I'll Be There

by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Hardcover, 2011

Call number



Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (2011), Edition: 1, 400 pages


Raised by an unstable father who keeps constantly on the move, Sam Border has long been the voice of his younger brother, Riddle, but everything changes when Sam meets Emily Bell and, welcomed by her family, the brothers are faced with normalcy for the first time.

User reviews

LibraryThing member Whisper1
I wanted to like this book more than I did. Initially it had promise and potential, but eventually it left me pondering just why it failed to connect.

This is a story of Emily who has a happy family and Sam and Riddle who do not. Sam and Riddle travel with their psychotic father from town to town.
Show More
Not attending school, they struggle. With no stability, Sam worries about his younger brother Riddle who is autistic and very bright.

When, by chance Sam sits in the back pew of a local church, he hears Emily sing I'll Be There from the church choir, the two immediately connect.

Just as Emily and her family bond with Sam and Riddle, their father becomes enraged and moves them out in his beat up truck. There is over the top drama scattered of Sam and Riddle scattered now with a new character Bob who is a caricature of something from a B rated movie.

There is drama. There is a good story line. But, there is a lack of connection with the characters who seem card board like and disjointed. In the end, a big red ribbon was placed on a plot of convoluted chaos, leaving me to wonder what really was in the box.

The lack of depth renders this could be promising novel a no star rating.
Show Less
LibraryThing member ilikethesebooks
This book was so different than I thought it would be- but that is a good thing. This book was more touching, heart breaking, and inspirational than I ever imagined it could be.

This is not the boy-meets-girl story that I thought it would be. Yes, it is boy-meets-girl in some sense of the phrase,
Show More
but it is so much more than just that. After fate led them to each other, Sam started to fall for Emily. Hard. But Sam comes with a lot of baggage. The death of his mother left him and his younger brother to his dysfunctional, criminal father. Never staying in one place for more than a few months, Sam has not been to school since second grade, he has no friends, and has the added burden of caring for and protecting his speech impaired brother. Sam cares for Emily so much - to the point where he sees the need to withdrawal himself from her in order to protect her from his toxic life.

When heart wrenching, scary and suspenseful events force the teenagers further and further apart and into both physically and emotionally dangerous situations, the inspirational story that endues is one sure to leave the reader breathless.

I can't even express some of my emotions during this novel. When I started reading, I was expecting a completely different story. I was expecting a romance that fixes all the problems in their lives and makes everything better - I was expecting a happy story. However, don't get me wrong, there are moments of happiness and optimism, but this is not a characteristically "happy" book. Some events are so emotionally low that tears were brought to my eyes. Or my chest would physically ache out of fright or a broken heart. Don't let that stop you from picking it up because the experience of reading this novel combined with the optimism and inspiration it fills you with is something that is very hard to find.

Other than the plot line, the characters were equally interesting and endearing. There is the perfect mix of characters and plot (rather than strictly plot or character driven novels). Emily is the typical teenage girl; struggling with emotions, the balance between fitting in and standing out, finding a place in the world, and opening up her heart. Sam is weathered; mature, good natured, poetic and nurturing - all wrapped up in a protective armor. Riddle is removed from society; strange and different, but extremely talented, observant and kind. These characters all offer something different, and it really goes to show how much human beings lean on each other for those specific, individual things that only they can provide.

Overall, this is one fantastic debut. I would recommend it over and over again - boys and girls alike. This is definitely a book that could span both genders (which is something amazing in itself). Saying too much on my part will ruin the shock, inspiration and emotional roller-coaster that is this book. So I will leave it at this; don't hesitate to pick this one up because it will blow you away. If you don't agree with what I've said the moment after reading this novel, wait until the next day, or the day after that - because each day that this book sinks in, the more of an impact it will make, and the more breathtaking it will be.
Show Less
LibraryThing member StaceyMacWrites
Though I'll Be There isn't a book that dips into the paranormal realm, there is definitely a magical aspect of this story.

