Excerpt from Sam by Tom Hallman, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Sam

The Boy behind the Mask

By Tom Hallman

Sam
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • Hardcover: Oct 2002,
    224 pages.
    Paperback: Oct 2003,
    224 pages.

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


"I'm not hungry tonight."

His mother sighs. She turns to look at him, not bothering to turn off the water. Sam sees her studying him, running her eyes over his bony arms as he wearily props himself against the door frame. He knows she's been watching him like this since he left the hospital six months ago. She's scared the mass on the side of his face will once again roar to life and maybe, this time, kill him.

"I'm full," he says.

She bends her head toward him, about to speak. He knows what's coming--the concerns, the worries, all the questions that he doesn't want to answer. He moves to cut her off.

"Really, Mom. I'm full."

He gives her the thumbs-up sign and a smile. After spending his young life trying to make himself understood, Sam has found alternatives to the words that are so hard for him to shape. He uses his good eye and hand gestures to get his point across.

"Okay, Sam," she says quietly.

He leaves the doorway and goes upstairs. He walks along the hall to the door with the toy license plate announcing "Sam." In his room he fiddles with a laptop, leafs through a motorcycle magazine, and plays with a foam basketball.

He sits on the bed and tosses the ball across the room, hitting a poster on the wall. His mother made that poster, assembling family photographs and documents and then laminating them. They are the remnants of a fading childhood.

In the middle of the poster is a questionnaire Sam filled out when he was eight. He had been asked to list his three greatest wishes. First, he said, he wanted $1 million. Next, a dog. On the third line, he doodled three question marks--back then, he couldn't think of anything else he wanted or needed. If he could be granted one wish now, it would be to look better. Not perfect. Not like a model. Sam just wants to look a little more normal. He wants people to see beyond his face.

He hears the back door shut downstairs. His father is home. Sam goes to his door. He can hear his parents talking, and he listens carefully, but he can't make out the words. Maybe his parents are talking about him.

He changes into his clothes for the open house, the shirt and pants he selected with such care. All eighth-graders are obsessed with how they look and how they'll fit in at school. Sam is no different. He watches MTV. He knows what's considered popular and cool. He knows what girls like. Everyone talks about beauty being on the inside, but Sam knows that's only what people tell themselves. It may seem true to little kids, or to men and women in their forties. But to a teenager like Sam, it's a lie.

When Sam was due to arrive at middle school, his fifth-grade teacher, worried that he would be teased and misunderstood, created a slide show on his life. She gathered photographs of Sam from his family, and asked students who knew him in grade school to write letters of introduction. Then she held an assembly at the middle school, and at all the grade schools that would send kids to Gregory Heights. After the students had seen pictures of Sam, she read from letters his schoolmates had written.

"I've known Sam for the greater portion of my time at Rose City Park," one student wrote. "Not very well until this year, though. I remember that kids, ignorant, hateful kids, would make fun of him....Think how horrible it was for him. I, like many other people, did nothing. I was quiet and got my fair share of teasing....I deeply regret [that I did nothing]. I wasn't in Sam's class again until fifth grade. I saw a tremendous improvement in the other kids. Perhaps ignorance was our biggest enemy. I saw a new side of Sam, too. A side that had always been there, a side that only needed a closer look. So I ask you, before you judge Sam, or anyone for that matter, remember that a person's true beauty is not on the outside, but within their heart."

Sam's teacher ended the assemblies by reminding students that while Sam looked different, he was a normal boy. They didn't have to be his best friends, but they should not be afraid of him, or make fun of him.

From Sam: The Boy Behind the Mask by Tom Hallman, Copyright © October 2002, Putnam Pub Group, a member of Penguin Putnam, Inc., used by permission.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  
Sign up, win books!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket
    The Stranger on the Train
    by Abbie Taylor
    The opening chapter of Abbie Taylor's debut novel, The Stranger on the Train, took me right back to ...
  • Book Jacket
    Night Film
    by Marisha Pessl
    One of the central tenets of Hinduism states that the world as we know it is just an illusion –...
  • Book Jacket: Complicit
    Complicit
    by Stephanie Kuehn
    When seventeen year-old Jamie Henry receives word that his older sister Cate, is being released from...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

Tomlinson Hill
by Chris Tomlinson

Published Jul. 2014

Join the discussion!

  1.  158The City:
    Dean Koontz

All Discussions

Win this book!
Win The Angel of Losses

The Angel of Losses

"Family saga, mystery, and myth intersect in Feldman's debut novel." - Booklist

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

O O T F P, Into T F

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.