From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
A naturally gifted musician, Sam and his younger, possibly autistic brother, Riddle, have been raised apart from society by their criminally insane father, Clarence, who constantly moves the boys from town to town, always one step ahead of the law. But when Sam meets Emily and a tentative friendship begins, the always unstable Clarence goes berserk and, taking the boys deep into the heart of a national forest, attempts to kill them. The boys escape, but Sam is injured in the process, and a harrowing survival story begins. Sloan's novel is an exercise in excess, which is both good and bad news. Sam and Riddle are wonderfully appealing characters that readers will root for, but the story is occasionally over the top and misanthropic in tone, with too many characters that range from fatuous to grotesque. Still, this is a highly suspenseful read with a dynamic, cinematic quality that keeps the pages turning to the satisfying conclusion.--Cart, Michael Copyright 2010 Booklist
School Library Journal
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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 (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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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) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.