Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Review: I'll Be There

(Beautiful new cover-My copy is brown paper)

Holly Goldberg Sloan
(May, 2011)
Goodreads Summary:

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.

My Thoughts:

I loved this book.  It was emotional and thrilling roller coaster.  Sam's family situation made me angry and I'm always amazing when remarkable children are born out of such chaos.  I've met my share of neglected children and I simply want to bring them home.  I did once as a teacher in Arkansas.

 It's too long of a tale to tell fully but Anton's mother wasn't home often and kids made fun of him for his body odor.  I had a rapport with him and his 5th grade teacher was a close friend of mine so I asked him one day if he would consider spending the weekend with my family.  He readily said yes and wanted to know if it could be the very next weekend.  I made arrangements and Friday after school took him across the street to the public housing apartment he lived in with several brothers and his mother. 

Nobody was home which gave me the opportunity to look around.  No shower curtain, no soap, no food in the cupboards, but the tv and a gas burner were both on.  In his room three cardboard boxes were on the floor for each brother's storage and three mattresses with no sheets just a few blankets were scattered on the floor.  It was shocking for my middle-class eyes.  I thought I'd seen poverty but not like that. 

My experience with Anton helped me understand other students' living situations, which has made me a more empathetic teacher.  I could relate to Debbie Bell's need to take care of the intricate Riddle (mostly) and Sam.  I would have done the same.  It amazed me the first time I took Anton into the grocery store (an experience we take for granted, even if we can't buy all we would like) and seeing his joy and confusion all mixed together.  He'd never been to an actual grocery store,  had only ever shopped at convenience stores. 

Debbie Bell experienced this same awe as she gets to know Sam and Riddle and how parts of life are a surprise to them; simple things like cooking in the kitchen.  Even though both boys really need help they are getting by with Sam's ability to understand and care for Riddle.   Mrs Bell, Emily's

Making a connection to a person can be the scariest thing that ever happens to you.
Sam knew that now.
He'd walked around coiled rattlesnakes.  He'd jumped off a train trestle to avoid an oncoming train.  He'd lain in bed shivering at night with infection and no penicillin.  He'd been pulled out to sea by the current when he couldn't swim.  He dodged the flying fist of his father.  Many, many times.
But this scared him more.
This scared him so much that he couldn't face her again.
He'd come home that night, and things had not gone well. Clarence was hearing voices and when he discovered Riddle by himself, the voices got louder.  Where the hell had Sam gone?  (70-ARC version)
The quote sounds confusing as the characters think back and forth, making the reader focus on the each particular character.  Once you get the hang of reading this stream-of-consciencness it makes the story go fast, just like real life.

Sloan's amazing job of  juxtaposing the "normal" Bell family against the craziness of Clarence Border is well done and she takes it a step further by adding Bobby,  another interesting character with his own bumbling moral code.  He has a major crush on Emily  and wants to "save" her from Sam.  Bobby's interwoven and often humorous tale is just another battle for Emily and Sam to face, even though Sam's family life would be enough for any young couple to handle. 

Maybe I connected to Sloan's story  because of my previous experiences but I truly enjoyed reading this book. It  has many surprising twists of which I plan to reveal none of here-suffice it to say it is a very unconventional tale of love, hope and family.     

ARC received from publisher, Little, Brown and Company,  but in no way influenced how I felt about the book.  A HUGE thank you!

I love searching out other posts about the book once I am finished writing my review.  After reading through this post at Flippin' Fabulous I had to smile as she and I share a few similar thoughts (hers is better, of course) and I'm choosing to leave mine as is.  This book does deserve to be read again!

Britta at I Like These Books.
Forever Young Adult. (love that she wants to adopt sweet Riddle)
and Ten Cent Notes.


Britta said...

Thanks for linking to my review! This is such a great book and I hope people take the time to read it.

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

This sounds like a great book. First I've heard of it!