Monday, August 24, 2015
Book Review: Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson
Author links: Goodreads - Twitter - Website
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Age group: YA
Purchase links: Amazon - Book Depository
Description (from Goodreads):
It was Sloane who yanked Emily out of her shell and made life 100% interesting. But right before what should have been the most epic summer, Sloane just…disappears. All she leaves behind is a to-do list.
On it, thirteen Sloane-inspired tasks that Emily would normally never try. But what if they could bring her best friend back?
Apple picking at night? Okay, easy enough.
Dance until dawn? Sure. Why not?
Kiss a stranger? Um...
Emily now has this unexpected summer, and the help of Frank Porter (totally unexpected), to check things off Sloane's list. Who knows what she’ll find?
Go skinny-dipping? Wait...what?
After reading and falling in love with both Amy and Roger's Epic Detour and Second Chance Summer, I was pretty positive that I would love Since You've Been Gone. And I did. I REALLY DID!
Since Emily met Sloane, things have been good for her. Before, she was the shy girl who never really knew what to say or how to act around kids her age. After she became with Sloane, she might have still been shy, but she knew that Sloane was always there to save the day. Very quickly, they became best friends, doing everything together. Then, at the beginning of summer holiday, Sloane disappears without a word. First Emily thinks that she's just gone for a couple of days, maybe taking a family holiday. But as weeks go by, it starts to dawn on her that maybe Sloane is actually gone. Just as she is about to lose all the hope she has of reuniting with Sloane, she gets mail from Sloane. In the envelope is a list, including tasks such as "go skinny dipping" and "kiss a stranger". At first, Emily is positive there's no way she can do such things. But then the wheels start to turn and Emily finds herself with a new group of friends, realizing that she can be brave without Sloane. She just does not want to, if only possible.
While Emily goes through the list, treating it as a clue to finding Sloane, she finds herself from a new group of friends. There's Dawn, the girl working at the pizzeria next to the ice-cream shop Emily works at. There's Collins, a slightly goofy and at first glance, over-confident guy whose mission is to find a girlfriend. And then there's Frank Porter, a guy on his way to being the class Valedictorian and a future Ivy League scholar. Once these new friends learn about the list, they start to help Emily with it, and as the summer goes on, Emily finds herself connecting with these new friends in ways she never expected she would connect with anyone else but Sloane.
Much like Amy and Roger's Epic Detour and Second Chance Summer, Since You've Been Gone manages to juggle a coming-of-age, finding yourself-type of story with family problems. Emily's parents, a pair of playwrights, completely isolate themselves to the process of working on a new play idea, which means that in addition to taking care of herself, much of the care of her younger brother Beckett is on her shoulders. Then there's Frank's parents who are going through rough times while attempting to keep up a facade of happiness and professionalism. Finally, mostly through flashbacks, the reader is introduced to Sloane's parents, who Emily sees in a very positive light, but who from time to time manage to disappoint their daughter.
This family narration adds a level of realism to the story and allows Matson to open up the lives of her main characters in a more extensive manner to her readers. The pacing of the novel is well executed and it feels like every single page gives you more information about the characters and allows you to get to know them a little bit better.
Emily is such an easy character to identify with, because like her, I tend to be quite timid and shy and often scared of taking a leap/risk. Her friendship with Sloane has often meant that Sloane has been the one taking the risks, and now that Sloane is gone, she's faced with a reality where she needs to be the one taking the risks. Since You've Been Gone does not deal with a similar type of loss than Matson's previous novels, but as I kept reading, I understood where Emily is coming from. I have had the same best friend for 21 years, and I think if she just suddenly left without a word, I would feel the same way.
Like with Roger and Henry from Matson's previous novels, I pretty much instantly fell in love with Frank. I loved the fact that Matson decided to go with a "popular nerd" rather than a "popular jock". Don't get me wrong, I do love me some popular, sweet jocks, but once in a while, it is nice to read about a guy who seems like an "unconventional hottie" (though it seems like these nerdy guys are becoming the trend these days). For some reason, Frank brought into my mind Jim Halpert from The Office, probably because like Jim, Frank just honestly seems like SUCH A GOOD GUY!
Unlike Matson's previous novels, Since You've Been Gone includes much more friendship narrative, which I loved. Though I love romance, I have recently found out that I tend to like awesome friendships even more! Nothing really beats BFFs.
With Since You've Been Gone, Matson further solidifies her status as one of my favorite YA contemporary authors. I absolutely loved this book and I think you should all read it (most of you probably have already because you know that Morgan Matson's A QUEEN).