“You’ve reached Sam” by Dustin Thao

Romy Abdallah
Jeudi 24 Mars

Sam dies; this is not a spoiler…

General information:

Book title: You’ve reached Sam

Author: Dustin Thao

Genre: Contemporary fiction

Topics: Death, loss, grief, friendship, love


About the author:

Dustin Thao is a Vietnamese American writer. He’s known for his style and genre and he published “You’ve reached Sam” as his debut novel in 2021.

Q&A with the author; his answer regarding the book/topic/plot:

Grief is such a difficult topic to write about, so I did my best to be as honest as possible…Something I hope Julie’s journey conveys is that grief is not a linear experience. Julie has moments of selfishness, which might frustrate some readers. But life is messy and frustrating, especially when dealing with loss”

What is the story?

The lives of two 17-year-old change forever: death separates them without granting them the chance to say goodbye. Julie and Sam were inseparable before his tragic accident. They had it all figured out: their futures, their dreams, their ambitions. But Sam passes away. And Julie is left with nothing. She even misses his funeral.

However, the unexpected happens…Julie gets a second chance to say goodbye. She calls him. He picks up the phone.

My honest opinion:

This book hit me directly in the heart.

I love how the author did not deliver tips and tricks on how to overcome grief. I also appreciate that the ending is not happy. It’s safe to say that Thao was not cliché at all. The book is poignant. Authentic. Shaky. Heartbreaking. Genuine. Messy. I believe that he wanted to showcase the reality of grief and the consequences death has on everyone: from the closest people to the most random of strangers.

Plus, the fact that Julie has had a second chance is actually pretty painful as so many of us had wished for this opportunity. So, being able to read all of the things Julie has been saying makes the reader enter their world.

Also, the way Sam had so many things to say makes Thao creative and innovative: grievers always think they’re alone in the process, they forget that at the other end there is someone who has feelings too. Someone who’s gone but is still here. Someone who cannot talk but says so much. All at once.

As for the last few pages, I recommend you keep some tissues close by…

If I had to describe the book in one word, it would be:


The feelings. The conversations. The pain. It is all so real that you would think Thao has entered the mind of a griever and taken notes of his agony.

My favorite saying(s):

  • “Life will pass right by you,” she says, her eyes focused on the road. “And you end up missing the little things, the moments you don’t think matter—but they do. Moments that make you forget about everything else. Just like with your writing,” she adds out of nowhere. “You don’t write to get to the end. You write because you enjoy doing it. You write and don’t want it to end. Does that make some sense?”
  • Letting go isn’t about forgetting. It’s balancing moving forward with life, and looking back from time to time, remembering the people in it.
  • The world keeps moving, no matter what happens to you.

My modest advice:

When I read a book, whether I like it or not, I try to see if there’s anything I can learn from it. Sometimes, it’s a whole life lesson. Some other times, I just learn new words. And very often, it’s my healthy way of spending some alone-time.

However, in that case, I related to the plot. To the characters. To the dialogues. It’s true, grieving is confusing, desperate, non-linear. Some would say it comes in waves. Other would think it’s constant…But, whatever you believe grief is, and no matter how uncomfortable and frustrating it might feel, you do you. There is no right or wrong. No slow or fast. If it takes you days, it’s fine. If it takes you years, it’s also fine.

 Is this the right book for you?

Read it if: you don’t mind crying and feeling pain; you love emotional plots; death is a subject you relate to.

Think again if: you don’t like slow-paced stories; you don’t believe in fabulist events; death is a very sensitive subject for you.

Trigger warning: death of a loved one; car accident.