4.5 star, YA

Review: You’ve Reached Sam by Dustin Thao

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.



Bring out all those tissues, because I was completely right and You’ve Reached Sam jerked those tear ducts. HARD.

I have absolutely no words to use to describe this beautiful story. It made me cry (during work of all places!) and my heart ache for Sam and Julie.

This is a story about grief. But it is so much more than just what that word may imply. When Sam died tragically, Julie was left with a world that was devoid of the one person she was literally planning her future with. On the brink of high school graduation, what does one do?

In a series of flashbacks that presented as Julie’s dreams mixed with memories, we get to see Sam and Julie’s story from the first moment they met and all the little moments that made up their relationship. I loved this part because it made us understand who they each were, but also how they were together. And of course, it made me fall in love with Sam and their relationship even more.

Julie’s first reaction to handling grief was to cut everything out of her life that brought memories of Sam. That meant his clothes, his presents for her, everything. Some of it may have come with feelings of guilt for how Sam ended up dying, but it definitely was different from how the others in Sam’s circle were dealing with his death.

And that is ultimately a big thing explored here: everyone handles their grief differently. But that doesn’t mean they each have to be isolated in finding their way back to some semblance of living.

I love how it explored Sam’s closest relationships and how their relationship with one another changed and evolved after such a tragedy. And a tragedy this sure was because he was so young, he had barely lived out his dreams yet.

But back to the heart of the story. This is about Julie’s connection with Sam. And in some magical way, they were able to connect from the beyond and be able to still talk to each other. This is what made the story special, and also super heartbreaking. Because we all know it – this can’t possibly last forever. Julie will have to learn to let him go at some point.

The prose was beautiful. I loved Sam and Julie’s conversations so much. I loved seeing how she struggled with doing things in her life that felt like moving on in some miniscule way but only to fall away from it because of her still-present connection with Sam. Their relationship wasn’t always sunshine and rainbows, as it wouldn’t realistically be, but these were two people who loved one another deeply and made my cynical heart believe could’ve survived a high school romance into adulthood.

We were two parts of a song – he was the music and I was the words.

The ending almost broke me, in the best of ways, I suppose. I had to listen to this as an audiobook – I was so afraid I’d be crying so hard I wouldn’t be able to see the words. I needed to be able to get through the ending faster that would inevitably have me in a puddle of my own tears.

I won’t ruin the beauty of the conversations and the growth in Julie and those closest to Sam. I would want you to experience that firsthand yourself if this review has piqued your interest. I normally avoid books that I know will break my heart, but there was just something about this book that drew me in from the start.

I wondered why someone would want to intentionally experience [something that’d make you cry in a way you’ve never cried before]. I think I figured it out.

You want to feel something. Something meaningful and intense. You want to feel that thing in your heart and stomach. You want to be moved, to care about something or fall in love, you know….It makes you feel alive.

Dustin Thao, you’re a genius and your gut-wrenching story deservedly launched to #2 on the NYT bestseller list. I can’t wait to see what’s next.

Overall Recommendation:

You’ve Reached Sam is a heartbreaking story of loss and grief in a young life tragically gone too soon. Dealing with the aftermath of her boyfriend’s death, Julie struggles to move on when a magical connection through their phones allows them to communicate with each other, even from the beyond. Mixed with flashback dreams of their relationship and the present day haze of grief, this story will unlock those tear ducts as Julie inevitably needs to learn to let him go. Explorations of the different ways people handle grief, especially among those who were all near to the same loved one, was one of the highlights of this novel. But ultimately, Julie’s journey navigating life after Sam is one that was written with the most beautiful prose fitting for her story. I am overjoyed I found my way to this book, and you should definitely find your way here too.

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

  1. I’ve been seeing mixed reviews all over the internet, so have been scared to read this book 😅
    but I’m so heartened to see your amazing review and positive feedback, now I’m excited to read it!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sounds like a lovely story but very sad. I’m not sure my heart can handle a book like this right now, but I’m glad lots of people are enjoying it.

    Liked by 1 person

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