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The Many Half-Lived Lives of Sam Sylvester: A Review

Released on May 3rd, I was lucky enough to get my hands on an e-ARC of Maya MacGregor's young adult debut earlier this year, and boy did I enjoy it! This book was absolutely enthralling. A young adult murder mystery centering around a character who is queer, nonbinary and neurodivergent (autistic). Expertly plotted, with living, breathing characters, I'd definitely encourage anyone of any age to read this as soon as they can get their hands on it! Sam Sylvester (they/them) was adopted at the age of seven by their single father, Junius Sylvester, with whom they have a wonderful, loving and supportive relationship that I enjoyed every minute of. When the book begins, we know little of Sam's immediate past, only that there was an incident that threatened their safety, prompting their dad to relocate them to an older home in the small town of Astoria. When Sam first arrives at Astoria High, they know no one and the principal offers that they attend the school's QSA (Queer/Straight Alliance), an invitation that they accept. This is where they officially meet their friend and neighbour, Shep. Shep is quick to loop in Sam about a murder that happened in the home that Sam has just moved into with their father. When Shep's mom was in high school, her classmate, Billy Caplan, died of anaphylactic shock due to a peanut allergy, which the whole town has since dubbed a "tragic accident". Shep does not believe that Billy's death was an accident, and Sam's intuition tells them that she is right. Despite warnings from their parents as well as a mysterious classmate who seems to be threatening Sam's life, Sam and Shep know that Billy Caplan deserves the truth, and they are intent on being the ones to find it. Sam was such an incredible protagonist, and I loved how casually and unapologetically queer this book was. With Sam's dad being aroace, two bi side characters and Sam being queer and on the ace spectrum (and having a whole-ass conversation about how their autism is not related to their asexuality nor their gender identity!), this book is chock-full of queer representation. While it doesn't shy away from tough topics such as violence against queer/trans folks, it is an ultimately hopeful book about finding yourself and learning to love yourself for everything you are, and finding the people who will love you for you, too. You can buy the book from BookDepository here.

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