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You've Reached Sam


If I Stay meets Your Name in Dustin Thao's You've Reached Sam, a heartfelt novel about love and loss and what it means to say goodbye.

Seventeen-year-old Julie Clarke has her future all planned out―move out of her small town with her boyfriend Sam, attend college in the city; spend a summer in Japan. But then Sam dies. And everything changes.

Heartbroken, Julie skips his funeral, throws out his belongings, and tries everything to forget him. But a message Sam left behind in her yearbook forces memories to return. Desperate to hear him one more time, Julie calls Sam's cell phone just to listen to his voice mail recording. And Sam picks up the phone.

The connection is temporary. But hearing Sam's voice makes Julie fall for him all over again and with each call, it becomes harder to let him go.

What would you do if you had a second chance at goodbye?

About the Author

Dustin Thao is a Vietnamese-American writer based in Southern California. He graduated from Amherst College with a B.A. in Political Science, and is in a PhD program at Northwestern University. He writes contemporary young adult fiction. You’ve Reached Sam is his YA debut.


Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.


MARCH 7 11:09 P.M. Don’t bother picking me up anymore. I can walk home.

I did walk home. All five miles from the bus station, dragging an overstuffed carry-on with a broken wheel in the middle of the night. Sam kept trying to reach me. Twelve unread messages, seven missed calls, and one voice mail. But I ignored them all and kept walking. Reading these back again, I wish I hadn’t been so angry at him. I wish I had picked up the phone. Maybe then everything would be different.

Morning light comes through the curtains as I lay curled in bed, listening to Sam’s voice mail again.

“Julie—you there?” Some laughter in the background, and crackling from the bonfire. “I’m so sorry! I completely spaced. But I’m leaving now! Okay? Just wait there! Should only take me an hour. I know, I feel terrible. Please don’t be mad. Call me back, okay?”

If only he’d listened to me and stayed with his friends. If only he didn’t forget about me in the first place. If only he just this once let me be upset instead of always trying to fix things, no one would be blaming me for what happened. I wouldn’t be blaming me.

I play the voice mail a few more times before I delete everything. Then I climb out of bed and start upending drawers, looking for anything that was Sam’s or reminds me of him. I find photos of us, birthday cards, movie ticket stubs, paper blossoms, stupid gifts like the stuffed lizard he won at the town fair last fall, as well as every mix CD he made me over the years (who even burns CDs anymore?), and cram them all into a box.

Every day these little reminders of him get harder to look at. They say moving on becomes easier with time, but I can barely hold a photo without my hands trembling. My thoughts go to him, they always do. I can’t keep you around, Sam. It makes me think you’re still here. That you’re coming back. That I might see you again.

Once I have everything collected, I take a long look at my room. I never realized how much of him I had lying around. It feels so empty now. Like there’s a void in the air. Like something’s missing. I take a few deep breaths before I grab the box and leave my room. It’s the first time this week I managed to get out of bed before noon. I only make two steps out the door before I realize I forgot something. I set the box down and turn back to get it.

Inside my closet is Sam’s denim jacket. The one with the wool collar and embroidered patches (band logos and flags of places he’s traveled) along the sleeves that he ironed on himself. I’ve had it for so long, and wear it so often, I forgot it was his.

I pull the jacket from the hanger. The denim feels cold to the touch, almost damp. Like it’s still holding in rain from the last time I wore it out. Sam and I race down puddle-filled streets as bursts of lightning lit up the sky. It is pouring on our way home from the Screaming Trees concert. I pull the jacket over my head as Sam holds his signed guitar tight to his chest, desperate to keep it dry. We waited three hours outside for the band’s lead singer, Mark Lanegan, to come out and hail his taxi.

“I’m so glad we waited!” Sam shouts.

“But we’re soaked!”

“Don’t let a little rain ruin our night!”

“You call this a little?”

Out of everything I’m throwing out, this reminds me of him the most. He wore it every day. Maybe it’s all in my head, but it still smells like him. I never got the chance to give it back like I promised. I press the jacket against me. For a moment, I consider keeping it. I mean, why does everything have to go? I could shove it in the back of the closet, hide it beneath my coats or something. It seems like a waste to throw out a perfectly nice jacket, regardless of whom it once belonged to. But then I catch a glimpse in the mirror and come back to myself.

My hair unbrushed, skin more pale than usual, wearing yesterday’s shirt, cradling Sam’s jacket like it’s still a part of him. A chill of embarrassment goes through me, and I look away. Keeping it would be a mistake. Everything has to go, or else I’ll never be able to move on with my life. I shut the closet door and hurry back out before I change my mind.

Downstairs in the kitchen, I find my mother leaning over the sink, staring out of the window. It’s Sunday morning, so she’s working from home. The bottom step creaks under my foot.

“Julie—is that you?” my mother asks without turning around.

“Yeah, don’t worry.” I was hoping to sneak the box right by her. I’m not in the mood to have a talk about what’s inside. “What are you looking at?”

“It’s Dave again,” she whispers, peering through the blinds. “I’ve been watching him set up new security cameras outside his house.”


“It’s exactly like I expected.”

Dave is our neighbor who moved in six months ago. For some reason, my mother thinks he was sent to watch us. She’s been paranoid ever since she received a letter from the government a few years back, the contents of which she refuses to share with me. “It’s better if you don’t know,” she said when I asked. I think it has something to do with a lecture she gave at her old job that incited protests. Her students went around campus smashing clocks on every wall. What were they protesting?

The concept of time. To be fair on her part, she said her students “didn’t get it.” But the university decided her teaching style was too radical and let her go. She is convinced they reported her to the government. “The same thing happened to Hemingway,” she explained to me. “But no one listened to him. Fascinating story. You should google it.”

