I'll Be There

I'll Be There

4.1 25
by Holly Goldberg Sloan

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Emily Bell believes in destiny. To her, being forced to sing a solo in the church choir--despite her average voice--is fate: because it's while she's singing that she first sees Sam. At first sight, they are connected.
Sam Border wishes he could escape, but there's nowhere for him to run. He and his little brother, Riddle, have spent their entire lives


Emily Bell believes in destiny. To her, being forced to sing a solo in the church choir--despite her average voice--is fate: because it's while she's singing that she first sees Sam. At first sight, they are connected.
Sam Border wishes he could escape, but there's nowhere for him to run. He and his little brother, Riddle, have spent their entire lives constantly uprooted by their unstable father. That is, until Sam sees Emily. That's when everything changes.
As Sam and Riddle are welcomed into the Bells' lives, they witness the warmth and protection of a family for the first time. But when tragedy strikes, they're left fighting for survival in the desolate wilderness, and wondering if they'll ever find a place where they can belong. Beautifully written and emotionally profound, I'll Be There is a gripping story that explores the complexities of teenage passions, friendships, and loyalties.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
A 2012 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults BookA 2011 Los Angeles Public Library Best of YA Book
The Horn Book
* "[A]
life-affirming exploration of the subtleties of love, compassion, and relationships.
. . . Like the song it was named for, this book is hard to get out of your head."

"Sam and Riddle are wonderfully appealing characters that readers will root for....A highly suspenseful read with a dynamic, cinematic quality that keeps the pages turning to the satisfying conclusion."
Publishers Weekly
Screenwriter and director Sloan delivers a cinematic, psychologically nuanced first novel of star-crossed love and the power of human empathy and connection. Sloan excels at crafting memorable characters and relationships, from the central, transformative romance between 17-year-olds Sam and Emily, who meet after her disastrous church solo, to finely sketched cameos. Sam and his sensitive, possibly autistic younger brother, Riddle, live an isolated and itinerant existence, subject to the whims of their violent and deranged father, Clarence. Tension escalates as Emily's family becomes attached to the boys, growing concerned for their well-being, and an unstable Clarence takes off with his sons once again. It's agonizing but thrilling reading as Sam and Emily try to surmount the many obstacles Sloan throws at them. Her skills as a writer are never in doubt, though the story can at times feel melodramatic, especially as it turns into a survivalist epic, and a plot thread about a classmate enamored with Emily devolves into slapstick. But Emily and Sam's romance is that of the against-all-odds, meant-to-be variety, and while the ending is too perfect, it is unquestionably earned. Ages 12–up. (May)
VOYA - Susan Redman Parodi
I'll Be There tells the story of two brothers, Sam and Riddle Border, raised by their abusive anti-establishment father. Sam's passion for music inspires him to seek exposure by stopping at churches. He meets Emily Bell during an off-key solo in church one Sunday. Emily, uncomfortable during her performance, fatefully connects with Sam, a stranger in the back pew. Their relationship begins with the compassion Sam expresses to Emily at her failed singing debut, and they quickly develop a kinship. Sam is different; his main priority is his brother, Riddle. The two do not attend school and move around from place to place to evade the law their father broke on various criminal endeavors. Riddle is a boy with autism-like qualities—introverted but highly perceptive, dependant on Sam for his protection and parental guidance. Emily comes from a stable, intact nuclear family. She has never met anyone as dynamic and honest as Sam and is intrigued by his empathy. Seemingly opposites, Sam and Emily have a bond built on complexities and intensities not typically found in a first-love scenario. Their connection and quest to be together despite the odds will draw the reader into a plot line rich with emotion and enhanced by the powerful forces of destiny. Sloan builds characters rich with depth and realism. The story takes on many cinematic qualities, and the characters are easy to embrace and visualize, possibly a result of the author's background in directing family feature films. A terrific read, quick to capture the audience, this book will make readers sing the melody in their hearts. Reviewer: Susan Redman Parodi
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up—Seventeen-year-old Sam's and 10-year-old Riddle's lives have never been normal. Because of their abusive father's bad habit—stealing—they are always on the run. Sam stumbles into church wearing his cleanest dirty clothes on the day that Emily Bell sings "I'll Be There" by the Jackson Five. He can't help but feel that she is singing directly to him, and the two make a connection that later will change both of their lives. Because of many coincidences, the two eventually meet again and the relationship blossoms, but not without some hindrances. Sam's father commits a series of crimes, and he forces the boys to hit the road with him again. The brothers end up escaping their father's grip and get separated, and readers will flip pages frantically to find out if they are reunited with one another and with Emily's family. Sloan illustrates how we are all connected in big and small, positive and negative ways. Any reader who has ever questioned whether even the smallest gesture of kindness can make a difference will appreciate this book. Even though there are many characters and the scene is constantly changing, this riveting story will keep readers interested and guessing until the end.—Karen Alexander, Lake Fenton High School, Linden, MI
Kirkus Reviews