I have never read a book written how Holly Goldberg Sloan decided to write I'll Be There. It wasn't overly descriptive, and if you didn't connect to the story I could see how it
Show More
could come across as vague and unorganized. Though, for me, I adored the style and connected well with the characters, rather than on a personal I've experienced that matter it was more of a I have to know what happens to them sort of way. The dialog was a bit tricky too, most of the dialog came in the basic paragraph form of telling me what was said rather than running through the entirety of a conversation. The first time I noticed this, I actually reread the paragraph and gave the book a cross look, but I quickly got over it when it became obvious to me that this is how the book was supposed to be written, should have been written, it was part of the magic that was Emily, Sam and Riddle.

Sam and Riddle's situation is sad and unfortunate at best. The two boys do what they can to get by but it sure didn't seem like, up to that point, that there was anyone rooting for them to succeed in life and definitely wasn't caring for them how a parent should. Despite their situation, Sam took care of Riddle the best he could and did as their father said to spare either of them the repercussions of angering their severely unstable and just plain crazy father. The dynamic between the brothers is sweet and shows us the true characters of the boys, proving that the apple sometimes does fall far from the tree. Sam's voice is the one we hear until destiny has other plans but when we do hear and see Riddle's it is obvious that Sam and Riddle are two of the most grateful characters I have ever come across.

Emily is a character, like Sam and Riddle, who I instantly fell in love with. She did her best to be who everyone wanted her to be but she did have a backbone and with time that showed. With a heart of gold, this story would have never blossomed into the rocky adventure of Sam and Riddle and Emily's first love if it weren't for Emily and her head strong, heart driven beliefs on destiny, love, and helping others. Emily's parents played a big part part in this story, were realistic, and you could tell it was them who shaped their daughter to be such an amazing young woman. There were no disappearing parents for Emily, like we see in a lot of YA fiction, and that small detail alone made this book all that more fulfilling and realistic.

I'll Be There is a magical tale of family, hope and love. The writing of this story is brilliant, and while everyone may not get it, I did! If you have a chance to read I'll Be There I encourage you to do so. There is something about a book based on innocence and how the world can eat you alive if it wasn't for the heart and support of others and possibly a bit of fate and destiny, weaving lives together before you have a chance to protest. This emotionally profound book is definitely in need of a second read.
Show Less
LibraryThing member stephxsu
Their whole lives, Sam and his little brother Riddle have been moved from place to place by their paranoid father, Clarence. In one quiet California town, however, Sam meets Emily, and their lives are changed forever. Emily and her family wonder about the mysteries surrounding the two boys, and are
Show More
determined to draw them out of isolation and into society. When Clarence gets wind of his sons’ new relationships, however, he packs them up and makes a run for it, despite the fact that it may put Sam and Riddle’s lives in danger.

When one describes a novel as being “magical,” we often think of lyricism, of rhythm and beautiful descriptions. But Holly Goldberg Sloan’s debut novel, I’LL BE THERE, is magical in quite a different way. A story of how the little things add up to the big things, I’LL BE THERE takes extraordinary characters and ordinary moments and weaves them together into a suspenseful and unforgettable story, one of the most unique books I’ve read in 2011.

I want a Sam in my life. He is undoubtedly an extraordinary boy—model-worthy looks, raw musical talent, swooningly romantic—but made sympathetic and real by all the hardships he has had to endure. Unlike other beautiful and talented love interests in YA fiction, Sam does not seek the spotlight, which endears him all the more to us. His lack of awareness of his own specialness is his best trait.

I’LL BE THERE is told from multiple points of view, covering everyone from Emily, the girl who draws Sam and Riddle out of their shells, to Riddle, smart and determined and existing in a bubble of lack of oxygen, to the various adults who come in and out of these two boys’ lives. This is a technique we don’t see often in YA, and yet I think works exceptionally well at riveting our eyes to the page especially during the later, most suspenseful moments of the book, when I literally couldn’t put the last 250 or so pages down.

