Do Your Heart Strings Need A Good Tugging?

When people say Do Not Read In Public, I should probably listen, as it would likely save my mascara. You want a book that brings crocodile tears from sadness and joy, read I’ll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan. This is arguably one of the best contemps I’ve read all year.

I'll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan Book Cover

Sam Border and his little brother Riddle are bounced from town to town because their father Clarence has a few screws loose, hears voices, is a criminal and incredibly paranoid. The boys don’t go to school and might as well be non-existent as far as the system goes. Sam finds comfort in music and his weekly routine involves going to church on Sundays, mainly to hear the music, but also to eat the free snacks. Emily Bell is the quintessential good girl. She comes from a functional, loving family and has the most awesome dog ever (SHOUTOUT FELIX). Emily isn’t a particularly great singer, but she’s forced to sing the church solo, a cover of the Jackson Five song I’ll Be There. It’s at this moment her life will intersect with Sam’s, leaving both changed forever.

Holy hell, I’ll Be There is incredibly heartfelt. Riddle is one of the best little brothers ever. And reading about him breaks my heart while simultaneously filling my heart with joy. He rarely talks, is sickly, and draws the inside of complex machines in an old phone book because they can’t afford paper. Guys, this kind of poverty KILLS me. Especially where fictional little kids are concerned. And oh my goodness, Riddle’s relationship with Felix. Okay, like I know crying at happy parts is a little weird, but I COULD NOT HELP IT. That’s how much I loved Riddle and that dog. The fictional dog.

There’s much to be taken away from I’ll Be There. Like the importance of having a loving family. Now, I realize that not everyone has a loving family, but it’s nice. This book made me want to hug my family just a bit more, as well as to be adopted by the Bells. Honestly, it’s kind of like 7th Heaven, in that you can sort of feel that family’s love wafting off of each page. I mean, you actually see the parents act concerned. ALSO they are present in the life of Emily and her brother. I know, this book totally does not fall victim to disappearing parent syndrome. And well yes, Clarence is totally a nut and the worst dad ever, sometimes we get love from people we consider to be family, despite them not being biological. So, yes, I was enamored with this exploration of family relationships, and the dichotomy between the two — good family vs. worst parent ever. We also get a glimpse of people who do things just for appearances, rather than intrinsic reasons. I liked this too.

There’s also romance. With a few kisses. However, the romance is not the entire focus or the pivot on which I’ll Be There turns, but it’s more like a nice side factor. Instead, I liked the other themes a bit more. From the power of music (sidebar: I love books where music plays a huge role) and the power of coincidences, and how maybe nothing is truly coincidence. I love love love that.

If you have heart strings that need a good strong tugging, you need Holly Goldberg Sloan’s pitch perfect YA debut. I guarantee you won’t forget these characters or the story. Even I’m still thinking about I’ll Be There, as it’s not one that leaves your heart cold.

Disclosure: Received for review.

Other Reviews Of I’ll be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan:

The Book Harbinger
Forever Young Adult

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April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.
About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.


  1. I just ordered this one. Glad to hear it’s so good!

  2. The cover is gorge. Your review makes me want to buy… NOW.

  3. katiecoops says

    This book is amazing. I just reviewed it today too! Great minds think alike. 🙂

  4. Good grief, I don’t usually read this type of book, but you’ve got me adding it to the TBR. Good book? or maybe your dope reviewing skillz? Possibly both. Either way, it sounds like a good one.

  5. I’ve got to read this now after seeing that lovely cover and your wonderful review!

  6. Dude, I just met this author yesterday! I’ve yet to read I’ll Be There, but your review makes me want to start it asap! It sounds so beautiful. =)

  7. I’m glad you reviewed this one and liked it. I’ve seen it at the store a few times and have been drawn in by the cover. But I haven’t read any reviews for it, so I’ve been hesitant to read it. I’ll have to pick it up next time I see it.

  8. You know the author is brilliant when it makes you cry over a dog! Looks like I need to check this one out, thanks 😀

  9. I agree wholeheartedly. Love that the romance was a side issue, albeit a great one. 😉 And ohmygoodnessRiddle&Felix!!

  10. Oh wow, this one sounds amazing! I’ll definitely have to add this one to my list!! It sounds phenomenal! And it sounds like exactly my kind of book too!

  11. This looks so good. I need to read this one. Thanks!


  1. […] Just Call My Name by Holly Goldberg Sloan – So excited to see what happens to Sam, Riddle, and Emily. I loved I’ll Be There. […]

  2. […] Counting By 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan sat on my TBR pile for an embarrassing amount of time. I mean, it had been on my pile for over a year which is kind of sad given that I obtained it at BEA 2013 and was super excited to read it. I mean, it’s a middle grade book — which I already love. It’s a book by an author who has moved me before. It’s a book that seems to promise some hope despite the sad promise. And yet, Counting By 7s just hung out on my TBR. Eventually, I decided it could not wait anymore and that the time was right in my life to finally read Sloan’s middle grade book. I ended up really, really liking Counting By 7s even though it did not quite hit me on the same level as I’ll Be There. […]