"Making a connection to a person can be the scariest thing that ever happens to you." This truth hits especially hard now that Sam Border, currently known as Sam Smith, has met Emily Bell. Sam has never known many people. His father took Sam and his younger brother Riddle away from home when they were little, never to see their mother again, and ever since they've lived a life on the run. Clarence Border, their father, is a born liar and a cruel and abusive man, and Sam has taken on the role of protector of Riddle, who seems to be autistic. Mr. Bell, a music professor, discovers Sam's gifts as a musician and Riddle's skill at drawing, talents that become important to the tale. Sloan, a film writer and director (Angels in the Outfield and Made in America), has fashioned a cast of memorable characters with compelling stories and relationships, but, curiously, has neglected a basic scriptwriter's tool, dialogue, in her debut young adult novel. Too often, she violates the old writing teacher's advice: Show, don't tell. Too much explaining, too much going on, an overreliance on incomplete sentences and an unwieldy accumulation of subplots undermine a good story. (Fiction. 12 & up)

Product Details

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.20(d)
Age Range:
12 - 18 Years

Read an Excerpt

I'll Be There

By Goldberg Sloan, Holly

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Copyright © 2011 Goldberg Sloan, Holly
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780316122795


The days of the week meant nothing to him.

Except Sunday.

Because on Sundays he listened to pipe organs and pianos.

If he was lucky, handheld bells, pounding drums, or electronic beat machines might vibrate while people sang and sometimes clapped and on occasion even stamped their dressed-up feet.

On Sundays, wherever he was, whenever he could, Sam Border woke early, pulled on his cleanest dirty shirt, and went looking for a church.

He didn’t believe in religion.

Unless music could be considered a religion. Because he knew God, if there was one, was just not on his side.

Sam always came in after things had started. And he always left before the service was finished. He sat in the back because he was there only to visualize the patterns in the musical notes. And maybe grab a glazed donut or a sticky cookie on the way out.

If someone tried to speak to him, Sam nodded in greeting and, if he had to, threw in a “Peace be with you.” But he had perfected the art of being invisible, and he was, even when he was younger and little, almost always left alone.

What he could remember, when he thought of the dozens and dozens of towns where he’d lived, were sounds.

Even Junction City, where he’d spent a whole winter and made a friend, was now gone, except for the ping of the rain hitting the metal roof on the apartment off the alley where the city parked all its noisy trucks.

That was three years ago. Fifteen towns ago. Another lifetime.

After Junction City they’d been outside of Reno for a while. And then in a trailer that rattled as if every screw and corresponding piece of corroded metal was ready to come undone.

The trailer was in Baja California, and it felt like living in a cardboard box, which was one of his many recurring nightmares. But he’d appreciated those five months south of the border.

Being an American automatically meant he was an outsider, so for the first time in what he could remember of his blur of a broken life, he’d felt like he could relax. He was different. It was expected.

But even fitting-in-because-you-don’t-fit-in didn’t last.

His father got them out of the country and back to the U.S. just as Sam was learning to speak Spanish and figuring out how to swim.

For weeks, while his brother and father slept, Sam had gone down right after sunrise to the crashing waves. Teaching yourself a skill, especially one that could kill you if things went wrong, wasn’t easy.

At first, he only went in up to his knees. And then, gradually, he ventured into the swell, moving his arms in the cold surf like he’d seen people do from a distance.

He was pretty sure he looked like a real idiot.

But he was always able to get back to the gritty beach, even on the morning when the ocean suddenly shifted gears and began to pull him sideways down the shoreline. For what seemed like miles, he slapped his arms against the waves and thrashed his legs in a fury as he swallowed mouthfuls of icy salt water.

Because something inside him, even when he most wanted to give up, just wouldn’t.

After that day, Sam figured he had once gone for a real swim. But he assumed that whatever he’d learned from the experience would disappear, like so much that had come and gone in a life dictated by his father. There were so many things that were a mystery. That’s what happens when you’ve never gone to school past second grade.

