Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson

Simon & Schuster | ARC, 448 pages
May 6th, 2014
Young Adult | Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

“I don’t think you have to do something so big to be brave. And it’s the little things that are harder anyway.” – Chapter 9, page 322

Painfully introverted Emily woke up one morning to find her best friend Sloane gone; leaving a list of tasks or clues that she’d hoped would lead to her whereabouts. For the last few months, Sloane has been responsible for bringing her out of her shell. She was her courage, and the buffer to the world where she felt the need to hide from. Now that she’s gone, accomplishing the list seems like an insurmountable task. Especially if it would include some things that she could never do without Sloane’s prodding. But this summer is the summer that Emily will shed her protective skin. She will learn what it means to face her fears, and do the things that typically makes her uncomfortable.

As fate would have it, she will also find a group of people that she could consider as friends. But most importantly, she will solve the mystery of who she truly is.  Morgan Matson’s new offering combines the meaning of true friendship and love in a story of self-discovery prompted by a list. Emily may have lost her best friend, but she found herself in the process.

It was difficult to watch Emily shrivel in the face of the things that she feared at first: talking to people, being in a crowd. She froze when she was talked to, and stutters when she’s able to form a response. However, readers will find an instant connection to her and her fears. I, myself, find it hard to walk up to a stranger and strike up a conversation, much as Emily would rather shrink into an unnoticeable size so as not to be seen. I liked the slow transformation that she’s gone through as she was ticking things off her list. Slowly, she doesn’t even realize that she’s peeling off layers of herself.

I was a little on the fence with Sloane. Throughout the story, we are shown a glimpse of their past. I couldn’t decide if Sloane was being an over-bearing friend who pushed Emily to her limits, or a friend on a mission to help her shed her timidity. In the end, I saw both in Sloane, and consequently, the means to an end.

As usual, this YA novel would not be complete without the use of one tired trope: present but barely there parents. At this point, I think I should just expect it.  Regardless, this book’s saving grace really is the story of friendship between characters, which Ms. Matson wrote with so much flourish. Even Frank and Collins. Frank is the token love interest, but was unavailable through the majority of the novel. He was with someone, who was also conveniently away. Collins and Dawn provided some comical relief, but enriched the novel with their own personalities.

In summary, I enjoyed this book quite immensely. Perfect summer read, perfect story of friendship. I enjoyed Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour, but have yet to read Second Chance Summer. I have a feeling Morgan Matson has found a niche in contemporary romance.



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