Genre: YA Realistic Fiction
Pub. Date: May 6, 2014
Source: Personal Copy
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Goodreads says, "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…"Emily and Sloane and not just best friends; they are inseparable. Emily was hoping for an amazing summer with Sloane and they had it all planned out, that is until she was gone. As in no where to be found….vanished in thin air. This isn't unusual though for Sloane though. Sloane's parents sometimes take her on trips and within the week, Sloane is back; however, two weeks have gone by and Emily hasn't heard from her at all….not even a text or a phone call back. Mysteriously, a letter comes in the mail from Sloane (without a return address) and it's a list of things Emily should do this summer. The items on the list are completely outside of Emily's comfort zone, such as, go skinny-dipping, kiss a stranger, etc. Emily is feeling lost without her BFF, so she hopes that if she completes each task this summer, it will somehow lead her back to Sloane. While she is working on her list, she befriends resident good guy, Frank Porter. Frank is pretty much perfect. He is good looking, accomplished, kind, but three's one problem: he's taken. Emily and Frank become friends this summer and eventually, she shares the list with him and he takes in interest in both the list and Emily's life. But Emily knows that her feelings for Frank are just friendly, or are they? Meanwhile, she must find her best friend before the summer slips away from her completely. Morgan Matson's Since You've Been Gone isn't a book I immediately fell in love with, much like her other novels; in fact, this one grew on me slowly. By the novel's end, I enjoyed this fun summertime romp and Emily's personal journey that required her to live outside of her comfort zone.
So, I am not going to lie. My initial reaction to Since You've Been Gone wasn't a good one, which to me was absolutely crazy since I have LOVED every novel Matson has written, even as Katie Finn! I think the problem was Emily. Man, she really annoyed me. She was borderline obsessed with her best friend to the point where it's was unhealthy and all-around creepy. I just didn't get it. I know the importance of a best friend in life, but wow, it seemed without Sloane Emily was incapable of doing a lot of things. I mean did she even have any other friends? She seemed super clingy and I was actually glad that Sloane left, because Emily really needed to this summer to figure out who she is without Sloane and quite simply live a little on her own.
Readers get to know the elusive Sloane through a series of flashbacks in Since You've Been Gone. I liked her and her outgoing personality. There's definitely more to Sloane than we know and as Emily completes each task that Sloane left behind, readers get to know more about Sloane, where she may be and why she left without a trace. Also, I loved Frank Porter. He is probably why I stuck with this book even though I was frustrated by the first half. He's a downright good guy and even though he is in a long-distance relationship this summer, I really enjoyed watching Frank and Emily's friendship - and-possibly-something-more- evolve. A perfect summertime (possible!) romance.
As I said, The first half of Since You've Been Gone was tedious for me, but as soon as Emily started taking chances and living outside of her comfort zone, I became hooked. I was glad to see Emily branch out from just hanging out with Sloane and really start to do things on her own, meet new people, as well as face her fears. So, that is why I am feeling rather mixed regarding this novel.
I decided upon four stars, because of the delightful ending, Matson's fantastic writing and dialogue, the whole setting of a life-changing summer (I'm always a sucker for that!), as well as Emily's personal growth throughout Since You've Been Gone. I definitely liked those aspects of the novel. Plus, I finished the last page with a smile on my face, which is always a bonus.
However, I'm going to shoot from the hip and say if you are looking for one of Matson's simply brilliant and heartfelt reads, then I would steer you towards Second Chance Summer and Amy & Roger's Epic Detour instead.