But the good thing was that he didn’t know what he didn’t know, and that made it all easier.

Emily Bell was a collector.

And what she gathered and sorted and prized was carried with her wherever she went.

Because Emily’s obsession was with other people’s lives.

Her grandmother had once said that Emily would have been the greatest spy ever born. But only if spies didn’t have to guard secrets as well as unearth them. Because Emily’s own emotional wall of self-protection was see-through. She wasn’t hiding anything about herself, so why should anyone else?

It was disarming.

Emily’s interest in personal histories made her accessible to people’s deepest emotions. It was as if she had some kind of magnet that pulled at someone’s soul, often when he or she least expected it.

And that same magnet, which had to have been shaped like a horseshoe, allowed someone to look at her and feel the need to share a burden.

Hers was a gift that didn’t have a name.

Even she didn’t understand what it all meant.

Emily just knew that the grocery store clerk’s cousin had slipped on a bath mat and fallen out a second-story open window only to be saved because the woman landed on a discarded mattress.

But what interested Emily the most about the incident was how the cousin had subsequently met a man in physical therapy who introduced her to his half brother who she ended up marrying and then running over with her car a year later after a heated argument. And that man, it was discovered, had been the one to dump the mattress in her yard.

He’d saved her so that she could later cripple him.

Emily found that not ironic but intriguing.

Because everything, she believed, was connected.

Now, at seventeen years old, Emily’s question was how she fit into the big scheme of things. Where was her minor incident that would change the course of major life events? So far it had all gone according to plan. Good parents. Decent younger brother. World’s greatest dog. Loyal best friend.

There had been no dramatic hairpin turns in her road. And not even any real bumps to speak of.

But she had lived in one town, and she had seen how small things changed big things. She saw every person as part of a ripple effect.

And, because of that, she believed in destiny.

At least that’s what she would later tell herself.

Emily took a bite of whole wheat toast and stared out the window. She did not have a beautiful singing voice. She could carry a tune, but that was the extent of the situation.

So why was she going to sing a solo at church?

The answer was right across from her, drinking coffee.

Tim Bell was a college music professor. But on Sundays he was now also the choral director of their congregation. And, as Emily chewed, she decided that he really must not care about that new position if he was going to subject the people to her rendition of “I’ll Be There.”

Because it wasn’t even a church song she had to sing.

It was a classic pop melody that the Jackson Five had made famous, and people had heard this song and seen this song performed and they all knew how it was supposed to sound.

Which made her singing it even worse.

Her father had a theory—because he had theories about everything—that love ballads could be used in places of worship and reinvented to have a spiritual dimension. Being an instructor, he knew that the key to emotional involvement with music was familiarity.

So the way Emily saw it, he was basically tricking people.

He was using songs that already made them feel good. The only problem in the scheme was her. It was just plain wrong to make her a guinea pig in the plan.

Emily had tried all week to appeal to her mother, who was always a voice of reason. But Debbie Bell was an emergency-room nurse and she said that she handled pain and he handled poetry, which meant she left music to her husband.

In desperation Emily had even worked on her little brother, Jared, who was only ten years old and, being seven years younger than her, would pretty much do anything she said. But even Jared didn’t think her singing was a big deal.

Emily shut her eyes and she could hear her own voice, sped up suddenly like a cartoon chipmunk, singing: “I’ll be there. Just call my name. I’ll be there.”

It was a total nightmare.

She would just have to grit her teeth and get through it.

But was it possible to grit your teeth and still sing?


Excerpted from I'll Be There by Goldberg Sloan, Holly Copyright © 2011 by Goldberg Sloan, Holly. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Holly Goldberg Sloan was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and spent her childhood living in California; the Netherlands; Istanbul; Washington, DC; and Oregon. She has written and directed a number of successful family feature films. The mother of two sons, Holly lives with her husband in Santa Monica, California. I'll Be There is her debut novel.

