Review: You’ve Reached Sam by Dustin Thao

Review: You've Reached Sam by Dustin Thao

You’ve Reached Sam by Dustin Thao is a heartbreaking story about learning to let go. Following a girl who is given the opportunity to communicate with her dead boyfriend through phone calls, this one promises plenty of tears. The concept is original, but I was a little underwhelmed by the underdeveloped characters and repetitive writing style. While the book is missing the emotional punch I was expecting, I still found the philosophical implications interesting and would recommend it to those looking for a unique story about grief.

Review: You’ve Reached Sam by Dustin ThaoTitle: You've Reached Sam
Author: Dustin Thao
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Genres: Contemporary
Publication Date: November 9, 2021
Rating: three-stars

Summary (from Goodreads):

Seventeen-year-old Julie has her future all planned out—move out of her small town with her boyfriend Sam, attend college in the city, spend a summer in Japan. But then Sam dies. And everything changes.

Heartbroken, Julie skips his funeral, throws out his things, and tries everything to forget him and the tragic way he died. But a message Sam left behind in her yearbook forces back memories. Desperate to hear his voice one more time, Julie calls Sam’s cellphone just to listen to his voicemail.

And Sam picks up the phone.

In a miraculous turn of events, Julie’s been given a second chance at goodbye. The connection is temporary. But hearing Sam’s voice makes her fall for him all over again, and with each call it becomes harder to let him go. However, keeping her otherworldly calls with Sam a secret isn’t easy, especially when Julie witnesses the suffering Sam’s family is going through. Unable to stand by the sidelines and watch their shared loved ones in pain, Julie is torn between spilling the truth about her calls with Sam and risking their connection and losing him forever.

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❃ I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. ❃


Review: You’ve Reached Sam by Dustin Thao

Julie and her boyfriend Sam have big plans for the future, but when Sam dies, Julie doesn’t know how to carry on. However, one day she decides to call Sam’s number, and he picks up. Julie is overjoyed at the opportunity to communicate with Sam again, but their connection comes with conditions. She can’t tell anyone about her ability to communicate with Sam, and the connection is only temporary. Now torn between sharing her secret with Sam’s family and risking losing Sam forever, Julie must confront the reality of the phone calls: that she is only prolonging saying goodbye.

❀ Missing an Emotional Punch

I appreciated the exploration of grief through Julie’s character, but I found myself wishing that both she and Sam were more developed. Julie’s emotional struggles and the tension between her both wanting to keep talking to Sam and wanting to ease his family’s pain is powerful, and her journey as she learns to let go is well written. However, as a character, I had some difficulties connecting with her. Sam also felt flat to me, and because of this, the story was missing the emotional punch I was expecting.

❀ Interesting Concept

Philosophically, I think the concept of being able to communicate with a lost loved one is interesting, but the execution could have been stronger. I’m willing to overlook some of the plot holes and unanswered questions regarding the logistics of the calls since this is probably meant to represent the idea that we don’t know what comes after death, but I had some issues with the repetitive writing style. The story seems to follow the same structure of flashbacks and phone calls, and after a while, I felt as though there wasn’t much going on in terms of plot. I was still interested in what the story has to say about grief, but I found myself wishing for the final phone call sooner.

❀ Will Resonate With Many Readers

You’ve Reached Sam by Dustin Thao is an emotional story about grief and learning to let go. The concept of communicating with a loved one after death is unique, but I had some issues with the flat characterization and repetitive writing style. While I was a little underwhelmed by this book, I’m sure it is still one that will resonate with many readers.

About Dustin Thao

Dustin Thao

Dustin Thao is a Vietnamese American writer based in New York City. 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.

13 thoughts on “Review: You’ve Reached Sam by Dustin Thao

  1. Deanna (A Novel Glimpse) says:

    I love this cover. It’s so beautiful. I think that every time I see it, so I was happy you were reviewing it. I am sad it wasn’t a bigger winner for you. I can totally understand why with your “Interesting Concept” stuff. I think that would bother me, too.

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