The Many Half-Lived Lives of Sam Sylvester

Astra. May 2022. 360p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781635923599.
Gr 7 Up–Sam Sylvester is haunted by the stories of teens who died before turning 19. After surviving a violent hate crime in Montana, Sam, a white 18-year-old nonbinary autistic person, feels an even stronger kinship with those teens whose lives ended early. The only living person that Sam has ever trusted is their adoptive father, Junius, who is Black. When the fiercely protective Junius moves the two of them to Astoria, OR, for a fresh start, it feels like Sam might finally be able to escape their traumatic past and find a home in this inclusive community. At school, Sam meets some other queer kids and forms an immediate bond with Shep, who identifies as cisgender bisexual Latina. Aside from the spark of attraction they feel for each other, Sam and Shep are drawn together by their shared obsession with the teen who died under mysterious circumstances in Sam’s house back in the 1980s and are determined to solve the cold case. However, the person who has gotten away with murder for the last three decades is equally determined to stop them, no matter what it takes. This vibrantly written debut novel masterfully blends a suspenseful and satisfying paranormal mystery with a sweet and tender love story. Nearly all the main and secondary characters identify as LGBTQIA+ and are fully developed with their own quirks and arcs.
VERDICT Highly recommended for older middle school (due to some strong language) and high school readers who love a spine-tingling and romantic character-driven story.

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