The Many Half-Lived Lives of Sam Sylvester book review

The Many Half-Lived Lives of Sam Sylvester by Maya MacGregor
360 pages
publishes May 3rd, 2022

In this queer contemporary YA mystery, a nonbinary autistic teen 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 has long collected stories of half-lived lives—of kids who died before they turned nineteen. Sam was almost one of those kids. Now, as Sam’s own nineteenth birthday approaches, their recent near-death experience haunts them. They’re certain they don’t have much time left. . . .

But Sam’s life seems to be on the upswing after meeting several new friends and a potential love interest in Shep, their next-door neighbor. Yet the past keeps roaring back—in Sam’s memories and in the form of a thirty-year-old suspicious death that took place in Sam’s new home. Sam can’t resist trying to find out more about the kid who died and who now seems to guide their investigation. When Sam starts receiving threatening notes, they know they’re on the path to uncovering a murderer. But are they digging through the past or digging their own future grave?

The Many Half-Lived Lives of Sam Sylvester explores healing in the aftermath of trauma and the fullness of queery joy.

Thanks to NetGalley for this review copy.

Back when I was a kid coming out, the only book around for nonbinary pals was I WISH YOU ALL THE BEST by Mason Deaver, which is a really boring book. (Sorry, it’s just that nothing happens in it). Now THIS book? About a nonbinary teenager solving a murder mystery? AND ALSO THEY’RE AUTISTIC? Excuse me??

Let’s pull out some bullet points:

  • a little bit paranormal!
  • ace spectrum
  • adoptee
  • a great dad!!!!
  • starting over at a new school!
  • new friendships!

Honestly, this is a queer cozy mystery that really just needs like, a couple more puns for it to hit four stars for me. The writing feels somewhat stilted and weird, and it never drew me in enough to ignore the fact that the NetGalley copy was a PDF, which is the absolute worst way to read an eARC. Three and a half stars, rounded up for NetGalley. Storygraph link. Bookshop link.

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