Vulpes Libris

A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.

I’ll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan

There’s something quite wonderful about happening across a surprising book.  Nowadays I hear a lot about titles before I ever see them.  Hype is begun well before the book appears on my desk.  Whether it’s Twitterings or mailshots or discussions… I’ve usually seen chat about a book a few times before I get to read it.  Not so with I’ll Be There.  A big hit in the US, this has just been released in the UK and I’m on a mission to spread the word.

Sam and his little brother Riddle live with their mentally unstable father who is violent and unpredictable and downright bloody mean. Sam hasn’t been to school for years and he spends his time taking care of his brother, foraging in dustbins for food and just waiting for his dad to have another meltdown and move them to a new town. Riddle barely talks, he has an untreated asthma problem and he spends his time making intricate drawings of objects. Sam loses himself in music.

Emily can’t sing but her dad insists she sings in church on Sunday.  Emily absolutely does not want to sing.  She feels horrible, exposed and terrified. Sam comes in and sits at the back and hears her tuneless rendition of “I’ll Be There”.  Emily can’t cope, she flees the church and Sam follows.  He holds her hair back as she vomits up her breakfast.  And there, the connection between the pair is made.

This story, told from numerous viewpoints is very much a tale of opposites attract.  Emily has one of the most wonderful families I have ever come across in fiction… Sam has probably the worst I’ve ever experienced. Sam is the polar opposite of every boy Emily has known. She is the first girl Sam has ever been drawn to. 

But this is not really a love story at all, although the attraction between Sam and Emily forms its core.  This is actually a story of survival.  When Sam’s dad figures out that he is becoming too close to someone the voices in his head tell him to up sticks and leave town.  And he puts all of their lives in danger.

I absolutely loved this book.  I’m really having difficulty pinning down where it lies in terms of romance or adventure or… well, I don’t actually know what it is.  The multiple narrative could be off-putting and distancing since pretty much everyone has a say in the story. But since the novel is about serendipity and how our lives influence each other then it’s really necessary to show how all these characters connect.

There is a lot of licence taken with coincidence and somewhat corny situations and there’s parts you think couldn’t possibly happen.  BUT, don’t think about them.  Because really the characters are what makes this story unputdownable, and they are so fully formed that you can’t do anything but live this tale alongside them. And you are SO rooting for Sam and Riddle, that you’re practically screaming with rage at the injustice…. well, I was anyway.

Oh… and there’s this…

… if ANY BLOKE wants to make me one of these…I shall drop everything and run anywhere with him!

This is quite simply a perfect character driven thriller with a sob worthy ending that you will remember for a very long time. And I shall be adopting Riddle!

About Eve Harvey

Eve Harvey is a bookaholic. She is forever to be found with her nose in a book. If there are none around then newspapers, magazines, the back of cereal packets, road signs or the tiny washing labels found on the seams of jumpers will do. Eve has a full time job as a children's bookseller. She was, in fact, the very first Waterstone's Children's Expert Bookseller in Scotland. Her first love then really has to be literature for children and teens, although she has been known to read grown-up books (not very often though - they didn't put in enough hours when they invented days). She especially loves to find brand new authors and is always on the lookout for a stunning début... Eve lives in a field just outside Edinburgh in Scotland with her daughter and son and two dogs and two rabbits. She also has some tanks of tropical fish and vows one day to start up a marine aquarium. And the day she signs her very first publishing deal she is going to celebrate by buying a pair of Horsefields tortoises. You can find Eve through her Agent, Ella Kahn at DKW Literary Agency. She's also on Twitter or on her website : EveHarvey.com

5 comments on “I’ll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan

  1. Jackie
    April 21, 2012

    Wow, this sounds like a terrific book! And with such a realistic situation, too. When I was young, books did not have such families, it was as if abusive & neglectful parents didn’t exist & we all knew they did. So I applaud the realism & having the characters deal with such things, even though in a just world, kids would never have to.
    What is the heart made of? Or would that be spoiling something in the book?

  2. paintingwithw0rds
    April 22, 2012

    I’ve heard a lot about this from US reviews, so I’m really excited to read it! Looking forward to the release!

  3. Moira
    April 23, 2012

    Oh Eve, I do so love your reviews … This sounds tremendous. But what on EARTH is that heart-shaped thing?

  4. Lisa
    April 23, 2012

    Yes, I was also wondering about that twig heart thingy. It made me think of The Blair Witch Project, so romance is obviously lost on me! ;)

    It sounds like a really interesting and unusual book. Thanks for the review, Eve.

  5. Eve Harvey
    April 23, 2012

    Thank you everyone! This is truly a wonderful read, I urge you to have a go if you feel inclined. :)

    The heart is something Sam makes for Emily out of twigs and bits of wood. He’s not very good with words, so he leaves it for her on her doorstep… *sob*… quite the most utterly romantic thing ever!

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This entry was posted on April 21, 2012 by in Uncategorized.

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Acknowledgment

  • (The header image is from Aesop's Fables, illustrated by Francis Barlow (1666), and appears courtesy of the Digital and Multimedia Center at the Michigan State University Libraries.)
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