I generally love the book recommendations from Read With Jenna, and after seeing this book all over Instagram, I decided to listen to the audiobook. The author noted that her own daughter was the inspiration for this story which I found very intriguing.
Overall, this is a very spare yet very thoughtfully written coming of age book that is often very bittersweet. The book is told in the third person and follows Sam from childhood to 19 years old. She matures along the way and the third person voice reflects her growth.
This is very much a character-driven novel and while there is not a tremendous amount of action, I appreciated the topics of class, addiction and family dysfunction. There is no doubt that the author is a wonderful writer (“𝘞𝘩𝘦𝘯 𝘴𝘩𝘦 𝘩𝘦𝘢𝘷𝘦𝘴 𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘴𝘦𝘭𝘧 𝘰𝘷𝘦𝘳 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘵𝘰𝘱, 𝘴𝘩𝘦 𝘪𝘴 𝘢 𝘤𝘢𝘴𝘵𝘢𝘸𝘢𝘺 𝘤𝘰𝘭𝘭𝘢𝘱𝘴𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘰𝘯 𝘥𝘳𝘺 𝘭𝘢𝘯𝘥. 𝘉𝘢𝘵𝘵𝘦𝘳𝘦𝘥, 𝘣𝘳𝘰𝘬𝘦𝘯, 𝘴𝘢𝘷𝘦𝘥”). Sam’s growing maturity is reflected in the very subtle shift in the tone of the book.
I loved the narration by Rebecca Lowman. I did feel some weighty topics were glossed over. However, ‘Sam’ would be a superb recommendation for any Young Adult reader in your life.
About the Book:
What happens to a girl’s exuberance and wonder as she becomes a woman? This unforgettable portrait of coming-of-age offers a powerful reflection on class, addiction, parenthood, longing, and ambition.
There is a girl, and her name is Sam. She adores her father, though he isn’t around much. Her mother, Courtney, struggles to make ends meet, and never fails to remind her daughter that her life should be different. Sam doesn’t fit in at school, where the other girls have the right shade of blue jeans and don’t question the rules. Sam doesn’t care about jeans or rules. She just loves to climb–trees, fences, walls, the side of a building. When she’s climbing, she discovers a place she belongs: she can turn off her brain, pain has a purpose, and it’s okay if you want to win.
As Sam grows into her teens, she grapples with self-doubt and insecurity. She yearns for her climbing coach to notice her, but his attention crosses boundaries she doesn’t know how to resist. She wishes her father would leave for good, instead of always coming and going, but once he’s gone, she realizes how much she’s lost. She rages against her mother’s constant pressure to plan for a more secure future. Wrestling with who she wants to be in the face of what she’s expected to do, Sam comes to understand that she alone can make her dreams come true.
Allegra Goodman’s beautiful and wise novel Sam is deceptively simple: it is about a girl who becomes a woman. But underneath its straightforward chronology and spare sentences lie layers of extraordinary depth, sensitivity, and tenderness. This unforgettable ode to girlhood asks, What happens to a child’s sense of joy and belonging–her belief in herself–as she grows up? The answer will break your heart, but will also leave you full of hope.