Arc Review: The Many Half-Lived Lives of Sam Sylvester by Maya MacGregor📕

Arc Review Sam Sylvester

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.

Expected Publication: May 3rd 2022 by Astra Young Readers

GR (2)

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?


CW’s: Queerphobia, Transphobia & Misgendering (Challenged), Murder/Murder Attempt, Panic Attacks, Bullying, Stalking, Violence, Past Outing & Toxic Friendship, Mention of Alcoholism, Self-Harm, Suicidal Thoughts & Domestic Abuse

Representation 🌷 Nonbinary Autistic MC on the Ace Spectrum, Bi Latina LI, Black AroAce SC, Bi SC




Thank you to Edelweiss and Astra Young Readers for providing me with a digital copy in exchange for an honest review! Quotes are taken from the Arc and subject to changes!

I appreciated how the story explored the Trauma and Tragedy of Half-Lived Lives through the main character Sam. Sam Sylvester is a nonbinary autistic teen seeking a fresh start in Astoria, Oregon after the traumatic experiences they went through at the last high school. We slowly explore that trauma and how it affects Sam’s thinking patterns. I really liked their perspective, it was authentic and highlighted the struggles of being autistic in a neurotypical world that doesn’t understand you. Sam is used to having to explain themselves and stay under the radar, but at their new school they find much more support than anticipated. There is a school club for queer kids and many of the teachers try to be welcoming and understanding. Though there are still ignorant people and weird threats happening, Sam finds other queer friends for the first time and can be more openly themselves than ever before. Another big part of the story is Sam’s interest in Half-Lived Lives (children who died too soon; before their 19th birthday) and the book he keeps about those lives. It’s their way to remember them. That’s also how they get involved in a 30 year old cold case about a young boy called Billy who happened to have died in their new room. Sam’s perspective on this tragedy is also influenced by their own brutal near-death experience and the fear they have of being destined to die young. They feel like they never really escaped death after all and their sense of safety is forever shattered. I appreciate how the author delved into all these themes, it was done with much care and nuance!

“In the end, sometimes you have a choice. We can’t always choose whether or not we die, but we can get to choose whether to be afraid to live. You get to choose. Just like I am about to.”

I loved the queer found family & romance so much! 💜🌈 The relationship dynamics in this book all stole my heart! One of the best characters is Sam’s father Junius, a Black single dad who adopted Sam and got them out of foster care. There is so much love and trust between Sam and his father, it really warmed my heart 🥺 Junius would do anything to protect his kid and is such a caring, funny person! Then there are Sam’s new friends: Shep (a bi Latina dealing with difficult parents), Sky (a bi guy badly burned by his ex) & later Aiden (kind of popular guy, but has a kind heart). They form their own kind of queer friend group and the found family vibes are immaculate! Sam finally has people to confide in and that try to understand them. They become especially close with Shep who shares their interest in the mystery of Billy and is also convinced that it wasn’t an accident. Together, they try to investigate and slowly grow closer together. Their developing romance was so sweet and wholesome, I loved the gentle love and understanding between them!

The mystery was intriguing, but also realistic. Sam feels drawn to Billy’s case because he’s literally living in his room and because he’s one of the kids in his Half-Lived Lives book. There’s also a slightly whimsical element to the story, as Sam and Shep both have a kind of intuition making them convinced that Billy’s death wasn’t an accident. Sam especially feels connected to Billy, partly because he can sympathize with him and feels drawn to all the kids whose lives ended too soon. The town seems content to call Billy’s death a tragic accident, but when Sam and Shep keep digging, threats begin to show up and make them realize that someone wants them to leave it alone. The mystery gets really intense in the second part of the book. The first book is obviously also focused on Sam settling in the new town and finding friends. The ending especially gets thrilling and heartstopping, I stayed up late to finish this book because I needed to know what was happening!! I liked that the reveal wasn’t obvious but also made sense with the clues we had gotten!

“It’s a powerful thought, that safety is always an illusion.”

IN CONCLUSION.The Many Half-Lived Lives of Sam Sylvester is a fantastic contemporary mystery story examining trauma, tragedy and recovering from having your safety shattered. There are some wonderful queer found family dynamics in the story and I really liked how the main character’s perspective was handled with nuance and care!

Divider2 (2)

Are you going to read The Many Half-Lived Lives of Sam Sylvester? What is your favorite book with a queer friendship group? 🌈

4 thoughts on “Arc Review: The Many Half-Lived Lives of Sam Sylvester by Maya MacGregor📕

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.