Sam by Allegra Goodman (Young Adult)

A story about a young girl who sinks into despondency and manages to (literally) claw herself up through rock climbing, her perseverance and stubbornness when faced with impossible climbing challenges mirroring the way she finally finds a path that works for her. The six parts of the novel take us from seven to eighteen — dealing with a beloved father who, fighting addiction, disappears for long periods of time; a (temporary) step father with no fondness for her and a somewhat violent temperament; a (most of the time) single mother pushing her children to not miss the opportunities she herself had missed; a half brother who needs constant management to get even the smallest thing done; and many others on varying sides of (my) moral boundaries.

The writing is good and I appreciated the thoughtful characterizations. While she finds her way at the end, I found reading the book to be a little depressing. While there were many good characters, I found myself wishing that people had just made better choices up front. It’s always painful for me to think about how many screwed up people there are and how their mistakes cause such pain for others. I’m aware that I’m completely missing the actual point of the story which is about how someone overcomes the problems of their childhood, but I find myself unhappy that they ever had to face those problems to begin with.

Thank you to Random House Publishing Group, The Dial Press and NetGalley for providing an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. The book will be published on January 3rd, 2023.