Tuesday, February 28, 2012

I'll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan

I put I’ll Be There on my library queue because Tee at YACrush said it was “perfect in every way”. It seemed like it was just going to be a regular book where a boy and girl meet each other, and I generally prefer books with fantastical elements, so it sat in my book pile unread for a couple of weeks.  When I finally got to it, I couldn’t believe I had waited so long. Tee was right; I’ll Be There is extraordinary.

From Ms. Sloan’s web site:

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.

From the opening scene, where Emily sings the titular Jackson Five song and makes a wordless but intense connection with Sam, the book presents life as a series of small and magical moments that sustain the characters as their lives escalate to a fever pitch.

It is also flawlessly written. Holly Goldberg Sloan switches seamlessly from third person to second person, and between multiple points of view. She even writes a small section from the POV of a bear! In addition to rereading this book to get swept away anew by the characters and the story, I am definitely going to mine it for writing techniques.

The curious thing about the book is that there is a blurb from Henry Louis Gates Jr. How did he come to blurb a YA book? I like to think that he just read it and really liked it, but maybe he knows the author. A quick Google search reveals that she is thanked in the credits for his PBS special African American Lives 2 http://www.pbs.org/wnet/aalives/credits.html (2008). I am a blurb detective!

HLG blurb or no, I’ll Be There is moving, wonderfully written, and should be on the must-read list of all YA fans.

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