‘You’ve Reached’ boredom


Gabriela Asmar

“You’ve Reached Sam” is Dustin Thao’s debut novel. It follows a girl’s grief after the death of her boyfriend, and her final chance to connect with him.

Sometimes, it doesn’t feel possible for a book to be so bland that you want to dump some paprika on it, but “You’ve Reached Sam” by Dustin Thao achieved just that.

This book is chock-full of overused tropes and reads like bad fanfiction. “You’ve Reached Sam” had potential based on its blurb, but the actual story left much to be desired. This book only exists to take up shelf space and is a disservice to every fantastic story that does not make it to the shelf because of capitalistic marketing. 

This book follows Julie, a teenage girl who deals with grief; it was pretty obviously written by someone who has never had this experience at any point in their life. Grieving can be messy, stressful, and tiring, all of which describe the book’s writing, even when Julie goes through her most turbulent emotions. On page 46, Julie seems to be having a panic attack while talking to her ghost for a boyfriend and decides to leave the cafe where she’s biding time: 

“People are moving toward me from all sides. I duck beneath someone’s umbrella and hurry down the sidewalk with the phone pressed to my chest. As soon as I reach the corner, I break into another run.”

The narration of Julie’s panic attack in perfect clarity seems odd; panic attacks do not have a plan, a set course of action, and usually do not leave you with a clear head. 

“You’ve Reached Sam” seems promising, but Thao’s attention to detail can pull the reader out of the story. In the prologue, our very first introduction to the characters, we read, “I’m wearing a gray sweater, slightly oversized, and my brown hair is pinned back and brushed smooth.” Indeed, this detail may enhance the story for some; but adding it on page 2 seems unnecessary. All you want at the beginning of a story is to learn anything of substance about the characters. The addendum that Julie was wearing an oversized gray sweater does not seem to be integral to the plot. 

While this novel does seem like a good start for Thao, “You’ve Reached Sam” is still not as ground-breaking and heart-wrenching as we all hoped it would be.