Sloan, Holly Goldberg. I'll Be There. 392 p. Little, Brown. 2011. Hardcover $17.99. ISBN 9780316122795.
Everyone's been raving about this book all year, and let me tell you-- it lives up to the hype!
Two brothers, Sam and Riddle, have been dragged around the country by their abusive, mentally ill father for most of their lives. They finally get a taste of normal life after a chance encounter with a girl... but how long can normal last?
The first thing that struck me about this novel is the strong voice. The writing is tight, like every sentence, every word has been carefully considered for maximum impact. I was completely in awe while reading. Author Holly Goldberg Sloan comes from an extensive screenwriting background, and it shows: this novel has a cinematic quality that will draw readers right into the pages. In fact, I would love to see a movie of it-- but only if Sloan herself writes the screenplay.
I'll Be There is a wholly engaging story with a large cast of fully realized characters. The genre is realistic contemporary with elements of romance, suspense, survival, mystery, and there's a little something for everyone here. It will appeal equally to a male and female audiences, and with the strong presence of adult characters in the cast and the minimum of teen angst, this is one of those YA novels you can recommend to adults who don't usually read YA.
This book puts me in mind of John Irving's style, with the way Sloan tells her story through a third-person omniscient point of view that allows for multiple perspectives, as well as the way she puts her characters through the most incredible situations-- some absurd, some heartbreaking, some inspiring.
And the cover? I can't stop staring at it. Utterly gorgeous.
I'll Be There is one of the most amazing debut novels I've read this year, and I eagerly await whatever Sloan has in store for us next.
Be sure to check out the Authors are ROCKSTARS! interview with an amazing group of writers that includes Holly Goldberg Sloan.