“I heard someone broke into his garage the other week,” I say to relax her. “That’s probably the reason for the cameras.”

“How convenient,” my mother says. “We’ve lived here for almost, what, three years now? No one has taken as much as a lawn gnome.”

I readjust the box that’s starting to feel heavy. “Mom—we’ve never owned a lawn gnome,” I say. Thankfully. “And we also don’t collect vintage sports cars.”

“Whose side are you on again?”

“Ours,” I assure her. “Just tell me our plan to take him out.”

My mother releases the blinds and sighs. “I get it … I’m being paranoid.” She takes a deep breath, releases it like her yoga instructor taught her, and looks at me. “Anyway, I’m glad you’re up,” she says. Her eyes flash to the clock above the fridge. “I was about to head out, but I can make you something if you’re hungry. Eggs?” She slides toward the stove.

The electric kettle begins to boil. A bag of coffee sits near the sink beside a teaspoon.

“No—I’m fine.”

“Are you sure?” my mother insists, her hand hovering over the handle of a clean pan. “I can make you something else. Let me think…” She seems more rushed than usual. I glance down the counter and see a stack of ungraded papers. They recently finished midterms at the university in town where my mother works. She is an assistant professor in their philosophy department. It was one of the few places that interviewed her after the incident. Thankfully, one of her old colleagues is tenured there and put his name on the line. One mistake and they both could lose their jobs.

“Actually, I’m on my way out.” I keep glancing at the clock, trying to appear to be in a hurry. The longer I linger around, the more questions she can throw at me.

“Out of the house?” my mother asks. She shuts off the electric kettle and wipes her hands with a dish towel.

“Just for a walk.”

“Oh … Okay. I mean, that’s good.” For the past week my mother’s been bringing meals up to my room and checking in several times a day. So I’m not surprised to hear the note of concern in her voice.

“And I’m meeting a friend.”

“Fantastic.” My mother nods. “You could use the fresh air, get some decent coffee. And it’s good to see your friends. That reminds me, have you talked to Mr. Lee at the bookstore?”

“Not yet…” I haven’t really spoken to anyone.

“You should check in with him if you can. At least let him know you’re okay. He’s left a few messages.”

“I know—”

“Some of your teachers, too.”

I grab my bag from a hook on the wall. “Don’t worry, Mom, I’ll talk to them tomorrow.”

“You mean, you’re going back to school?”

“I have to,” I say. “If I miss another week they won’t let me graduate.” Not to mention I’m behind on all my schoolwork, which keeps piling up. I really need to focus again, and pull myself together, because what else am I supposed to do? The world keeps moving, no matter what happens to you.

“Julie, don’t you worry about any of that,” my mother says. “They’ll understand if you need more time. In fact”—she holds up a finger—“let me make a call.” She turns in a circle, looking around. “Where is that thing…”

Her phone is sitting on the kitchen table. As my mother walks over to grab it, I jump in her way.

“Mom, listen, I’m fine.”

“But Julie—”


“Are you sure?”

“I promise I am, okay? You don’t have to call anyone.” I don’t want her to worry about me. I can deal with this on my own.

“Alright then,” my mother sighs. “If you say so.” She cups my face with her hands, running her thumbs along my cheeks, and tries to smile. The silver in her hair shines beautifully in the light. Sometimes I forget she was once blond. As we take each other in, my mother glances down. “So what’s in the box?”

I was hoping she wouldn’t notice. “It’s nothing. I was cleaning out my room.”

Without asking me, she lifts the jacket off like a lid and glances inside. It doesn’t take long for her to connect the pieces. “Oh, Julie—are you sure about this?”

“It’s really not a big deal…”

“You don’t have to get rid of everything,” she says, riffling through it. “I mean, you can always store some of it away if you want—”

“No,” I say firmly. “I don’t need any of it.”

My mother lets go of the jacket and steps back. “Alright. I won’t stop you on this.”

“I have to go. I’ll see you later.”

I leave the house through the garage door. Down by the curb, I drop the box of Sam’s things beside the mailbox and recycling bin. It hits the ground with a clatter like change and bones. The sleeve of his jacket hangs limply over the side of the box like the arm of a ghost. I straighten my shirt and begin my morning walk toward town, letting the sun warm me up for the first time in days.

Halfway down the block, a breeze rolls leaves across my path as I pause on the sidewalk, struck with a strange thought. If I were to turn around, would he be standing there holding his jacket, staring down at the rest of his things? I imagine the look on his face, and even wonder what he might say, as I cross the street and continue down the block without once looking back.

There is a slight chill as I make my way into town. Ellensburg lies east of the Cascades, so occasional gusts of mountain air blow right through us. It’s a small town made up of historic redbrick buildings and wide open space. It’s a town where nothing happens. My parents and I moved here from Seattle three years ago when my mother received a new job at Central Washington University, but only she and I stayed after she was offered a full-time position. Dad returned to his old job in Seattle and didn’t look back.

I never blamed him for leaving this place. He didn’t belong here. Sometimes I feel like I don’t belong here, either. My mother describes Ellensburg as an old town that’s still figuring itself out in an age where everyone wants to be in the city. As much as I can’t wait to leave the place, I admit it has its charm.

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You've Reached Sam

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Product details:

EditionInternational Edition
ISBN1250762030, 978-1250762030
Posted onNovember 9, 2021
Page Count304 pages
AuthorDustin Thao

You've Reached Sam By Dustin Thao PDF Free Download - HUB PDF

If I Stay meets Your Name in Dustin Thao's You've Reached Sam, a heartfelt novel about love and loss and what it means to say goodbye.


Author: Dustin Thao

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