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?
More often than not, when I see people talk about their favourite YA contemporary authors, Morgan Matson is a name that always appears. I have friends who’ve read her before and have praised her books but I just never really felt like I needed to read her yet. I always saw her books in the store and think “huh, that’s a nice cover” and then move on. But last week when I walked past this book, something was telling me that I needed to read it. And I’m incredibly glad that I did. Usually when I pick up a YA contemporary, it’s filled with cute, fluffy stories but this one felt different. It felt like a real, raw story of someone in their teens just trying to find their way, but was also something that could be read by someone like me who’s in their 20s. It felt like good, concise writing with amazing themes, characters, and messages, and it felt like the author respected her audience as well as her story.
- I think what I really loved most about this book and this story was how it revolved around the idea of doing things out of your comfort zone and kind of discovering your own bravery. For Emily, most of her life she was either borderline invisible or the best friend of someone that other people knew by name. She was often the tag-along, the person who played third wheel or sat in the backseat to all of the fun. She wasn’t quite shy, but she wasn’t quite outgoing or brave on her own without her best friend, Sloane. When Sloane unexpectedly leaves for the summer without a word, Emily feels completely lost and truly out of her element. It seemed like all of her life and social events revolved around her friendship with Sloane, which isn’t bad, but often times it seemed like it held Emily back. But when she receives a list from Sloane, one that has her doing things she normally wouldn’t do, Emily is finally able to not just find out what she’s capable of on her own but she’s able to discover new things about herself and find her courage. I think Sloane leaving was the best thing for Emily’s character because she was more or less living in Sloane’s shadow for the past two years and never really saw anything outside of their bubble. But without Sloane, she was able to make time for her family, meet new friends, and really grow into a person she’s proud of being. I like that this is a book about growth and love that we could see Emily grow each step of the way.
- As with every YA contemporary, I expect there to be romance and for it to be one of the major plot points of the book. So you can probably imagine how surprised I was to see it be more of a subdued subplot for Emily. The point of the book wasn’t for Emily to complete this list and find love along the way, it was just for her to complete the list and find herself. The fact that she became good friends with Frank and then slowly began to care for him more than she should’ve felt so real and organic and ultimately realistic. I honestly feel that having some romantic relationship develop between her and Frank as she was completing this list wouldn’t have been a good thing and part of me wonders if it would’ve been more like Emily replacing Sloane with Frank. I liked how she went from a place of not knowing how to deal or interact with Frank to genuinely enjoying his company and then feeling something more. I knew something would eventually happen between them but I liked how and when it happened. It felt right for their characters and it felt right for the story. And I think the fact they were friends before will be such a great foundation for whatever future they have.
- As I said, I’d never read Morgan Matson before this book so I had no idea what to really expect from her writing but I’m honestly really surprised and happy. A lot of books like these tend to have cute and fun writing, sometimes a bit on the young feeling side, but the way Matson wrote felt mature and it really felt like an appropriate voice for a teenager. Now, there have been some young feeling books that also have “adult language”, which is completely fine, but sometimes I think authors do that so their characters look older and sometimes it looks like they’re trying too hard. I like that Matson didn’t take that route and still managed to convey such a mature voice, or at least she did in my opinion. I just loved how everything felt so real and I think because of that, so many readers will be able to relate to it more, regardless of age.
- Even though I loved the story and loved the message, I still have some complaints. The first is more of a personal pet peeve and found that the chapters were far too long, especially for someone like me that has the attention span of a squirrel. I liked that each chapter title was something from the list, but didn’t like how long each chapter lasted, since a lot happened in each chapter beyond the list item or task. It also bothered me that there were running footers instead of running headers. Who thought that was a good idea? The other thing that bothered me was when Emily and Frank shared their first kiss, he was technically still in a relationship. Do I think this is the same as cheating? Not entirely, because that’s neither Emily or Frank’s style or character. But that’s what the situation alludes to and it didn’t sit right with me, no matter how much I loved seeing them have their moment.
THE BOTTOM LINE
- I really wasn’t sure what to expect when I started this book but I think it might just be one of the best YA contemporaries I’ve read in a while. It had amazing characters, such a true and inspirational message that anyone can relate to, and it makes you feel good in the end. If you have yet to read Matson, like me, I definitely recommend this. For anyone who loves YA contemporary, or just needs a palette cleanser from any other genre, this book is perfect. And hey, you get to sing “Since U Been Gone” the whole time you’re reading it. It’s inevitable.
BONUS: how this book made me feel in a GIF
ABOUT THE BOOK
Title: Since You’ve Been Gone
Author: Morgan Matson
Release Date: May 6, 2014
Pages: 449 (Paperback)
Until next time,
What did you think of the book? Leave a comment below!