Review: I’ll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Book Title/Author: I’ll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan
Publisher/Year: : Little Brown 2011
Genre: Contemporary YA
Series: No!
Other Books From Author: Keeper

Amazon| Goodreads | Holly Goldberg Sloan’s Website

The Story

Told from many perspectives, I’ll Be There tells the story of how one song on a Sunday morning brought Sam & Riddle Border into Emily Bell’s life and changed their lives, and those connected to them, forever.

Sam & Riddle have grown up in a poor, unstable home with a father who drinks and doesn’t believe in doing things the way everyone else does. They bounce from home to home and never have much interaction with others as per their dad’s lifestyle. Sam is very protective of his little brother Riddle — he doesn’t talk much, he draws and some might think he’s stupid but there’s a lot more behind his quiet exterior. Emily Bell is the girl who has a normal life — a good group of friends, two loving parents, a boy that really likes her and more — but meeting Sam makes her wonder if that’s enough.

What I Thought:

This is one interesting book! I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to experience based on things I had heard but I really actually enjoyed this one. It’s so, so different from what I typically read — especially in the contemporary YA genre. It was a little quirky and really quite moving (in a non-crying way for me) and beautiful — such a testament to how we all are so interconnected and weave through one anothers lives making imprints on one another in varying degrees. I just loved the little vignettes of many people’s lives that were used to tell this story of Sam and Emily.

The storytelling itself was very interesting — the dialogue is sparse, very short sentences that pack a punch, and we are told the story in the 3rd person throughout. Through some of the book you really have to suspend your disbelief for how outrageous some of the things that happen are, how it seems like some of the situations just couldn’t get any worse but then the worst DOES happen or how things certain things just HAPPENED to work out at the right time. Definitely a little bit of a more imaginative novel so if you can get past some of the more crazy things and just enjoy some of the more dramatic parts then I think it will be enjoyed for how cinematic it is. It was certainly very action packed at times when I totally didn’t expect that from this novel. In a way it seemed like this funny little modern day fairytale — the good prevailed, the baddies were taken down in somewhat hilarious ways and mostly everyone lives happily ever after but it takes a long journey to get them there. Um, let’s talk about Bobby — that guy just couldn’t WIN and I chuckled at the ridiculousness of his demise from thinking he was Hot Stuff to him getting served a big ol’ piece of Humble Pie.

Immediately you find yourself rooting for Sam and Riddle and feel so invested in their story and willing for there to be a happy ending. You just hope they can get out from the their father’s rule so to speak. You feel your heart become happy as people who were at first wary of Sam and Riddle start to open their hearts to them. Now Emily…I didn’t really feel much for her to be honest. I felt way more for Sam, Riddle and some of the other supporting characters than I did her. I don’t know what it was about her but I just never felt compelled to care for her nor did I know what to make of her. She seemed weak and I couldn’t tell what guided her in life other than Sam when she met him. Sam & Emily’s relationship really wasn’t my cup of tea and I didn’t feel strongly about it but I really thought the relationships of Sam & Riddle and then Emily’s parents and Riddle (Sam too) were so very touching and MUCH more interesting.



My Final Thought

I really enjoyed this one. I think the thing I say the most when describing is that it is just SO different than what I seem to be reading in the YA drama. It’s kind of quirky, imaginative and undeniably a moving novel. I loved so many of the characters and their relationships (especially that of Sam & Riddle) but I’ll be honest that I didn’t GET the Sam & Emily romance. Much better relationships throughout the book. If you can suspend your disbelief amidst some of the more dramatic, over the top things that happen to the characters then I think you’ll be fine and will actually enjoy the cinematic qualities of this one! There’s really tender moments, complex relationships, some compellingly written action and, at the end of the day, it’s one of those stories of how humanity is so beautifully woven together.


For Fans Of: Imaginative contemporary stories that feel cinematic, stories in the 3rd person, moving stories but not in an obvious sob-your-brains-out kind of way.


Let’s Talky Talk: Have you read this one? Heard of it? What did you think if you have read it? Did you find Emily and Sam’s relationship to be more moving than I did? Which relationship did you love the most? Favorite character? What did you think about some of the, errr, more dramatic things that happened later on in the story? Were you satisfied with the ending?

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About Jamie

Jamie is a 32 year old married lady (with a new baby!!) who is in denial that she's actually that old to be a married lady and a mom. When she's not reading you can find her doing Pilates followed by eating ice cream, belting out Hamilton (loud and offkey) and having adventures with her husband, daughter and rescue dog.


  1. I haven’t read this but I’ve heard some great things from a few close blogging friends.

    I LOVE that this is so different. You see so many of the same plots and premises being used over and over and over again so it makes me happy to hear this was unique. I’m glad to hear you enjoyed it, even if you didn’t get the romance aspect or like Emily.

    Great to hear your thoughts!

    • That’s how it came to be on my radar — from other bloggers!

      It really just FELT so different than most contemps. Much more fairytale like or something. I just can’t explain it at all. lol

  2. RIDDLE! I immediately want to give him an adoption certificate.

    Love this book always and forever and totally made Allison my co-blogger buy it hahahaha.

  3. I thought it was a sweet romance but the real story was about the brothers. And OMG, you are so right about Bobby. The whole time I pictured him as this Bobby I went to middle school/high school with and it made his whole story een more entertaining. I was so freaking addicted to this book… I never wanted to get off the train.

    I’m so glad you read it & hopefully can spread the world even more.

  4. i’ve heard a lot about this, but have never really been drawn to it for whatever reason. doesn’t make sense, since so many of my blog bffs loved it so much. WHAT IS WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE? i love “different” books, especially because there’s so much monotony out there. so maybe i’ll hit up the library for this one!

  5. I loved the relationship between Riddle and Emily’s mother. That was my favorite in the book I think, and of course I loved the relationship he had with Sam as well. I agree with you in that I didn’t find Emily all that compelling, or see why her relationship with Sam was so strong. There were pieces of this novel that just about broke my heart, but luckily we were able to come to a satisfying conclusion.

  6. SAM AND RIDDLE. SAM AND RIDDLE!!! One of my favorite sibling relationships. I loved Riddle so much!

  7. It’s always nice to read something that turns out to be so unexpected (in a good way)! I bet this book would make a very cute movie (perhaps shot by Wes Anderson since he’s virtually perfected “quirky”)!

  8. I’ve been wanting to read this one for quite a while, mostly because I absolutely ADORE the cover. It’s so eye-catching! I’m glad that you liked it though, and to be honest, the fact that you described it as different definitely makes me feel more inclined to read it.

  9. Um, you got had me at “funny little modern day fairytale.” I LIVE FOR THAT!!! I see this book at my library sometimes and think about picking it up but haven’t yet. Next time, I will for sure! This sounds like a super unique book and I’m glad you liked it. 😀

  10. This looks amazing! Thank you for putting so many great books on my radar!

  11. This is one of my favorites!


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