Last night I stayed up until I had read the end of Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson (2014). I probably say this every time I finish a young adult contemporary read but I just love them, so here goes…this is one of my absolute favourites so far.
I’ll keep most of my main points for the review but I will quickly say, just in case you’re short on time, that I, personally, found this book to be very relatable. It really captures the lives of young people within its pages and that’s all down to Matson’s fantastic writing.
If you love the other contemporaries I’ve blogged about you should definitely pick up a copy of this one.
What is the book about?
Since You’ve Been Gone is about a teenager called Emily whose best friend, Sloane, disappears unexpectedly at the start of summer. She gives no explanation and leaves behind a list of tasks to fill the summer that they once had planned out so perfectly. The only problem is Emily would never attempt any of the tasks on the list without her best friend at her side. But what if completing the list is the only way to find out where Sloane is? Follow a summer of firsts, of making new friends and new memories and of learning how to be yourself.
SPOILER WARNING – THERE WILL BE PLOT SPOILERS FROM THIS POINT ON.
I want to start by discussing the characters because I see so much of myself in Emily. She starts out as this shy, awkward teenager who doesn’t quite know how to navigate social situations unless Sloane is there doing the majority of the talking. However, by the end of the story she has made new friends, ticked off every task on a list of things she could never have even imagined herself doing and, in doing so, had the best summer of her life. The fact that she also ends up falling in love with Mr.perfect-at-everything junior class president (who also has secret six-pack abs) might have a little something to do with it.
I think Matson’s character development of Emily is exceptional. At the beginning of the story when Emily attempts her first task, “Apple picking at night,” she goes to The Orchard, which is where everyone from her school parties. We get the impression that this is why Sloane told her to go apple picking, because it would undoubtedly lead her to an area full of socialising teenagers who she had never had to courage to talk to alone.
When I was reading this part, I could feel exactly how she felt. I know the feeling so well. This book is very well written and I was able to feel all the emotions that were running through Emily’s head. Throughout my year and half at university I have had some similar moments myself. But, like Emily, I also overcame them and as the story continues Matson perfectly allows for the gradual change in Emily’s attitude toward social interaction. I love that it takes more than one car ride with Frank for her to relax around him. It takes more than a few pages. It is so realistic and I understood Emily’s character so well.
Frank was such a likeable character, he is the perfect guy. He is the guy who makes sure you get home okay and who will never overstep the mark. Well, actually I really like the fact that when Emily kisses him in the car, he kisses her back. It is something we would not expect him to do because he is painted as the ‘perfect guy’ and to do something which actually means he is cheating on his girlfriend is unexpected. But I like it because it reflects how much he likes Emily. I really like the way he doesn’t just ignore her at The Orchard in the beginning even though she is, at first, very unsure how to act around him or even how to talk to him. He behaves as if he really wants to get to know her, right from the start and I think that’s what makes him such a wonderful character. He is perfect in everyone’s eye except his own, which makes him very genuine and down-to-earth.
I really enjoyed Emily’s other new friends, Dawn and Collins, as well. Again, I can say the character development is phenomenal. We really get such a strong sense of personality from each of the characters. I was also so relieved and pleased that Matson gave Sloane an explanation that didn’t make us hate her. Throughout reading the book and reading how upset Emily is at the beginning, I just felt that if Sloane didn’t have a very good explanation for her disappearance, I would hate her. But, in the final chapters, I ended up feeling very sympathetic towards Sloane and Emily forgives her.
I like how it skips back and forth between things that happened before Sloane left and things that happened after. We get the two different sides to Emily’s life which provides us with a way of measuring up how much she changes. I think it is great that we get to know the characters as best friends and we get to know Sloane as a character. All the back story with Sam and Gideon gave the overall narrative more depth as well as enriching the characters.
I love the feeling of summer that runs throughout the whole book. When Emily has made new friends and they begin to help her check of the tasks on the list, each one is filled with so much fun and laughter, it is a real sense of being young and doing foolish things.
Also, in terms of writing the most emotional and heart-warming love stories, Matson is up there right beside Stephanie Perkins. The love story between Emily and Frank is so adorable. She learns how to be herself, the person she is meant to be, and he is there beside her while she discovers this.
There are so many wonderful moments in this book, like on the beach at the back of Frank’s house where Emily first talks to him like a friend and all the bits where Emily and Frank go running and share their iPod playlists. I could talk forever about individual things that happen. The storyline is filled with adventure, each task brings new memories for Emily and all of her new friends. It is a story told so brilliantly that we feel like we were right there with them.
A book that will leave you feeling happy and warm. It will also make you wish it was summertime.
I am going to give this book 5/5 stars.