There is nothing flashy about Holly Goldberg Sloan’s writing: instead, the magic of the writing and story comes from the characters and predicaments themselves. Don’t expect to find a regular ole contemporary story of trial and triumph in these pages: I’LL BE THERE contains truly enviable story craftsmanship, and is a unique, and uniquely told, story that you will find difficult to not read in one sitting. Magical, indeed.
Show Less
LibraryThing member TerryGil
Loved it; Can't stop thinking about the characters.
LibraryThing member amusingmother
This one took me completely off-guard. I just put it down and I can't stop smiling. The basis of the story is Sam and Riddle are two boys ages 17 and 12 whose father is paranoid schizophrenic. Being anti-establishment, Clarence Border, their father, pulled the boys out of school and taught them to
Show More
be invisible and afraid. Their reality consisted of living in a truck, illegally in some kind of shelter or outside. Food was obtained by dumpster diving after a restaurant had opened but the sun had gone down. In some regards, the story reminded me of Room by Emma Donahue in that the life experiences did not line up with the rest of society's reality. Holly Sloan exceptionally makes the contrasts and times each event with artistic flair.

So Sam and Riddle are surviving, as they have done when Sam stumbles across Emily. This is not your usual teen-age angst/soulmate love story. It's a story about believing in someone no matter what and always being there to support them. This theme extends to many of the characters of the book in a wonderful and quirky manner.

Setting: Pacific Northwest. At least that's where it starts. When trouble begins and Clarence inevitably hears voices, he starts to drive to the mostly uninhabited areas of southern Utah which happens to be an area that I have been having a love affair with for the past 26 years. Sloan's description of the outdoors and survival completely fascinated me and provided accurate description of Utah terrain.

Every character played a role and every role contributed to the story. Some were starring roles while others were placed simply for irony.

Really loved it.
Show Less
LibraryThing member resugo
I enjoyed this story. It was not what I expected, and I love to be surprised. I thought it was interesting and well written with great descriptions and characters.

However, I felt Sloan's writing style was more of a summary. I felt too much of the story was skimmed over. Emily and Sam supposedly
Show More
have a deep relationship, but as a reader I wasn't ever privy to the building of the relationship. I just was told by the narrator that they talked and spent time together. I wanted to read about it, not just be told about it. So the fact that this relationship was so important to the story kind of put a kink in my love for the book because I didn't buy into it.

This novel was written from multiple perspectives, and I really enjoyed that. I thought it opened up a lot of the characters by seeing them through anothers eyes. I didn't really care about him and though he was important to certain plot points, he got old really fast. I wanted out of his head, especially when it came to the prom. Too many pages were wasted on him.

Though I did like the multiple perspectives, at times it got annoying. Mostly I wanted the story to focus on Sam and Riddle and Emily, but a few characters went off on tangents that took away from the main story. And that bothered me because I didn't care about the tangents, I cared about the main three characters. Bobby was the worst offender.

