Keertana's Reviews > I'll Be There

I'll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan
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's review
Apr 16, 2012

really liked it
Read from April 28 to May 02, 2012

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Sam and Riddle Border have spent all their lives moving from place to place with their father Clarence. Clarence suffers from paranoia and mental instability, causing him to resort to thievery to live and leaving his children poorly educated and socially outcast. When Sam meets Emily Bell in a small town church, they feel an instant connection. Emily believes in destiny, she believes that she has a purpose in this world, and she also believes that Sam is the key to this fate. From the moment they meet, both their lives are turned upside down. Sam slowly becomes noticeable after living his entire life in the background and he begins to experience what live can really be like. But, Sam knows that Clarence's fear is rising and that they may be about to move at any time; yet, for the first time in his life, Sam wants to stay.

I'll Be There is like a fable. It's language is poetic, its descriptions vivid, and its characters seemingly unreal. Sloan crafts her sentences in such a way that they are short, concise, and utterly impactful. It is hard to describe the unique writing style of this novel, but it allows the story to be told in an original manner, unfolding slowly and leaving the reader with a sense of feeling detached, yet still invested in the tale. Although I appreciated this unique style of writing, I didn't completely enjoy it. In many ways, it left me feeling unsettled and I wondered quite often if the novel wasn't meant to be read by a younger audience.

Furthermore, Sam and Emily's relationship felt vastly unreal. I loved both of their characters independently of each other and even when together, they were sweet and understanding on the page. Yet, their romance had no development whatsoever. The song Emily sings to Sam in the church, "I'll Be There," had a significant meaning to Sam, but not to Emily, which leaves me wondering how that one moment truly changed her entire existence. I even found Emily's parents instant care and attention to Riddle and Sam to be borderline unrealistic.

However, one of the most unsettling aspects of this novel was Clarence. I guess you could claim that Clarence is our story's antagonist, and if, as a "villain," his goal is to frighten me, he certainly did. Clarence has severe psychological issues in this novel and that completely terrified me. In that aspect, I really admire Sloan for taking on this type of a genre and writing this type of a character. Not many authors would take that leap or be able to satisfy it, but Sloan succeeds in doing both.

Still, I'll Be There isn't the type of novel you can analyze and dissect. It is precious, heart-warming, and ultimately something you simply have to experience for yourself. Despite its slow start, I'll Be There was an engaging read, one that will leave you with heart-break, fondness, and sympathy. This is the type of story that, once you have pushed aside the overused clichés, will remain in your thoughts for days. It demands to be heard, to be read, to be felt, and, most importantly, to be experienced.
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