you’ve reached sam – dustin thao | arc review (everyone needs to suffer with me)

You’ve Reached Sam by Dustin Thao

Expected publication: November 2nd 2021 by Wednesday Books
Age Range: Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Magical Realism (Fabulism)
Representation: Japanese LI


Rating: 5 out of 5.


If I Stay meets Your Name in this heartfelt novel about love, loss, and what it means to say goodbye.

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. 


Received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

trigger and content warnings:
  • death of a loved one, grief, car accident

You’ve Reached Sam wrecked me. I knew what was coming yet I still plunged head-first into this beautifully painful story about a teen who has to live with the loss of her boyfriend, Sam. Personally, I’m incredibly vulnerable to books with themes of grief and losing a loved one unexpectedly. That’s why I avoided If I Stay and Me Before You like the devil was going to rip my soul away.

“I miss you more. I miss you infinity.”

Dustin Thao’s simplistic writing style captured every emotion and essence of losing someone whose time was suddenly cut short. The yearning to be reunited, to have them physically beside and to talk to them was so vividly portrayed. While it featured the grief that everyone was experiencing, it highlighted moments the characters had fond memories of Sam, and how they moved on from such a tragic loss. You bet I was crying whenever they shared happy memories and during their acceptance of Sam’s death.

Missing him, Julie called Sam’s phone just to hear his voicemail but the unexpected happened. Sam picked up. It was a week after his death yet mysteriously they were connected by phone calls. Through those calls, they reminisced the joyful moments they had together and Sam fulfills some promises to Julie. Every single scene of the two of them made me sob helplessly. I couldn’t even begin expressing how devastating knowing that Sam was already gone and they were only linked by this feeble and fragile connection.

“You called me.” His voice is as calm as water. “And I picked up. Like I always do.”

Julie’s pain was palpable. Her way of processing Sam’s death was beyond heartbreaking. It was messy and chaotic and drowning. Consumed by her grief and guilt, Julie wasn’t really a good friend. Basically, she started detaching herself from everyone and even missed Sam’s funeral. Comparing Julie’s before and after, the change is so great. If it were any other book, I would have been irritated by her actions and selfishness but I couldn’t even begin to feel annoyed at Julie when she had lost someone so close to her.

Why I decided to read You’ve Reached Sam is beyond any logical explanation except the heart wants what it wants. Nevertheless, I don’t regret my boyfriend’s startled question of “ARE YOU CRYING?!” while I was reading the last few chapters nor cared about my swollen, puffy eyes the next day. Take this as a warning since I started tearing up from page one. Reading the scenes where they planned for their future but to know that it’ll never be a reality just brought upon more tears. Also, I could never miss out on a book that’s pitched as Kimi no Na wa, one of my favorite Japanese animated films. 

You’ve Reached Sam is about the grief, pain, and regret when one’s loved one has passed, the way the living mourns the dead, and the days in which their presence can no longer be felt. This second chance at goodbye absolutely broke me. An utterly gut-wrenching yet beautiful story of Julie and Sam. Dustin Thao handled grief poignantly and delicately while showing all the genuine messiness of it all.

“She said that, sometimes, dreams mean the opposite of what they show us. That we shouldn’t understand them exactly as they are. It can mean something in our life is out of balance. Or maybe we’re holding in too much. Especially when we lose someone, dreams show us the opposite of what it is we need to find balance again.”

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