So I did like the book, I thought the story and characters were compelling. I just didn't love it like I wanted to.
Show Less
LibraryThing member lilibrarian
Sam and Riddle (Rudolph) were stolen by their father when they were much younger, about 10 years ago. Sam hasn't attended school since second grade, and Riddle never has. They move from place to place - their father always keeps the truck packed in case he needs to leave quickly. In this town,
Show More
however, Sam, now 16 meets a girl. Her family is kind to Sam and Riddle - until their dad finds out and drives off with them again. This time, however, he doesn't intend for them to make it to the next stop.
Show Less
LibraryThing member Cuna
I expected much more of a deeply emotionally riveting story, in which "I'll Be There" seemed lacking. The summary inside the jacket said that the novel "explore[d] the idea of human connection", so I expected a slow establishment of a relationship. However, from the moment that Sam first sees Emily
Show More
singing in the church, there's some sort of instant connection and Emily desperately tries to find him. That, and the way that their boyfriend-girlfriend relationship status bloomed so suddenly, was superficial to me. It seemed like a Romeo and Juliet timeframe, where the two fell deeply in love in an impossibly short amount of time.
Sam and Riddle are likable characters. It was heartwarming to see Emily's family finally warm up to the two of them, and it was especially nice to see the brothers being integrated into the Bell family. Emily herself seemed a little lacking in character; her personality seemed undefined. What I really enjoyed most was the familial interaction with her family and the brothers, because the two had lacked a real home from a very young age rather than Emily and Sam's relationship.
While the rest of the characters weren't particularly bad, some of them were intensely annoying. Bobby, for one, started out kind of suspiciously and then began grating on my nerves. Spoiled rich kid who only knew how to use his parent's name, and not to mention he was definitely crossing over into the land of obsession and stalking. I was also displeased with how he pretty much took advantage of Emily when she was grieving. Nora, who was supposedly Emily's loyal best friend, was rather annoying too. From Emily's description I expected her to be...well, a loyal best friend. Instead, she was petty and boy crazy.
Another annoying aspect was the random little tangents that were incredibly distracting. They were long-winded metaphors and analogies that really didn't work and simply took away from the moment.
I can't really say I enjoyed the writing style too much, especially since I expected a more detailed emotional account if it was "exploring the idea of human connection". The short, broad sentences seemed to be simply skimming the surface of what was supposed to be highly emotional. However, sometimes it worked, and sometimes it didn't.
"I'll be There" picked up towards the end, once the search for the boys is actually getting somewhere. The small connections that Sam forged when he was trying to get back were nice--Buzz Nast, Hal. The brothers' reunion with the Bells and each other was heartwarming.The Hiro "Hero" Yamada scenario with the penny collection was a nice touch, as well as Sam sending back money to everyone who had helped him out along the way.
There were several parts of the book that were enjoyable, yet the book was also a bit bland and distracting. Overall, not a horrible book but not the best either.
Show Less
LibraryThing member HollyRae
I really loved this book, The story was awesome. The pace of the book was great. I think the characters of Riddle, Emily and Sam worked really well together. At times reading this book you find yourself holding your breath in anticipation of what is going to happen. I personally wanted to punch
Show More
Clarence in the face haha! Overall, I think the author did a great job! I loved the ending : ) I look forward to reading more books by this author.
Show Less
LibraryThing member edspicer
Sloan, H.G. (2011). I’ll be there. New York: Little, Brown. 392 pp. ISBN 978-0-316-12279-5. (Hardcover); $17.99.

When your father is a murderer who lives from place to place attempting to avoid capture, it is not likely that he will take the time to get your asthma diagnosed or to encourage any
Show More
budding romances. Sam, who is 17, has not been to school since he was two. He would love to leave his father, but if he does, 12-year-old Riddle, his brother with asthma (undiagnosed), could easily die. His father, with his truck filled with different stolen license plates (new identities), knows how to disappear quickly. He is also scary enough to keep you from making friends. When Sam hears a young girl (Emily) singing I’ll Be There in a church one day, he KNOWS that she is singing the song to him. This song and this girl stay fixed in his mind. Soon they are eating dinner at Emily’s house. Riddle gets an inhaler and is able to breathe freely for the first time in his life. But just how does one broach the subject of a mentally unstable, psychopathic father to such a nice family? And what will happen when their father, Clarence, finds out about Emily and her family? Sloan does an exceptional job of blending both horror and love story, fear and friendship, into this fairytale of a story that will have both students and adults singing its praises. Details are released at the right moment to maintain the suspense. The characters are compelling and real. The horror hits us in the gut; the hope, richly rewarded at the end, keeps us eagerly turning the pages. Readers will come back to this one again and again. This is a book that is most at home in middle schools but that doesn’t mean that high school readers will be in anyway disappointed with this story.
Show Less
LibraryThing member abbylibrarian
Sam hasn't been to school since the second grade when his schizophrenic father took him and his younger brother Riddle and went on the lam. Since then, they've moved every time his father starts getting paranoid and Sam and Riddle are on their own for pretty much everything. Our story starts when
Show More
Sam walks into a church and hears a girl singing a solo he's sure is meant just for him. And everything begins to change.

