Title: Since You’ve Been Gone
Author: Morgan Matson
Publisher: Simon & Schuster BFYR
Ages: 12+ (YA)
Overall rating: 4 1/2 out of 5 stars
Sloane leaned against me, and I leaned back, until, after a few moments, you couldn’t tell who was holding up who.
Sloane is everything to Emily. She is fearless, beautiful, funny, and is always there to listen when Emily has stories to share. The two girls are a package deal and rarely does anyone see them apart from one another. They have traditions and inside jokes. They spend the weekends exploring flea markets together and going to the drive in where they use Twizzlers as straws for their Diet Cokes and add peanut M&Ms to their popcorn. Sloane was always the one to pull Emily out of her comfort zone. She challenged her, she made her life interesting.
And then Sloane disappears. Emily returns from a trip upstate with her family to find her best friend and her family gone, leaving no explanation, not even a note.
Emily is devastated. She doesn’t know what to do with herself without Sloane, so she just drives to her house on Randolph Farms Lane, hoping that she’ll be there and the entire thing will be one big misunderstanding.
Then, two weeks after Sloane disappeared, Emily receives the list. On it are thirteen tasks that Emily knows she is meant to complete. Tasks that are conceived by Sloane. Tasks that terrify Emily. Tasks she would never complete if she weren’t so certain the list meant something. Kiss a stranger. Ride a dern horse, ya cowpoke. Penelope.
Suddenly, the summer that had seemed so trivial and tedious without Sloane now seems like it will be one of the craziest Emily has ever had.
As Emily embarks on this new, unexpected adventure, she makes new discoveries about other people and her own abilities. With Frank Porter alongside – a boy Emily never expected to spend her summer with – she works to cross tasks off Sloane’s list and maybe, hopefully, bring her friend home.
I first saw this book on Goodreads, if I remember correctly, and I wanted to read it as soon as I saw the description. It seemed so different from anything I’d read before, as well as anything I’d ever seen before. The cover is also really cute. Now that I’ve read the book, I see how well the cover captured the story in its entirety!
Both Emily and Sloane are fantastic characters. As a pair they are unstoppable.
Emily is so incredibly real. We, as readers, fall in love with her. She has real thoughts, real emotions, and real relationships. Emily is struggling to find out who she really is. For her entire life her identity has been ‘Sloane’s best friend’, and without her she feels totally lost at first. As the novel progresses she discovers new parts of herself, she discovers her true abilities, and she slowly begins to come into her own. It is special and wonderful to be able to watch this.
Sloane’s character is revealed through Emily’s flashbacks. This is done in such a phenomenal way – Sloane becomes this genuine person even though we aren’t seeing her in the present. This is incredibly important as we need to understand Emily and Sloane’s relationship. We need to understand how important Sloane was to Emily, why she misses her so much, why she needs her back in her life. These flashbacks complete and bring life to Sloane, and ultimately the story. Something that I truly love about Sloane Williams is that although she seems like this perfect girl, she has faults. She is a character with incredible depth. She also inspired me to get my own pair of aviators, because let’s face it – this girl is a fashion queen.
And then, of course, there is Frank. He is a character all his own. My favorite thing about him is that he is not stereotypical. Most of the time the popular guys at school in fiction are the jocks, the sporty guys. Frank is smart, an environmental enthusiast, and he goes on missions to save things like tree frog species. He is sweet and genuine and he cares about people. His and Emily’s relationship is wonderful – it is innocent and sweet, developing throughout the novel.
I’ve already put all of Morgan Matson’s other books on my Goodreads ‘Want To Read’ shelf. Her writing is soft and beautiful but can also be strong and meaningful. She has a style that is much needed in today’s YA. I find that in many YA books the writing is so complex, hard to follow, and forced. I’m so glad that there are some authors out there who still write novels like this – novels with magnificent, classy – yes, classy – storylines. This is why I like contemporary fiction so much.
The setting is very important to Since You’ve Been Gone, the reason being that many of the places Emily visits throughout the book are places she once visited with Sloane, places that are very meaningful and special to her. Morgan breathed life into each place – The Orchard, McKenzie’s, the spec house, and everywhere else. Something that I also always admire in writing is when an author includes just enough description. Not piles of it, word upon word, but just enough that it gives the reader a clear picture and then leaves them to develop the rest based on their perception.
Another thing that I always pay attention to when reading books is the weather. I find that when looking for symbolism, the weather is always a great place to start. It almost always means something, even if the author doesn’t necessarily intend it to. Since You’ve Been Gone took place in the summer. This made sense, because if Sloane disappeared in the middle of the school year than obviously there would be too many adults involved for Emily to have any real adventure, and school would have interfered with completing her tasks. The summer climate and weather also reflected Emily’s journey. Summer often symbolizes growth and maturity. Emily grows and matures as the summer progresses.
Since You’ve Been Gone has many themes wrapped into one book. It can be very fun at times, it can be heart wrenching, and amidst all this is a well written romance.
One thing that I would have liked to have seen more of was a family element. Emily’s parents were absent from her entire summer. I understand that not much would have happened if her parents got involved, but it didn’t quite flow. I didn’t really get why Emily didn’t just tell her parents because as far as I am concerned, it would have made things a lot easier for her. I felt that her parents going into furious play writing mode and locking themselves in the dining room did not add anything to the story. It was simply a way of tossing them out of the picture so that Emily could have her own adventures without the disruption of the rest of her family. In the end, family was somewhat important to the overall story, but the entire theme was skimmed over. I did like Emily’s relationship with her younger brother Beckett, though.
Since You’ve Been gone has so much to offer the entire contemporary genre. It is a great summer read, as well as a great winter read as it will take you back to warmer times. It is a snapshot of what summers should be like – friends, adventures, growth, and stepping outside your comfort zone.
On the surface, Since You’ve Been Gone seems like a lighthearted, fun read. It is, in fact, both of those things, but it is so much bigger than that. It is the empowering story of a girl who, despite feeling like a part of her is missing, discovers herself.
Want to find out more about Morgan? Visit her at her website!
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I also wanted to share with you something that happened this month. On March 5th it was my 1 year Blogoversary! I totally missed it – only yesterday did I remember! It has been such a journey and I am planning on putting out a special post dedicated to it very soon. Thank you so much to all of my readers for standing alongside me this year – I can’t wait to see what is to come in 2016!
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