

    1. Emily in the book is cool, but Clarence is wild, crazy, and dangerous...

  6. Always great to read about a book that has interesting characters and a story that's based in reality. Thanks for that.


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