Verdict: SAM’S THEORY masterfully combines magic and wonder in a compelling story about healing from child abuse.
Teenaged Sam has suffered a lifetime of abuse at the hands of her parents and worries that her younger sister faces the same fate. Together, she and her friend Dodger hatch a plan to escape their group home and start a community to help other kids like them. On her way to meet Dodger at a secluded lake, Sam stumbles across a fantastical tree house inhabited by a mysterious woman named Theory. Under Theory’s gentle yet powerful guidance, Sam discovers the powers hidden inside her that will help heal other abuse victims as well as herself.
With SAM’S THEORY, author Sarah Mendivel has put together an inspirational story that is simultaneously tragic, funny, frightening, magical, heartbreaking, and uplifting. Though she incorporates elements of fantasy into her novel, she refuses to gloss over or sugarcoat the truth of child abuse, which she portrays with an unflinching rawness. Readers who have suffered such violence in real life should, therefore, be advised that the book contains scenes that may trigger uncomfortable thoughts or emotions.
Sam is a terrific character and role model for those who have suffered abuse. The well-executed first-person point of view reveals her as an intelligent, sensitive, creative, and caring young lady with absolutely no idea how special she is. As for the enigmatic Theory, her sage wisdom and tender concern offer readers comfort that they, too, can overcome the darkness in their lives and find the light within. The setting of the story is so eloquently described that it could almost be a character itself. Readers can smell the books in Theory’s library and the ink of her printing press. The surrounding forest comes to life with exquisite details of animals, birds, and trees. Rounding out the cast are Sam’s friend/boyfriend Dodger, her sister Nova, and their fellow abuse survivors Rishawn and Mikayla. All four supporting characters are richly fleshed out and have their own unique contribution to the story as they band together to build a new life.
For a survivor of child abuse, the most vital thing they need to know is that they are not alone. SAM’S THEORY stands as a testament that there is hope. The world needs more stories like this, just as it needs more people like Sam and Theory, who encourage all survivors to ask for help, open their hearts, find purpose, and be brave.
~Heather McNamara for IndieReader