17-year-olds Sam and Emily see each other for the first time across the church sanctuary while Emily is singing her first and only solo ("I'll be there"). After holding her hair back while she ralphed outside in the parking lot, Sam disappears. Emily can't find him anywhere. She's never been that interested in a boy before, but Sam is special. Sam, meanwhile, has gotten the first haircut of his life, on a whim, and everyone suddenly notices him--since he's as hot as any model. This is really scary for Sam, since his family has been on the run since he was in second grade. Sam's dad is mental as well as being a thief. Sam and his little brother Riddle have not gone to school since their dad took them away a decade ago. Riddle depends on Sam for everything, from food to safety to talking--to anyone, even their father.
When Emily sees Sam and Riddle outside the IHOP in the pouring rain, she chases after. Pretty soon Sam and Emily are meeting and talking as often as they can. But for both of them, "All of a sudden, everything was getting so complicated." Emily thought the trouble with her parents was the worst, until they heard Sam play guitar. Then it was even worse. At one point, after a group picnic, Emily stares at them all and decides "that they were the human equivalent of dump cake."
And nothing will ever be the same for Sam and Riddle. Being on the road again is not, their dad is not. It all falls apart in the middle of nowhere, and suddenly the book is a survival suspense thriller. Every page turn has a new twist, and a new person doing the right thing. It warms the heart and soul when everday people take steps to help strangers--just like it does in real life. Ann Arbor born author Holly Goldberg Sloan has written a riveting and sweet, lyrical story in this new book I'll be there.~Tessa Eger 4 out of 5 stars