Seeing this beautiful cover and reading the blurb and all amazing reviews I had such high expectations and was ready to have my heart completely broken by this book. The story and premise with the grieving girlfriend suddenly being able to call her dead boyfriend had such potential. But even though it was very well written, I never rooted enough for the characters for it to be the gripping, heartbreaking experience that I’d hoped for.
This story follows Julie who is grieving her boyfriend Sam who has just died in a car crash. She’s withdrawn from all her friends and family to try and handle her grief and her guilt for calling Sam to pick her up, and to figure out how to live a life without Sam. Regretting having thrown all his things away, she calls his phone, desperate to hear his voice on the voicemail, but to her surprise Sam picks up the phone and answers her.
The story is told from Julie’s perspective, but through flashbacks we get to see how she and Sam met and fell in love. These flashbacks were so sweet and I loved the small glimpses of Julie being happy and with Sam, in contrast to the present-day grief. Overall, this was an enjoyable read and a very well written and insightful exploration of grief, and there were some really great character developments and wonderful new friendships forming in the shadows of the loss. But this book had the potential to be so much more. The premises were so unique and the story set out to be so gripping and emotional that I was expecting a completely heart-breaking, ugly-crying experience, but for some reason I never felt as invested as I’d hoped for.
Even though the glimpses of Sam from the past were so sweet, he never became more than a memory to me, I never felt that I got to know him for real or feel the chemistry between him and Julie. And Julie, well, to be honest I never rooted for her. I can understand that we all grieve in different ways and that her way was to withdraw from everyone, but she still came across as too selfish for me to feel connected to her. The reason for her to not go to Sam’s funeral or any of the vigils or not even talk to Sam’s parents and little brother that she’d been so close to was never explained in a way that made any real sense. I also kept waiting for the explanation how she and Sam could talk on the phone, hoping for some big magical revelation or a twist of some sort, but this unique premise of the story about being able to call someone who’s dead was never fully explored or used to its full potential.
But I really enjoyed Julie’s character development and how she learned how to handle her grief in a healthy way, and the friendships that formed with the different persons missing Sam the most even though they hadn’t been friends before. Losing a loved one can lead to new love and friendships coming together in grief, and that new group of friends finding each other was such a lovely example of that. I also loved the epilogue and how it wrapped things up in a perfect way.
All in all, You’ve Reached Sam was a very well-written and insightful debut book exploring grief, friendship, and how to find a way to live on and form a new future without forgetting the love you’ve lost. So even though it wasn’t quite what I’d hoped for, I am definitely curious to read more of Dustin Thao’s books ahead.
Thank you NetGalley for the ARC and the opportunity to read this book! All opinions are my own and I am leaving my honest review voluntarily.
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