Just Call My Name by Holly Goldberg Sloan | Book Review

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Just Call My Name by Holly Goldberg Sloan | Book ReviewJust Call My Name by Holly Goldberg Sloan
Series: I'll Be There #2
Also by this author: Counting by 7s
Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers on 2014-08-05
Genres: Action & Adventure, Alternative Family, Emotions & Feelings, Family, Friendship, Love & Romance, Social Issues, Survival Stories, Young Adult
Pages: 352
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon

The happily-ever-after of Holly Goldberg Sloan's acclaimed debut, I'll Be There, is turned on its head in this riveting, emotional sequel about friends, enemies, and how those roles can shift in a matter of moments.Emily Bell has it all. She's in love with a boy named Sam Border, and his little brother has become part of her family. This summer is destined to be the best time of their lives--until a charismatic new girl in town sets her sights on Sam. Now Emily finds herself questioning the loyalty of the person she thought she could trust most.But the biggest threat to her happiness is someone she never saw coming. Sam's criminally insane father, whom everyone thought they'd finally left behind, is planning a jailbreak. And he knows exactly where to find Emily and his sons when he escapes...and takes his revenge.

A few years ago, I received my first ever book for review in the mail from Little Brown, I’ll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan. It is a book that will always hold a special place in my heart — not just because it is the first but because it is a book that emotionally resonated with me. I fell in love with good hearted, well intentioned Emily Bell, with musically inclined Sam Border, and with the quirky Riddle Border. This was a book that made me cry and feel all kinds of things. It was a book that made me actually feel really sappy. I feel like I have come full circle in reviewing the sequel to I’ll Be There, titled Just Call My Name. This book is a direct sequel, taking place a few months after the events of the first book, and just like the first one, I totally cried because I am such a dork and because I have all these sappy feelings about family and friends and the little things in life.

Emily is starting her new job at the French restaurant in town, busing tables. She’s not very good at it and finds herself locked in a freezer within the first few pages. Riddle, it has been discovered, has no clue how to read seeing as how he has never really gone to school, so Debbie Bell takes it upon herself to teach Riddle how to read. Sam begins taking classes at the college to get him acquainted with school as it has also been years since the last time he went to school. Summer looks to be a busy but good time for our favorite characters from I’ll Be There. Yet, plans have a way of going haywire. Like, for instance, the fact that a new girl in town named Destiny who is super little and super curvy and totally magnetized has set her sights on Sam, and he just might be looking back at her. Meanwhile, Clarence Border, Sam and Riddle’s dad from the first book, is in jail with his prosthetic leg and plotting an escape so he can get his boys back.

Reader friends, I am totally and always loyal to Emily Bell. She comes off as a bit boring compared to Destiny. Yet, she’s just such a fundamentally good human being. She’s someone who really has not had to struggle all that much in life and comes from a good family. Emily is the sort of character who could be the absolute worst, but instead, she just has this genuine good spark inside her. I loved her for not being all that great at busing tables. I loved her for her kindness to Riddle. I loved her for doing the normal girl thing and being jealous of Destiny, but doing the not so normal girl thing and being kind to her despite the jealousy. I loved her for her unwavering love for Sam, even when their relationship is tested. I loved her for being brave in the worst of circumstances. Emily is the type of character where there is more to her than meets the eye.

Honestly, I liked Sam Border, but he was not the highlight of this book. I loved that he has to question his desire for someone outside of his relationship. I love that he knows that it’s not okay to feel longing for another girl. I love that he is tested. It’s interesting to see how hard Sam has to try to fend off the temptation. Yet, he does not just give in. This is because he is also a genuinely good person at heart. Also, I like that now he does not have to be the sole caretaker for his brother Riddle, so he gets to focus on being a young adult, and thus goes to college. Sam is nervous and worried about his class because he does not know how people are supposed to act in school. He does not know how to take notes or anything and this is a huge source of anxiety for him. And that’s kind of my takeaway from Sam’s focal points. He is interesting, but he’s not center stage in this book like he was in I’ll Be There.I am totally okay with the shifting focus.

Forever the highlight of this duology is Riddle. I think FYA has that adoption certificate choice for their BFF charm section and yes, if I did that I would say that Riddle would be getting all the adoption certificates. He’s 12 years old in this book. He has spent his whole life pretty much on the road with Sam and their criminal father, Clarence. So, Riddle does not really follow social convention or cues. He just is who he is, without care to what people think of him. For example, it is discovered that Riddle needs glasses, and so instead of picking out boy glasses, he picks out glasses that are intended for girls and they end up making him look really cool. He also ends up winning the friendship of one of the popular boys in school, Beto, by being himself. And oh my goodness, Riddle picks up on these clues when a certain something happens and I can’t say more because I know people are weird about spoilers.

I keep going on and on about characters, but honestly Holly Goldberg Sloan does such a great job with all of her characters in Just Call My Name. I really think that she has a gift for making her characters unique, but making the reader feel as though they know the motivations and emotions of every single character in the book, intimately. This is a pretty good thing, I think. Now, I want to mention the secondary characters because they play important and interesting roles. Clarence Border is the super villain in this book. He actually reminds me a lot of the villain in The Knife Of Never Letting Go because you desperately want him to die, but it’s like he is super human or something. He also is very, very twisted and we see that in all of his point of view chapters. Some of his scenes got to the point that they made me sick to my stomach. As for Destiny, at first I really disliked her. She’s a total mess. Yes, she has been dealt a terrible hand in life. However, she just uses people and it’s not cool or fair. I really had anxiety about her trying to be friendly with Emily, yet also trying to steal Sam from her. What even. Then there is Robb, or Bobby as he used to be known, back from the first book. In this one, he’s trying on a new image. He starts out still feeling things for Emily, but then transfers his affections to Emily. Yet, Robb is not all bad and ends up playing a rather pivotal role. Finally, the last character I want to mention is Jared, Emily’s little brother, also back from the first book. In this book, Jared is feeling the sibling rivalry with Riddle. He’s feeling jealous and just not happy with Riddle’s special treatment. Having a brother is not all that he expected. We get Jared’s point of view and can’t help but feel a little bit sorry for him, but also proud as his character develops and grows.

I just really, really love Holly Goldberg Sloan’s writing style. She writes kind of like one of those heartwarming movies. There is physical danger and scary bits in this book. There are moments where I was not too sure what was going to happen. Yet, underneath it all was this driving hope. There was this feeling that things were going to turn out okay. There was this whole giant and immediate connection with the characters. I ended up reacting to it the same way I react to any of those movies about good people in not so great or not so perfect situations, I got totally teary eyed and then found myself totally satisfied when everything came together. This is a book with some big and little coincidences and oh, my goodness, I loved Just Call My Name.

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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. Hi,

    I’ll be checking out this duology ASAP. I recently read the author’s other book Counting By 7s, and ohmigosh it was beautiful. It was so good. I highly recommend it, if you haven’t already read it, especially since you liked Holly Goldberg Sloan’s writing so much. 🙂


  2. I’ve been meaning to read I’ll Be There for a long time, but never getting around to it. Now that this follow-up, Just Call My Name, is out, I’m a little tempted to just binge read both in a day! Perhaps I will. After all, these characters – particularly Emily, Sam and Riddle – sound like characters I could fall in love with! Great review, April.