Book Review & Aesthetic: You’ve Reached Sam by Dustin Thao

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Title: You’ve Reached Sam
Author: Dustin Thao
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Publication date: November 2, 2021

Diversity Representation: Vietnamese American (author), mostly Asian cast, LGBTQIAP+ (side character)

Content warnings: Grief, death, car accident, racism, bullying, depression

This was a buddy read with my book bestie Sarah at Girl on Books! Be sure to be on the lookout for her review which will come out tomorrow! Check out a sneak peek here:

Loss is a messy process. Watching Julie sabotage herself with a deep and desperate sadness that bordered on frustrating for me as a reader, was honestly a brilliant move by Thao. You’ve Reached Sam will speak to anyone that has had to say goodbye to a loved one or, honestly, anyone that has watched someone else have to do the same.

– Sarah at Girl on Books’ review of You’ve Reached Sam by Dustin Thao Sarah at Girl on Books

Emotional, lovely, sweet, grief-filled and beautiful!

You’ve Reached Sam was such a wonderfully sweet read. The writing was wonderful, and fit the story so well. It made me sad right from the beginning, but full of a real understanding of handling grief. It was one of those wonderful books that does magical realism so right. It uses the fantastical only to enhance the real feelings of grief and moving on, and it was so sweet.

The story is about a young high school girl named Julie, who is struggling to grieve and move on from the death of her long term boyfriend, Sam. Through the struggle in trying to cope with the loss of Sam, she tries to call him to listen to his voicemail… and he picks up. Now Julie must deal with how to live her life with this second chance they have been given to say goodbye.

Though this book is naturally really sad, considering the main topic is about getting over the death of the love one. But what I really enjoyed was that the writing went with it so well. The writing was light, and so it let you fill in your own emotion into the story. We all know grief in some way, and we all grief different, and Dustin Thao really gave us the space to do that. It all worked together in such a great way, I absolutely adored it.

Another thing that I really loved that goes along with the writing was that Thao really was able to navigate the use of cell phones in writing so well. Which is huge, considering how the entire plot centers around that. I was a little nervous going in about that, as I feel that the book industry hasn’t really universally gotten good at incorporating cell phones into novels yet. It’s way too often that I see some weirdly formatted text in a book that is pretty underwhelming. But even though the main characters were speaking on the phone, it didn’t feel that way at all. Amazing work!

Naturally the best part for me was the representation!!! Most of the cast is Asian and it makes me so happy. I loved seeing Julie’s friends pass her cut fruit and green tea kit kats. It just filled me with so much joy! I also loved that Mika wasn’t incredibly familiar with their family traditions and customs, because I can relate to that a lot. It goes along with that feeling of unbelonging that a lot of Asian Americans feel, and I was glad it was mentioned.

As for the story, I don’t want to say it was predictable, because that has a bad connotation. But it was predictable in the best way. It was obvious before I even started the book that this connection was going to be used as a metaphor for moving on and coping with loss, but it was still a joy to read. I think this book is a great book to help teens understand loss and moving on. I am really glad this book exists, and it was just what I needed to read!

You’ve Reached Sam is an incredible book about teens dealing with grief and loss. The writing matches the story perfectly, and navigates the digital theme incredibly. The characters are diverse and rich, and the friendships are beautiful.

You’ve Reached Sam has such a cinema and music vibe with how much Sam loved music! It kind of gave it a little bit of an 80s feel but with smart technology, which was such an interesting vibe. I just loved that! Enjoy my board for this one! 💖

PS. Sarah also did an aesthetic board for this book, so you should definitely head over to her review tomorrow to see it. She’s more creative than me, so she also did a really cool flatlay of it! A link will appear here tomorrow for it. 💕

Dustin Thao is a Vietnamese American writer based in Chicago. He graduated from Amherst College with a B.A. in Political Science, and is currently in a PhD program at Northwestern University. He writes contemporary fiction, and his debut novel You’ve Reached Sam will be published November 2021 with Wednesday Books.

*I received a free copy of this book from Wednesday Books & am leaving this review voluntarily*

Are you excited for You’ve Reached Sam? Did you manage to snag an advanced copy too? Are you as excited as I am about reading more Vietnamese American authors!?

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