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Dustin Thao

Author of You've Reached Sam

12 Works 1,103 Members 21 Reviews

Works by Dustin Thao


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Recommended: if you think you're interested
For folks who read the premise and think they'll like it, for a very singular dive into one person and issue

For such a normal-length book, this felt like it flew by. In this case... that's not exactly a good thing (or a bad thing). This book sets out to tell the story of Julie's guilt and grief over Sam's death, and that's exactly what it tells. The weird thing is that it's also the only thing that it tells. This book has a very tight focus on the issue it aims to address. While, again, that's not a bad thing, it was strange in that it ended up reading more like short story for me since there was only one thread to the plot.

I suppose I expected a little more depth of the world around them, but Julie remains very much the focus as she is drowning in her own grief and hurt. Fair, I mean, grieving and all. There was a bit with other characters who were close to Sam -- his best friend, his sister and parents, his classmates -- but the way it was presented was so topical and unimportant precisely because Julie is so wallow-deep in her own issues. It's accurate for sure, but presenting the others as second fiddle ended up being exactly how they stayed to me.

Julie is not my favorite person, so my empathy was a bit lacking for what I would expect in this subject matter. Everyone grieves differently, but even ignoring that aspect, the who that makes her up was underwhelming.

Last thing that dropped this for me: the alternating timeline between before and after Sam's death. I don't usually mind that, but here it felt like a very lazy way of establishing who he was. We can't go back in time to get him back, so I would have liked the story to reflect that in it's style by relying on characters and memory to define Sam. He's dead -- he can no longer define himself, and exists only from the people and place he's remembered in.

Even though this book flew by, it also d r a g g e d. I didn't want to finish this, and in fact stopped a few chapters in on my first attempt. This story didn't elicit emotion from me, which isn't good considering it's a sad story about death and grief and heartbreak, coupled with the fact that I am a very easy crier with my sympathetic heartstrings! This one was sadly lacking for me.

Thanks to NetGalley and Wednesday books for an free advanced copy of this title. This is my honest and voluntary review!
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Jenniferforjoy | 20 other reviews | Jan 29, 2024 |
The novel commences with the shocking death of Sam, a truly heart-wrenching event that sets the emotional tone of the narrative. Julie, struggling to cope with her unbearable grief, accidentally discovers a way to reconnect with him through calls to his old cellphone number. As the calls continue, readers become enthralled by their bittersweet conversations, providing a unique insight into the complexities of love, life, and grief.

Thao masterfully weaves the story of Julie and Sam, with the past and present intertwining seamlessly. By incorporating vivid details of their relationship - from the precious memories of their first meeting to the difficulties they encountered - Thao demonstrates the depth in Julie's love for Sam and the magnitude of her loss. The novel delves into the intricacies of healing and the author skillfully balances the rawness of emotion with moments of levity, creating an intensely relatable and authentic atmosphere.

What sets "You've Reached Sam" apart from other stories about grief and loss is Thao's innovative use of the magical phone calls as a narrative device. These calls force Julie to confront her grief, and in turn, she starts to learn how to let Sam go and find closure. The phone calls serve as a metaphor for the lingering presence of those we have lost and the enduring bonds we share with them.

"You've Reached Sam" is remarkable not only for its emotional core but also for the diverse and endearing cast of supporting characters that surround Julie. These characters, such as Julie's best friend Natalie and the charming new guy Daniel, offer a sense of belonging and support that help Julie navigate her way through the grieving process. The relationships between these characters add layers of complexity and authenticity to the story, making it one that is both enjoyable and thought-provoking.
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Prass | 20 other reviews | Oct 24, 2023 |
I cannot think of a better word to describe this book with than quiet. It is a quiet, mournful love letter to life. A story about being stuck in grief and learning to move on and about how it is, in the end, the little things that we treasure.

While it was not a book that knocked me off my feet, it is still definitely worth picking up and it is, in its own, unassuming, way beautiful.

(Mild Spoiler) While reading I could not decide wether to give this 2 or 3 stars and only in the end my decision became clear. Because it was only in the end, as all of the calls and messages flooded back on Julies phone after letting go off Sam, that I (maybe a bit densely) realized what these phone class where. A symbol of her inability to let go keeping her away from her family, friends and ultimately her life.

Because only after we let those we love go and move on into our memory, are we able to go on.

All in all, this did not make me cry, which is why my rating is a bit low, but there is beauty in here and I really appreciate it.
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Hexenwelt | 20 other reviews | Sep 6, 2023 |
Where were the tears?? I've never read such a dull book, and they say it's supposed to be a heartbreaker...
Sam would've been better off with Oliver.
Valebaby | 20 other reviews | May 10, 2023 |



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