When we last left Sam and Riddle in I’ll Be There, their crazy father was finally in jail and the brothers were taken in by Emily Bell and her family. A happily-ever-after, right?
Well, only Holly Goldberg Sloan would take a happily-ever-after and turn it into a nightmare.
First, there’s the whole issue of security: Sam and Riddle (especially Riddle) were controlled and abused for so long that it’s difficult for them to trust their own decisions, to get into “real” life. They’re suffering and much of that is the residual effects from the years spent with their father. It doesn’t help that Emily and her family (well, except for her brother, Jared, who’s resentful) are super-nice. Sam and Riddle don’t know how to handle super-nice.
So they’re not really surprised when their happily-ever-after starts unraveling. First, it’s Destiny Vance, one of those girls who just screams trouble. Sam knows it: like calls to like, and he understand’s Destiny’s hard life. But she won’t be gotten rid of and sticks to Sam and Emily (and Emily’s former boyfriend, Bobby) like glue.
Which turns out to be a good thing, because their dad, Clarence, finds his way out of jail and is coming for the boys. And the Bells.
Few authors have the power to completely wreck me emotionally yet keep me turning pages at an ever more furious pace, dying to know: WHAT NEXT? Sloan is one of those authors. She captures the inner lives of all the characters, deftly balancing among Sam, Riddle, Emily, Jared, Destiny, Emily’s former boyfriend, and Clarence. You wouldn’t think it would work, but Sloan pulls it off not only well, but spectacularly. It probably would have been even more powerful if I’d read the first book right before, but even though I didn’t, I was able to immerse myself in this story, my heart simultaneously aching and pounding as I read about Sam and Riddle and their not-so-happily-ever-after.
Rated: Moderate for psychological intensity, violence, and some mild swearing.