Title: Since You've Been Gone
Author: Morgan Matson
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Release date: May 6th 2014
Genre: Young Adult contemporary
Source: BEA 2014
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The Pre-Sloane Emily didn't go to parties, she barely talked to guys, she didn't do anything crazy. Enter Sloane, social tornado and the best kind of best friend—the one who yanks you out of your shell.But right before what should have been an epic summer, Sloane just... disappears. No note. No calls. No texts. No Sloane. There’s just a random to-do list. On it, thirteen Sloane-selected-definitely-bizarre-tasks that Emily would never try... unless they could lead back to her best friend. Apple Picking at Night? Ok, easy enough.Dance until Dawn? Sure. Why not? Kiss a Stranger? Wait... what?My rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Getting through Sloane’s list would mean a lot of firsts. But Emily has this whole unexpected summer ahead of her, and the help of Frank Porter (totally unexpected) to check things off. Who knows what she’ll find?
Go Skinny Dipping? Um...
It's no secret I love Morgan Matson - both Amy & Roger's Epic Detour and Second Chance Summer are on my list of all-time favorites. Since You've Been Gone is a bit different from Morgan's first two books: those two were about grief, and what I loved most was the honest, heart-wrenching but hopeful emotion. Since You've Been Gone is not sad and emotional in the same way, but it definitely made me feel something - this book just made me so, so happy. You know that amazing feeling you get when you read a really good book that speaks to you in all the right ways, a feeling we sadly still don't have a word for? Since You've Been Gone is pure that-nameless-feeling.
The whole idea of the list was so much fun! Honestly, the stuff on this list is kind of dumb - I wouldn't have had a problem doing any of these, really, and if you're looking for real teenage rebellion... Yeah, no, not the case here. But Emily's character makes it work. Because the character development is so well done and Emily felt like a real person to me, I could totally understand why these things were a big deal for her. I loved reading about Emily stepping out of her comfort zone to complete this random list.
I always appreciate when book focus on friendship rather than romance, and I love how friendship drives the story in Since You've Been Gone. Sloane and Emily's friendship is portrayed in all its honest complexity: Morgan Matson doesn't resort to the cliched manipulative friendship that Sloane and Emily's characters could have easily fit, but she also doesn't gloss over their issues. She has created a perfect balance of valuing what it means to have a best friend and also exploring the problems of relying on another person so completely by showing how Emily struggles to figure out who she is without Sloane. I loved this honest portrayal of such a complex, realistic friendship.
But Sloane and Emily are not the only great friendship in this novel. As she steps out of her shell, Emily befriends Frank, Collins, and Dawn, all of whom I loved. They each have their own story that I loved reading about, and they complement Emily perfectly.
Because I loved this focus on friendship, I kept hoping there wouldn't be a romance storyline. But when there did end up being romance, I absolutely did not mind because it fits the story so naturally. Frank is not your typical YA love interest - he's nerdy and imperfect - and I loved him. Frank and Emily are adorable together, and I love how naturally and honestly this relationship develops. But even though I didn't mind that Since You've Been Gone has a romance storyline, it did bother me a bit how much the ending focuses on the romance - instead of just Emily and Frank, I wanted to read about Sloane, and I wanted to know what happens between Emily and Collins and Dawn.
Morgan Matson's writing is so endearing that I don't think I could not love anything she writes. With engaging writing, complex characters, and a fun set-up, Since You've Been Gone is the kind of book that shows me why I love reading. If you haven't read anything by Morgan Matson, you really, really need to. I can't wait to see what she comes up with next!