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

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.

Read an Excerpt

My thoughts

Excellent supernatural mystery! I can’t believe that this is a debut novel. Maya MacGregor knocks it out of the park!

There is so much to unpack in The Many Half-Lived Lives of Sam Sylvester. The mystery is solid. MacGregor has a realistic reason as to why Sam would be invested in a young person’s death. Then MacGregor adds in Sam moving into Billy’s bedroom where he died and that cinches it. The supernatural aspect is not over the top. It is just the right touch of spookiness for a story taking place in today’s world.

“I’m not afraid of death because the living are much scarier, even the ones who aren’t trying to kill you.”

Loc. 1620

The other main cast member, I feel, is Sam’s dad. Junius is my unicorn. He adopts a kid on his own. He picks Sam even though he is on the autism spectrum and hadn’t spoken a word to anyone at the foster home. Junius could have picked an easier road, but he didn’t. He is firmly in Sam’s corner, no matter what comes out of his mouth. Loyalty. Unconditional Love. Don’t we all wish we had this?

The secondary cast is stellar. MacGregor gives us a diverse cast from bisexuals to genderfluid to non-white characters. I could go on and on about Shep, but I think I want to talk about Aidan. Aidan is an amazing ally. He says something at one point to Dylan, a closeted gay youth, that hanging out with gay people doesn’t change who you are. I was cheering so much inside me. Aidan reminds me of Harry Styles (who hasn’t formally said if they are rainbow or not). After watching Sam’s new friend group interact with each other, he joined in risking his own popularity to be a part of this group. Then he started changing his fashion and damn I wish I had a picture of Sky and him at prom. Styling. 

Let’s talk about Sam. I am going to warn you that Sam goes through some harsh events and MacGregor finally shows what happened after many glimpses. Take a deep breath and be glad that Sam can too. Sam is also loyal and willing to let people in after everything that has happened to him. He doesn’t let his anxiety get in the way – which makes him better than me on most days. (chuckle) 

I love The Many Half-Lived Lives of Sam Sylvester. I think it is the combination of Sam and Junius that makes this story for me. The mystery is solid. The friendships are even more so. Did I forget to mention that there is a romance amidst all of this, pairing an ace and a bisexual who are so sweet together. MacGregor gives us everything and I love it.

I received an ARC of this book and I am writing a review without prejudice and voluntarily.

Rating: 5 out of 5.



 “As a Bookshop and Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.” at no additional cost to you.

Further Details:

Published by: Astra Young Readers, 9781635923599, 03 May 2022
Cover Design by: Barbara Grzeslo
Edited by: Suzy Krogulski
Settings: Astoria, OR, U.S.
Pages: 352
Secondary Characters include: Bisexual, Lesbian, Non-Binary, Transgender, Non-White, Vietnamese, Latina, Black, Jewish

Credits: Promo Photo by Megha Mangal on <a href=”; rel=”nofollow”></a>


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