Rating: 4/5 stars.
I’ll Be There is one of the most unique young-adult novels I’ve ever read. It’s about Sam and Riddle Border, brothers who have been moving around with their unstable father for several years – Sam, now 17, hasn’t seen a classroom since the second grade. Their lives consist of grabbing food from garbage disposals, hiding from people who may report them to the police, and moving away whenever their criminal father makes a too close for comfort encounter with the local authorities. One day, Sam steps inside a church and sees Emily Bell singing – and that single moment sends their lives spiraling in directions they had never imagined.
It’s difficult to describe the magical, lyrical feeling Holly Goldberg Sloan instills in I’ll Be There. Readers are disconnected from the characters, but not in a bad way – it’s like you’re watching them from faraway, yet standing close enough that you can discern their thoughts and emotions. Sloan switches perspectives constantly, traveling inside the mind of almost every character in the book. Each character and their respective point of view is like a thread hanging on its own, interacting with other threads (not sure how that would work, but), and by the end of the book Sloan somehow ties together all the threads to make one spectacular, interconnected story.
My only qualm with the book was Sam and Emily’s relationship. Their bonding is never broken down and shown to the reader. We’re simply told that they love each other very much, but why? Their relationship is immense and profound, but how so? What do they see in each other? What is it that makes them love one another so much? These questions are touched upon but not enough to fully convince me of the power of their connection.
Overall, an inspiring novel about human ties and how little things can add up to create something profound. I finished it in a day, and I must once again thank my friend who gave this to me for Christmas. Highly recommended for fans of realistic fiction and books like Marcelo in the Real World.