“Holly Goldberg Sloan’s beautiful 2011 novel I’ll Be There is one of the novels I often recommend, especially to folks who shy away from the young adult label. It’s a magical little novel about a teen boy, Sam, and his young brother, Riddle, who spent their lives on the run with their abusive father until they meet Emily Bell and her family and everything changes.
(Note: This post contains spoilers for I’ll Be There. You’ve been warned.) Could something be an anchor if it wasn’t weighing you down? Was it possible to be anchored to the sky? Because that was how it felt to be with Emily: airborne. But with his feet on the ground.
Just Call My Name picks up shortly after the conclusion of I’ll Be There. Sam and Riddle are safe under the protective arms of the Bell family. Emily and Sam are happy teenagers in love and sweet Riddle is thriving in his new home. The happily ever after of I’ll Be There is threatened by two forces, however: A new girl, Destiny, who blows into town, disrupting everything, and Sam and Riddle’s terrifying father threatening everything they’ve achieved.
Destiny Verbeck might have looked like she could play the part of a baby wood nymph in a professional ice show, but she was tough. She had to be. Her mother had died of a drug overdose after being clean and sober for four years. Her one slipup ended it all. After that, eleven-year-old Destiny, known up until that point as Amber, changed her name.
There’s a lot to like about Just Call My Name, the pacing (the author’s screenwriting background really shows), the smart use of third person omniscient (which I usually hate, but love in these books), for example.
However, what I found particularly compelling about this particular installment is the way Sam and Emily is tested in a believable, authentic way. I’m not talking about the return of Sam’s mess of a father, but instead the plot-line about Destiny. Because we’re able to be in all three characters’ heads, as well as that of Bobby, who was infatuated with Emily in the previous book, Goldberg-Sloan gives readers the complete story.
He didn’t deserve someone like Emily. He didn’t deserve her good family and all their kindness. Why did they trust him when he didn’t even trust himself? He was the son of a crook and a thief, and no amount of pretending was going to change that. It wasn’t that Destiny Verbeck was trouble. He was. As a result, empathy ensues out in a situation where it’s often easy to make a snap judgement. I also think I’m a sucker for stories focusing on what happens after the ‘happy ever after.’
Just Call My Name hits so many hopeful notes about family and the power of many types of love and manages to not be schmaltzy or hokey. I’m not quite sure how Goldberg-Sloan does it, because there are so many situations that would normally leave me rolling my eyes feel real and heartfelt. It’s a testament to the the author’s vivid writing style, for lack of a better term. You know, I doubt the magic of I’ll Be There needed a sequel, but I was thrilled to revisit the hopeful joy of these characters and their special world.”
— Sarah, cleareyesfullshelves.com