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Dustin Thao Books In Order

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Publication Order of Standalone Novels

You've Reached Sam (2021)Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
When Haru Was Here (2023)Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Dustin Thao is an American author of contemporary fiction novels. His debut novel, You’ve Reached Sam is a USA Today and New York Times bestseller. He holds a B.A. in Political Science at Amherst College.

You’ve Reached Sam
Julie is a seventeen-year-old teenager whose future is all planned to relocate from her small hometown with Sam, her boyfriend, to attend college in the city and then spend summer in Japan later. Julie has always dreamt of becoming a famous author, while Sam wants to be a musician. After leaving the town, they plan to rent an apartment in the city then go to Japan to meet Sam’s grandparents. However, things don’t go as planned as Sam passes away and everything about Julie’s life takes a different turn.

Julie feels so heartbroken; she doesn’t attend the funeral and disposes of his belongings as a way of forgetting him and his tragic way of death. She doesn’t even talk to anyone and is sad that she never has the chance to give her last goodbye; that’s why she’s trying to erase all the memories she has for Sam. However, as she goes through her yearbook, she sees Sam’s message, which forces her to remember her memories. She becomes so desperate to hear Sam’s voice and one night decides to call his phone just to listen to his voicemail, but contrary to her expectation, Sam picks answers the call. Both don’t understand how this is happening, but they use it as a chance to say goodbye since they never had a chance before the untimely death. How could it be possible? How can they be communicating?

Events take a miraculous turn as Julie is given a second chance to give her goodbye. Even though she knows that the connection is temporary, hearing his voice makes her feel more attracted to him, and the more they talk, the more she can’t let go of him.

After a while, she feels that keeping Sam’s calls a secret isn’t easy, especially seeing how his family is tough. She feels so bad watching them experiencing the pain of losing their son, and Julie is stuck between telling them about the calls and risking losing their connection and him forever.

Sam still has some things to show her and presents to share with Julie as she slowly adjusts to talking to him. She doesn’t want to risk getting disconnected from the phone call, so she doesn’t feel like letting anyone know what’s going on. She still feels so heartbroken seeing Sam’s best friend in so much pain after the loss, and she drifts away slowly. Mika thinks Julie has already moved on, erasing his memories while planning to leave the city.

However, Julie knows that one day she’ll have to say goodbye because their connection on the phone keeps on getting weaker as days pass. Can she handle saying goodbye to the lover of her life? Mika, Sam’s cousin and best friend is intriguing, especially in the part where he honors those who’ve passed away, making one think of the rites and traditions in a new way.

You’ve Reached Sam is a fantastic novel with an emotional journey that will have the reader laughing and crying. The novel shows how grieving is messy and can turn someone into something you can’t recognize. Julie’s Journey is incredible, and a touch of the magical aspects enhances it. The secondary characters are well-rounded and developed to make the story more fascinating.

Dustin Thao’s writing is gripping, and the characters are relatable and realistic. Sam was a sweet and caring boyfriend to Julie, and whenever he saw her doing the wrong thing, he didn’t hesitate to tell her. He gave her a hand in getting out of her comfort zone and letting her live a little. Sam embraced her flaws while helping her become a better person.

He was a musician, and it’s so sad and heartbreaking to learn about his death. Their relationship was admirable, and it’s so heartbreaking to see them getting ripped off. It’s so sad to see them not fulfilling the great plans they had laid down. The story shows how one should never take life for granted by spending it with loved ones because no one knows what tomorrow holds.

Julie’s a strong character, and even though she experienced some bumps, she kept going because this is what Sam would want her to do if he were alive. Dustin Thao’s novel talks about love, loss, regret, and second chances while reminding the readers that they shouldn’t grieve alone.

The grief sometimes consumes Julie that she doesn’t see how she’s ignoring the people around her. She sacrifices the connection with Sam to help his family and friends heal fast. The book also helps the readers understand the importance of compassion, communication, gratitude, and empathy.

Dustin, throughout the novel, showcases how loss can shape one’s life, especially teenagers. The plotline flows well, and it’s easy to picture Julie’s emotional journey as the story unfolds. The flashbacks gave more description and added more flesh and pacing to the story. The phone calls added more depth to their relationship.

The story portrays grief in its real form without leaving any details out while showing how sometimes holding on to someone can be dangerous. It combines grief and magical realism to reveal what might appear harsh when told in plain words. The descriptions are so vivid even in the memories and dreams, and it leaves the reader experiencing everything with Julie.

The story is more character-driven as we go deep into Julie’s dreams, fears, and feeling while she grows past the pain of loss. For readers who love their contemporary novels with a touch of magic, this Young adult novel is a perfect choice.

Life through grieving isn’t easy, and the author has handled the issue so delicately to touch the reader’s heart. Grief is a devastating thing that everyone at some point in life will have to experience. This cute sad novel brought hope and sadness in a unique way that’s easy to understand.

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