Title: Since You’ve Been Gone
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
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?
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…
Last year, I read and was impressed by both of Morgan Matson’s first two books, so after I started hearing early buzz for her latest book that also focused quite a bit on friendship, I got quite excited. When I saw it in a bookstore and took off the dust cover to see that there was a picture on the other side, I decided to buy it without reading it. I took a chance on it, and luckily this was a good decision.
From the very beginning, I was interested. It’s the beginning of summer and protagonist Emily is prepared to have the summer of her life with her best friend, Sloane. Then, out of nowhere, Sloane is gone without a trace. All that Emily has left from her is a list that shows up a few weeks later with plenty of outrageous things to do, like go skinny-dipping and kiss a stranger and steal something. There are so many reasons I wanted to keep reading – to see how Emily would deal with the list, see if she could make friends, and to discover what happened with Sloane.
When I first heard about this book and read the summary, I made the wrong assumption about it. Namely, I thought the fact that Sloane disappeared without a trace would be more sinister, a bit of a mystery that Emily could bond over new friends and a love interest or something. The list mentioned in the summary kind of threw me off, but that was what I thought had happened. After I read early reviews, though, I started to think that I was wrong, which I definitely was. There was the mystery of Sloane in the background of the book, but the list and Emily’s evolution into someone with true friends and the courage and confidence to be herself are the main focus.
Emily reminds me so much of myself – she’s much more content to let her friends (well, in this case, a singular friend) take control of all conversations and adventures, she has trouble talking to anyone she doesn’t know, and she’s incredibly shy (which kind of suggests the former two things, but it bears repeating). She slowly grows over the course of the summer, which feels incredibly inspiring to me, which is kind of sad – taking inspiration to be more outgoing from a book, but that’s the kind of person I am! There are plenty of other secondary characters who are also interesting, from Emily’s adorable little brother, the best friend of the love interest, and the pizza delivery girl who works next to the place where Emily does, all of which should have been in the book more. At the end I feel like their storylines didn’t quite get wrapped up the way I wish they had, but they were great when they were around.
After seeing the clichéd relationship of a confident, outgoing girl and a shy one (not so coincidentally, the former was blonde and the latter was brunette), I was worried that Sloane would be deconstructed to the point where she would simply be a bit of a party girl who didn’t care all that much about Emily and just wants to have fun at the expensive of everything else. The more we got to know Sloane, though, and the less space there was for her to turn into a shallow and clichéd character, the happier I was. It’s great to read about dynamic and deep friendships between girls in books, and it was even greater to see that the romance never seemed to eclipse it, even the longer Sloane was out of Emily’s life.
The Adult Situation
There was barely an adult presence in this book, but at least there was a reason for it: Emily’s parents are playwrights, and whenever they get the urge to write a new play, they’re basically in their own bubble that doesn’t involve their children at all. It’s a bit problematic, but when they aren’t obsessed with their play, they are interesting characters, and you get the sense that they truly love their children.
Also, in a slightly related note, were Emily’s parents in Second Chance Summer? I read it last year and mostly remember all the tears, but I seem to recall some playwrights living by the main character in the vacationing town, so I’m wondering if they’re the same characters when they were writing a previous play (maybe even the same play that was their most popular one, which was inspired by Emily). Does anyone remember?
I would have been perfectly happy if the friendship and Emily’s growth were the sole focus of the book, but the romance was pretty cute and great as well. It was a slow burn, growing over the course of the summer. The love interest is in a long-term relationship that’s basically lasted the whole time they’ve been in high school (they’re going to be seniors after the summer break is over), but it never feels like a cheating book (perhaps because things seem strained from the very beginning – and I’m not saying that as a spoiler, because I’m not going to say what ultimately happens with Emily and love interest Frank, that was simply what I thought as soon as his relationship was brought up).
The end of the book was the only part that I read fairly quickly, mostly so that I would have a review up for today. Mainly, though, I wanted to know how things would turn out. I wanted to see if the romance would pan out, I wanted to know what had happened to Sloane, and I especially wanted to see how much Emily would grow by the end. The focus shifted away from the list to Emily truly embracing herself, which is partially shown by the fact that the chapter names are no longer the specific item on the list that Emily is tackling during that chapter. Drama happens, plot lines begin to get wrapped up, and you’re completely drawn into the world of Emily as she learns to be confident and happy, whether she’s on her own or not.
So far, this is my favorite Matson book, so I’m especially glad that I took a chance on it and already own it. I’m so excited to see what Matson will come with next, but whenever I want to read about great friendships and a shy girl learning to become confident, I’ll pick this book up again.