The Many Half-Lived Lives of Sam Sylvester

- Maya MacGregor

Goodreads Book Blurb:

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?


My Review:

***Thanks to NetGalley and Astra Young Readers for an eARC of this book. The following review is my honest reflection on the text provided.

almost perfect:
If you’re looking for a great YA mystery with incredible representation, you’ve come to the right place.

I could not believe how seamlessly The Many Half-Lived Lives of Sam Sylvester addressed so many things. Sam is a non-binary teen with autism adopted by a single, black, asexual father. They’ve dealt with extreme bullying leading to a near-death experience, which prompts a move to a more accepting city. They unintentionally move into a house which is the location of a 30-year cold case resulting in the mysterious death of a teenager that Sam has researched in the past. Sam’s father, Junius desperately wants to protect his child, though Sam and Junius are both painfully aware that Sam will always be unsafe. The emotions running through the narrative are almost tangible as Sam and Junius navigate this new town and new school, unable to escape their past completely.

Every ounce of love is always an act of desperate hope.

I don’t know how it was possible, but the twin narratives of bullying/adapting to a new school and this 30-year cold case worked together incredibly well. It never felt like one was overshadowing the other, overlapping in all the right places to create tension and interest. With a few paranormal elements to raise the stakes, The Many Half-Lived Lives of Sam Sylvester has everything I could ever want in a story. Not to mention, the family, friendship, and romance elements are heart-achingly sweet.

I absolutely loved The Many Half-Lived Lives of Sam Sylvester and could not recommend it highly enough.

"I don't know if the school is ready for us."
"Sister, my field of fucks is barren"

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