“I’ll be There” by Holly Goldberg Sloan begins with a sweet romance and turns into a harrowing adventure tale. Readers will find this suspenseful book hard to put down. Sometimes her plots stretch credibility, but I don’t care. I love her books anyway!
Sam Border has led the life of a vagrant. His father, Clarence, is a conman and criminal. He drifts from place to place with his two sons, often to stay ahead of law enforcement. He spends his time stealing and pawning goods. Sam has not been to school since the second grade. He and his brother, Riddle, stay hidden during the school day and emerge from their low-income apartment later in the day to go dumpster diving.
Clarence finds the boys useful. People are less suspicious of a single dad with two sons. As the boys grow older, he resents them. Neither boy is willing to steal making them useless in his eyes.
Emily Bell is your all American girl. Her parents are loving people who want to make a positive mark on their world. Emily plays second string soccer and excels in school. She is curious about people and notices things that others fail to see.
When a series of random meetings brings her and Sam together. Emily finds him fascinating. He’s not like any guy she’s ever known. He’s quiet and humble, a welcome change from the arrogant Bobby Ellis, who has had his eyes on Emily for months.
When Emily’s parents realize she is in love, they insist on having Sam over for dinner. Mr. Bell discovers that Sam is a musical prodigy. It’s not long before Sam and Riddle become a fixture in the Bell household.
It’s scary for Sam who is beginning to realize how strange his life really is. Riddle, Sam’s brother, stands out even more. He’s five years younger and small for his age. He rarely talks and spends most of his free time creating intricate drawings in old phone books.
The book takes a sinister turn when Clarence Border finds Emily Bell’s cellphone in his son’s pocket. Clarence is very angry about his sons’ secret lives. He vows to seek revenge.
Meanwhile, the senior Bells are unaware that Sam and Riddle live in a moldy house on the worst side of town or that many of their meals come from trash cans. When Mr. Bell’s car is vandalized, Sam realizes that he has put the Bell family in danger.
When Sam and Riddle arrive home, Clarence is throwing everything into the trunk and angrily orders them inside. They have headed again for an unknown destination.
They are now caught in a life or death spiral. Clarence vows revenge. From this point, it’s a wild ride for the brothers who must not only deal with Clarence’s wrath but also navigate a remote wilderness without supplies or assistance.
This is a great book for anyone who loves a good love story or adventure. It’s light reading at its best.
You can download this book and many others at https://bhmlib.org/nc-kids/ or through any public library in North Carolina. Other libraries also have e-books available.