The conventional romance novel starts with boy meets girl, boy and girl flirt, a misunderstanding in form of an ex or a new person occurs, misunderstanding clears up, boy and girl date, and they live happily ever after. End of story. You’ve Reached Sam, on the other hand, started with the boy’s death and burial. I was confused for the first few chapters, half expecting the boy to miraculously come back to life. He did not.

You’ve Reached Sam tells the story of Julie, a seventeen-year-old whose boyfriend, Sam, just died. The story follows her grieving experience, highlighting how different grief can be. It starts off after Sam’s burial and wake, all of which Julie skips because she cannot bring herself to attend. She does not believe it is any important because, well, he is dead and she’s the one who has to live with it, not him.

As expected, Julie takes Sam’s death terribly until bizarrely, she dials his number and he picks up. In what I think of as very altruistic, Sam spends his first few months in the afterlife helping Julie come to terms with the reality of losing him and moving on with her life.

He encourages her to reach out to her old friends and mend broken bridges while also providing her with reassurance to attempt to take on life again. This book is a lesson on Murphy’s law and how, try as hard as you might, life does not always go according to plan. There was something almost liberating about seeing nothing work out despite all the effort Julie put in and despite not reaching “too high”. It was refreshing to see a book simply depict the narrative that sometimes, life sucks, keeps on sucking and just when you think you’re at rock bottom, it shows you that was merely a trapdoor/floor. And when you fall through that, it hands you a shovel and forces you to start digging. That is what Dustin Thao portrays through Julie’s story.


The book comes to a satisfying end when Sam finally determines that Julie is capable of facing life and all its curveballs on her own. Dustin Thao could not have written that part any better. It was all the right things.

Spoiler Alert 

I think the writing could have been smoother but all in all, I enjoyed the book. I think it was a good reminder of a fact we generally tend to overlook. I recommend this book only if and when your mental health is stable and thriving. It did not tug on my heartstrings too much but I found the last chapter and the epilogue poignantly sombre and honest. Enough so that I believe it would be a bad idea for anyone to take this book on under less-than-ideal mental health conditions.

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