Tuesday 13 September 2022

REVIEW: The Many Half-Lived Lives of Sam Sylvester by Maya MacGregor

Pages: 352 
Format: Hardback
Boyd Mills Press 
Release Date:
May 3rd 2022
Homophobic Abuse
Buy the Book: Book Depository

In this queer contemporary YA mystery, a nonbinary teen with autism realizes they must not only solve a 30-year-old mystery but also face the demons lurking in their past in order to live a satisfying life.

Sam Sylvester's not overly optimistic about their recent move to the small town of Astoria, Oregon after a traumatic experience in their last home in the rural Midwest. 

Yet Sam's life seems to be on the upswing after meeting several new friends and a potential love interest in Shep, the pretty neighbor. However, Sam can't seem to let go of what might have been, and is drawn to investigate the death of a teenage boy in 1980s Astoria. Sam's convinced he was murdered--especially since Sam's investigation seems to resurrect some ghosts in the town. 

Threatening notes and figures hidden in shadows begin to disrupt Sam's life. Yet Sam continues to search for the truth. When Sam discovers that they may be closer to a killer than previously known, Sam has a difficult decision to make. Would they risk their new life for a half-lived one?
You know when you start a book and immediately connect with it? The Many Half-Lived Lives of Sam Sylvester was one of those books for me. Within a few chapters, I just knew it was going to be a favourite. It follows Sam as they move to a new town following an incident with their classmates. But what Sam doesn’t know it that they’re moving into the former house of Billy, a high school student from the 80s who died under mysterious circumstances.  

As someone who loves unsolved mysteries, Sam and their new friends unravelling the secrets of Billy’s death was a perfect plot for me. I loved slowly getting to learn about both Sam and Billy through the course of the story, and there was a creepy atmosphere to the events that gave it almost a fantasy-like element.

God, I love Sam so much. Their relationship with their father is exactly the type of parent-child relationship we need to see more of in YA. They worked through problems together and built such a mutual respect for one and other.

Even though he’s not alive when the story is set, Billy still has such an impact. As a fellow Bowie fan, Billy’s admiration for him made such a lovely little detail, and I loved the focus on the music that Billy loved. Getting to know him makes his death all the more tragic.

  • Found family. Sam goes from a toxic environment in their old town to finding a group of people to love and support them in this new town. It made my heart all fuzzy to see their relationships grow.
  • Mystery. So many plot twists to keep you hooked here! I was suspicious of absolutely everyone at one point or another.
  • Healing. The core of this story is Sam’s growth, and them learning to move on from the past. I love stories with a beautiful message behind them.

This was a book that I grew to love even more with each chapter. With a diverse cast of characters and an epic mystery to resolve, there isn’t a dull moment to be found. It’s perfect if you’re looking for a story that has creepy vibes without being a horror.

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