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
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.
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!