The brilliant storytelling drew me into this book and didn't let me go until the last page. There's a little something for everyone here - contemporary, adventure, thriller, romance - and it's told in a way that feels somehow classic.
Show Less
LibraryThing member BornBookish
The word that comes to mind when trying to describe this book would be different, and maybe even a bit strange.

Main characters Emily and Sam cross paths one day when Sam walks into a new church, where he sees Emily sing, directly to him. After this the two share a brief conversation (if you could
Show More
call “Hey” and “Hi” a conversation) anyways the two supposedly “connect” during this moment before Emily turns around and hurls into the bushes, and Sam runs away.

After this, Sam’s thoughts are consumed by Emily, and Emily is consumed with finding Sam. This is where the story lost me, I didn’t really understand their whole connection to one another, and if a whole book is going to be about this couple that can’t live without each other than understanding what draws them together is very important.

The story was written in a way I’ve never come across before in YA literature. I believe it is called third-person subjective, which is when the narrator conveys the thoughts, feelings, opinions, etc. of one or more characters. In this case it was over a dozen characters. At first I didn’t mind this style, but by the end of the book the author had us going into the minds of every little side character, which got to be annoying.

Overall, while the story wasn’t great, I did enjoy it. My biggest complaint would be the length. There were plenty of parts that weren’t necessary to the story that I think should have been cut to help whittle it down from it’s beastly total of 400 pages.
Show Less
LibraryThing member TigerLMS
Sam and his asthmatic, possibly autistic little brother Riddle have been on the run with their dad for a decade. Their dad, a small-time thief who is constantly paranoid about being caught, essentially kidnapped the kids when Sam was in second grade and neither boy has seen a school since. Emily
Show More
Bell was forced into singing a solo at church of the Motown song "I'll Be There," and by chance Sam happened to have wandered into the church that morning, a chance that eventually wound up changing both of their lives.
The bookflap says author Holly Goldberg Sloan has written and directed a number of family feature films, and at time the narrative structure of this novel feels exactly like the script of something you might see Saturday afternoon on Disney Family Channel. The story is told from multiple viewpoints, primarily from the main characters Sam, Emily, and Riddle, but also from non-essential characters like an elderly motel operator, a sheriff, and a scientist in the Utah desert. While this format helps the reader more easily understand what's happening in a character's head, it makes the overall story flow a bit stilted.
The primary story lines of good overcoming evil and the good members of a family winning out over everything else come through loud and clear. At times, it's almost heavy-handed as Clarence, the father, and Bobby, a teen boy in pursuit of Emily as a girlfriend, see their wicked efforts foiled time and again. A sequence at the end might have students questioning the timeline of events as the divergent stories don't quite seem to add up to the same number of days, only to be forced into a Disney-esque final scene.
Yet, despite its flaws, this is still an enjoyable read. You root for Emily, Sam, and Riddle to overcome the obstacles each faces. Grades 7-10.
Show Less
LibraryThing member MlleEhreen
I'LL BE THERE is a wonderful book. I've hesitated to write a review because I'm not sure I'll be able to really pin down its excellence, explain why it was so satisfying. A lot of things I guess. The writing is beautiful and spare, balanced. Sloan communicates intense emotion, scenes both troubling
Show More
and lovely, in a balanced way that sinks right down to the nerve but never gives you whiplash. The setting is contemporary, everyday, but there's a whiff of fairy tale about the whole book in the most marvelous way. The three young heroes, Emily, Sam, and Riddle, leap right off the page. I loved all three of them.