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I'll Be There 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 25 reviews.
Readingjunky More than 1 year ago
Sam has spent most of his life looking out for his younger brother Riddle. Raised by a father more interested in taking advantage of people and getting whatever he wants illegally, meant that Sam and Riddle were shuffled from one place to the next. Their contact with people living normal lives was severely limited. Using the excuse that he homeschooled his children allowed their father to keep them isolated. But it was more than mere isolation since the two boys were not only forced to stay indoors during the day to avoid being reported for truancy, but were also left on their own to scavenge for food in restaurant dumpsters. Sam developed a strong sense of responsibility for Riddle and suffered abuse at the hands of his father as he tried to protect his young brother. Riddle withdrew, and instead of talking, communicated through mechanically technical drawings made on the pages of old telephone books. Neither boy realized their lives could be better. Sam's path crossed with Emily's because of his love of music. He slipped into the back pew of her family's church on the Sunday she was to sing a solo. Being in the choir was fine with Emily, but singing a solo terrified her. Her voice wasn't exactly remarkable, and after her debut, she rushed from the church into a back alley. Sam was drawn to follow her. Something about her vulnerability made him offer comfort as she vomited behind the church. What follows is a story filled with remarkable connections. Beautifully told by first time novelist Holly Goldberg Sloan, I'LL BE THERE is a fantastic story. Readers will immediately bond with Sam, Riddle, and Emily as their story unfolds. Intense emotions, heartbreaking twists and turns, and the perfect amount of tension-breaking humor combine to make this one of the best books I've had the pleasure to read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read A LOT.. seriously, finishing multiple books daily... but with all those books, really, this is the best book I've read since the Hunger Games! Beautifuly written... ohmigosh.. I get excited just thinking about it...!!!! MUST READ!
KB4EVA More than 1 year ago
I was up at all hours reading this!! I just could not stop!! The themes are great and it's a perfect love story! I LOVE THIS BOOK!
K12 More than 1 year ago
the best book i read this entire summer!!! super tender and romantic and sweet!!! it's amazing, don't let anyone tell you otherwise. all the characters are real feeling and the story is touching!!!!!!! LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE IT
Paper_Frontiers More than 1 year ago
I'll Be There is a modern day fairy tale. The book is a great read, and I recommend it for those who wouldn't mind a calm, easy-going story. Well, you may get a little surprise at the end of the book, but you'll have to read to find out. Personally I could imagine this doing really well as a movie, maybe even better than a book, but it's still a great read nonetheless.
daya_sss More than 1 year ago
A love story like I haven't read in a long while.Pure genius!!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book over my cousin's shoulder until she let me borrow it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One if the books l read by this author is AMAZING. It was clever, interesting, and it sucks you into its page. I ve not read this book, but l'm sure it's just as good.
supportourtroopsNH More than 1 year ago
Just finished reading this book. It is really good. It takes some good unexpected turns. There are also heart wrenching parts where you will feel the power of brotherhood.
A_Readers_Record More than 1 year ago
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 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.
BLRocque More than 1 year ago
I’LL BE THERE was recommended by a friend. I loved this YA Book! It’s a family drama that becomes an adventure. It kept me up late one night and I finished it in a few days. Holly Goldberg Sloan’s story is about two families as different as the Earth and Saturn. The families meet after the two teens connect. The themes of human connection and compassion bind the plot, characters, and choice of settings. I loved the way the author infused these aspects, until the concluding chapter. After such a wonderful read, I hate to admit that the wrap was disappointing for me. How to end a book is a difficult writing challenge for any author. Since the author has some roots in the film industry, maybe she was anticipating the screenplay already. The book is outstanding despite this, and her character named Riddle is reason alone to read this book. Expect a fast pace due to the sparse writing style which may be as much as 80 percent narrative. Kudos to the interior page designer of the edition I read (with old shoes on the cover). It had generous spacing between sentences in addition to the margin white space. Appealing and very easy to read. In the back pages, there is an interview with the author in which you’ll find out why the adventure part of the story was so well done, but restrain yourself from peeking. Savor it once you’ve finished the story. Highly recommended book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read this book multiple times it is SOOOO GREAT!!!!! please please please make a movie of this book!! I love it so much!
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Wow. The hands on the cover of this book are really badly scaled. Either that girl has babys hands or that guys has hands the size of tires.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
When I read the summary I was really excited to read this book, but it was ultimately a dud! The point of view is constantly shifting, and sometimes I was given information that wasn't even necessary and was utterly pointless!! I mean who cares if the clenaing lady had a vacume cleaner from the 1970's or that the detective wish he hand't worn tennis shoes that day--ugh! I mean who cares! How is that information helping the story? Answer, it's not! This book was frustrating! It read like cliff notes--but without a point or direction! Save your time on this one, or if you're realllllyyyy desperate for an annoying and disconnected read then save your money and just check it out from your local library.