Just Call My Name

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
Just Call My Name Book Poster Image
True love, family vs. psycho killer in fast-paced thriller.

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age 12+
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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Readers may pick up some incidental details about the stretch of road from Merced, Calif., to the Portland, Ore., area and a bit of vicarious experience driving an 18-wheeler. 

Positive Messages

Positive messages about a strong commitment between teens in love; love of family; and learning to share and get along in blended families. Also about resourcefulness, determination, clever problem-solving, and that a crucial bit of help can come from the unlikeliest people.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Although they bear many scars from their earlier lives, Sam and Riddle are good kids doing their best to fit in and live up to the expectations of the people who saved them and gave them new lives. Emily's parents are nearly over-the-top kind and compassionate in their eagerness to take in Sam and Riddle. Many readers will relate to her brother Jared's difficulties in dealing with two instant siblings, and his eventual coming to terms with the situation: "Jared dropped to the couch. He was exhausted. Trying to cause trouble was a lot of work. Even when you weren't successful." Even newly arrived bad girl Destiny and Emily's annoying ex-boyfriend rise to the occasion when Emily's in mortal danger.


Violence is not presented as attractive, but there's a lot of it, particularly from the boys' straight-out-of-Stephen-King father, who shoots and kills a Good Samaritan and plans to kill Emily: "He'd killed a bird once, when he was small, by crushing it in his hands. It trembled when he held it. He remembered that now. And then he broke its neck, and it stopped shaking. 

"It was so peaceful and lifeless in the palm of his pale hand. It had been released from this world of pain.

"He wanted the Bell family to remember him.

"He would stop their daughter from shaking."


One couple spends the night together in a motel room, and it's understood that they have sex, but there's no graphic description. One character causes trouble by forcing herself on an unwilling boy in his parked car -- just as his girlfriend drives by. A prison escape goes unnoticed in the press because a naked Miss America has been found in a doughnut-shop restroom with the governor of Oregon.


Mild language, such as "dumbass," and a reference to a peeing kid.


Occasional product names mentioned for scene-setting, such as Sprite and Cinnabon. Part of the decor at a sleazy motel are sidewalk stars for the previous owners' favorite actors: Burt Reynolds, Donna Mills, and Richard Chamberlain. At a crucial moment in the story, one of the characters is inspired by a reference to Grand Theft Autobut the product name isn't mentioned.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some teen characters, and one who claims to be an adult but is probably lying, drink beer. One of them gets drunk and sick. Sam and Riddle's vengeful father drinks alcohol, smokes cigarettes, and ingests all the prescription drugs he can steal. None of this is presented as attractive.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that teen thriller Just Call My Name is the sequel to Holly Goldberg Sloan's YA debut, I'll Be There. It continues the story of Sam and Riddle Border (ages 17 and 12 respectively); Sam's girlfriend, Emily; her loving family, who've taken in the two boys; and Clarence Border, the boys' violent, abusive father, who plots revenge on all of them for what happened in Book 1. There's a lot of violence: One character is kidnapped, another shot dead. A character who claims to be an adult but probably isn't gets drunk and sick on beer. On the lam, Clarence drinks liquor, smokes cigarettes, and gulps down all the prescription drugs he can steal. There's gunplay, speeding, and vehicles on fire. Amid these and other hazards, two teens in love try to stay true and do the right thing.

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Teen, 13 years old Written bycommensenseteen101 August 25, 2017

What's the story?

As JUST CALL MY NAME begins, brothers Sam and Riddle Border, who've lived on the run with their deranged father for the past 10 years, are trying to adjust to life in the loving family of Sam's girlfriend, Emily. They're just starting to feel safe because Clarence Border, the boys' father, is locked up in prison a state away. But Clarence, obsessed with revenge, is plotting his escape. Meanwhile, a strange new girl in town may be a threat to Sam and Emily's relationship.

Is it any good?

Readers who haven't read the previous volume, I'll Be There, may spend about the first third of this book a bit confused. Author Holly Goldberg Sloan's third-person omniscient voice goes into the heads of the characters to bring the reader up to speed on their situation, often in plodding, angsty prose that mirrors the character's states of mind, as in this passage:

"He was hers.

"Weren't she and Sam one?

"Hadn't they already been tested? 

"Since the impossibly sexy Destiny had appeared, suddenly they were one plus the shadow of someone else. And it felt like they were three. 

"Was she imagining that?


"It was real."

Sam, Riddle, and their evil father are compelling, complex characters; many of the others are essentially ciphers or personifications of qualities needed to move the plot along. But once the action starts, very little of this matters; more sophisticated readers may roll their eyes a bit, but even they will be turning the pages fast to see whether the heroes can survive.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about kids who had horrible childhoods and are now in a happier, safer situation, as Sam and Riddle are here. What kinds of problems do you think they'd have adjusting? 

  • Why do you think stories of deranged killers out to torture and kill innocents -- and the often unlikely alliances of people who rise up to stop it -- are so popular?

  • If you read the first book in the series, do you like the way Just Call My Name resolves the issues? If you didn't, did you have a hard time getting into the story?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love thrillers and teen romance

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