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Hello, lovelies! May is quickly winding down, and June will be here before we know it! I hope you all have enjoyed the series I’ve been doing for Mental Health Awareness Month. I am definitely looking forward to reading some of the books that have been recommended to me on bookstagram. Anyway, without further ado, here is another review, this time for a surprising (for me) favorite: I’ll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan.
Publication Date: May 17th 2011
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Where did I get this book?: my local library!
Summary: Emily Bell believes in destiny. To her, being forced to sing a solo in the church choir–despite her average voice–is fate: because it’s while she’s singing that she first sees Sam. At first sight, they are connected.
Sam Border wishes he could escape, but there’s nowhere for him to run. He and his little brother, Riddle, have spent their entire lives constantly uprooted by their unstable father. That is, until Sam sees Emily. That’s when everything changes.
As Sam and Riddle are welcomed into the Bells’ lives, they witness the warmth and protection of a family for the first time. But when tragedy strikes, they’re left fighting for survival in the desolate wilderness, and wondering if they’ll ever find a place where they can belong. Beautifully written and emotionally profound, I’ll Be There is a gripping story that explores the complexities of teenage passions, friendships, and loyalties.
(Trigger warning: violence, abusive parent, stalking, paranoia, neglect, etc.)
My Rating: ☆☆☆☆
When I first started I’ll Be There, I really wasn’t sure it was for me. I actually read a few pages and set it aside in favor of a different book before having to return it to the library. Though the premise caught my attention, it failed to deliver quick enough for my liking. THANKFULLY, I gave it another chance (or, rather, I’m not one to leave a book unfinished, so I sort of had to give it another chance), and after the first few chapters, things started to pick up. It was a surprising favorite.
One of the main characters, Riddle, is the main reason I picked up this book (Quick note: he is a sweetheart and must be protected at all costs. Okay, thanks.). As I read one of his POV chapters in the library, his behavior and traits seemed like autistic ones. I liked that, loved that. Unlike some books that brush off autism, where the characters are obviously neurodivergent but go unlabeled (*cough* Marcelo In The Real World *cough*), Sloan didn’t shy away from Riddle’s character – she put him in center stage. One of the other characters actually mentions autism/Asperger’s as a possible diagnosis for him!
If you guys know me, you’ll know I am IN. LOVE. with books that feature a solid autism rep (for a really incredible one that I highly recommend, definitely check out my mini review for The Boy Who Steals Houses by C.G. Drews). I feel like Riddle and all his quirks really made the book for me. He was so cute and sweet, and the scene where he’s baking with Mrs. Bell is just adorable. *cries happy tears*
Something that should be noted is that this book is full of, well, stuff. Action-packed in quite an overdone way, to be honest. The plot went like “and then, and then, AND THEN!” with little room to breathe and take time to reflect on what was going on.
The story is also mostly prose and not a lot of dialogue. Because of this, it was hard for me to feel like I was in the book, if that makes sense. I like to slip into a story, but Sloan’s writing style was more telling and less showing. Interesting nonetheless, but the book dragged in a few places.
I also had a hard time figuring out the setting of this story. Was it the 1970s? 80s? 2010s? It felt like the 70s, then someone would mention something completely modern and it threw me off track.
The multiple POV aspect was very interesting though. It’s the first book I’ve ever read partly narrated by a grizzly bear. Yes, a grizzly bear. I’m not lying when I say there are multiple POVs. While some could have been left out, all of the getting into different characters’ heads was kind of cool. It showed how no-one lives in a vacuum, that your actions affect the people around you. It was cool.
Overall, I’ll Be There was a great book, if a bit hard to get into. I liked the characters very much (the likeable ones, that is), and the weaving-in of all the POVs was fascinating and fun. I just learned there is also a sequel called Just Call My Name, so that’s on my tbr now!
To find more books I love that feature mental health reps, search the mental health category on my blog.
Have you read I’ll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan? What were your thoughts? Do you have any favorite books with mental health reps?