It does everything just right. The bond between Sam and Riddle. Sam's wariness, Emily's determination, the advance and retreat of their relationship. The menace of Sam and Riddle's father, who's completely unhinged. And I'LL BE THERE has one of the most satisfying endings of any book I've read in a while. No spoilers - just that in a book that's so excellent on every page, throwing out all the stops and bringing it to such a perfect conclusion is a marvel.

Highly recommended. Wonderful, wonderful book.
Show Less
LibraryThing member justablondemoment
This book was almost a 2 star. I bumped it up to 3 because when the boys were lost in the wilderness it got my attention and held it. Most of the book just didn't move me at all. Found in the young adult section of my library, however it read more juvenile. Certain things really annoyed me. Like
Show More
using the characters 1st and last name when we already have been introduced to them over and over, sometimes several times in a paragraph. It was just redundant and unnecessary. I also didn't care about the characters (other than Riddle who stole my heart). I don't think I will be putting this on my list of recommends but I also wouldn't say to stay clear from it either. Just a so-so book that had it been cleaned up a little and matured could have made for an awesome book.
Show Less
LibraryThing member FaithLibrarian
Totally unbelievable plot line but still a fun read.

nice backstories on several of the more minor characters and flashes of humor that the kids will enjoy amidst the tragedy.

Nicest moment--prom.
LibraryThing member lillibrary
Raised by an unstable father who keeps the family constantly on the move, Sam Border hasn't been in a classroom since the second grade. He's always been the rock for his younger brother Riddle, who stopped speaking long ago and instead makes sense of the world through his strange and intricate
Show More
drawings. It's said that the two boys speak with one voice--and that voice is Sam's. Then, Sam meets Emily Bell, and everything changes. The two share an immediate and intense attraction, and soon Sam and Riddle find themselves welcomed into the Bell's home. Faced with normalcy for the first time, they know it's too good to last. Told from multiple perspectives, Holly Goldberg Sloan's debut novel offers readers fresh voices and a gripping story, with vivid glimpses into the lives of many unique characters. Beautifully written and emotionally profound, I'll Be There is a story about connections both big and small, and deftly explores the many ways that our lives are woven togethe
Show Less
LibraryThing member HeatherLINC
There are so many positive reviews for this book, but honestly I don't know what the fuss is about. In my opinion it was barely readable. I loved Sam and his little brother, Riddle. Having an abusive father, Sam was very protective of Riddle, and the bond between them was the only positive in this
Show More
book which is why I rated it two stars instead of one. There were far too many minor/insignificant characters with uninteresting back stories. I mean, who cares if the cleaning lady had a 1970s vacuum cleaner or that the detective wished he hadn't worn sneakers that day? Also, all the unfortunate events that occurred just ended up being ridiculous yet, somehow, the stars aligned by the end and everyone lived happily-ever-after. Overall, "I'll Be There" was an epic yawn!
Show Less
LibraryThing member lifeafterjane
I read this one after seeing Melissa @ Book Nut rave about it and it is indeed a very lovely, sweet little story. We have two brothers who live in very bad conditions with their abusive, schizophrenic father. Hurried from town to town whenever the opportunities run out for their thief father’s
Show More
quick sticky fingers, the boys have no home, no education and the only food they get is the food they scavenge out of trash cans. Their situation is so heartbreaking that I went through most of the story a little misty eyed. I wanted nothing more than to feed them and most of all, to get my sweet, precious little Riddle some much needed medical attention. The romance between Sam and Emily, was just one big “Awwwww!” fest- so sweet and clean- something I found surprisingly refreshing. If Miz Sloan, would care to write some more about my dear little Riddle, I’d be quick to read it. This story was so beautifully told, I think it warrants an audio download.
Show Less
LibraryThing member reader1009
fiction (teen or adult). This was written for teens (judging from the reviews on the back) but it would satisfy any adult. Grab some tissues and enjoy.




0316122793 / 9780316122795


Page: 0.265 seconds