Friday, January 09, 2015

Tender, Touching I'll Be There Should Not Be Missed

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Thanks to his erratic, nomadic father, 17-year-old Sam Border wouldn't recognize a stable family life if it alighted on the end of his nose.  He does his best to protect his odd little brother from harm, but Sam knows Rudolph ("Riddle") deserves better than their itinerant existence.  With their father always on the run from the law, the boys have never stayed in one place long enough to put down roots.  Sam longs for a normal life, one that includes school, friends, and safety for both himself and Riddle.  Especially Riddle, who's always silent, always sickly, always starving.    

When the boys manage to break away from their father, they're in even more danger than usual.  They can't attract any unwanted attention.  That plan goes awry as soon as Sam meets the The Bell Family in a small Oregon town.  He's attracted to 17-year-old Emily, not just because she's pretty, but also because she's kind.  Her close-knit family exudes the kind of warmth and love Sam and Riddle have never known.  Sam can't explain to her what the boys' life has been like—she wouldn't understand.  At all.  He keeps his secrets close to his own heart, even as he gives it, piece by broken piece, to Emily.

Just when it looks like Happily Ever After has come along to save the boys, their father, Clarence Border, returns with a vengeance.  No one is exempt from his wrath, especially not Sam and Riddle, whose betrayal Clarence will never forgive.  How will they survive—how does anyone survive—when hope has been so cruelly snatched away?

I'll Be There, Holly Goldberg Sloan's debut novel, is an unforgettable tale that stretches across genre borders.  It's a family drama, a romance, and a survival story all rolled up into one well-rounded story.  The characters come alive, the plot speeds along at a breathless clip, the prose sings with lyrical, luminous beauty—seriously, what's not to like here?  Compelling and unique, I'll Be There is a tender, touching novel that quite simply should not be missed.  In case you can't tell, I loved it.  

(Readalikes:  Just Call My Name by Holly Goldberg Sloan; also reminds me a bit of The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language (no F-bombs), violence, and sexual innuendo

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

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