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? — Goodreads
I had very high expectations for this book going into it. I’ve read Morgan Matson’s other young adult contemporaries (Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour and Second Chance Summer), and I’ve absolutely fallen in love with her books. Before reading this book, I had heard that out of Matson’s three books, Since You’ve Been Gone was the best. So naturally, I went in with high hopes of a 5 star book.
Let me start by saying I did not hate this book by any means (hence the 4.25-ish rating). It was a very enjoyable read, and I definitely enjoyed my time reading it. By the middle, I couldn’t put it down, and ended up staying awake until 3 AM reading one night (which typically happens with Morgan Matson’s books). By the end of the book, I started feeling so many feels and there
definitely were may have been tears involved. That being said, I hated the main character, Emily, at first. In the beginning of the book she was so shy and timid, to the point where I was frustrated and annoyed with her and her actions. Honestly, I didn’t think I was going to ever like her. I understand being shy – I’m shy myself – but it got to the point where I just felt uncomfortable.
However, one of the best parts about this book is there’s a lot of great character development. By the middle and the end of the book, Emily’s character got progressively better. I started to tolerate her, and then I even started to like her. I enjoyed getting to see her grow away from who she was in the beginning – she felt like a sidekick or a side character – and as the story progressed it felt like she was changing into her own independent person. I was constantly wondering, “what happened to Sloane?” Sloane wasn’t the focus of the story, but her disappearance was a very important aspect, and a very important part of Emily’s growth as a character. I really liked seeing Emily grow away from where she typically stood – in Sloane’s shadow.
Since Sloane had come to town, I’d happily existed by her side. People called out to her by name and waved at me, and I had a feeling that the majority of my class would, like the landscaping guy, identify me as “That girl who’s always with Sloane Williams” or something along those lines. And I never minded – even just being Sloane’s friend made me much more interesting than I ever would have been on my own.
Emily’s character aside, there were several things I really enjoyed about this book. Morgan Matson has a way of making even the smallest details seem significant. She always captures tiny details, which as a reader, I really appreciate. As per usual with Matson’s books, I also loved the playlists that she included. I felt like we got to see a bit more into Emily and Frank’s characters, and I also cheered every time one of my favorite songs or artists (hello, Parachute!!) was included on one.
Since You’ve Been Gone had an amazing supporting cast of characters – who, at times, it felt like I liked more than I liked Emily. I loved getting to know each of the different characters. I also loved getting to learn more about Sloane, her parents, and ultimately, her disappearance. I felt like we got to know Emily and Sloane a lot more through the flashbacks, which I really enjoyed. In the Q&A with Morgan Matson at the end of the paperback version, she mentions she was excited to focus on friendship. This was my favorite aspect of the book. I loved seeing the different dynamics – between Sloane and Emily, Emily and her brother, Dawn and Emily, Collins and Frank, Emily and Frank of course, and even Collins and Emily. I even enjoyed seeing the snippets between Emily and her ex, Gideon (although I’m not sure if he could qualify as an ex). And let me just take a moment to say, bless Frank Porter. He was one hell of a character.
He just had that air about him — competent and trustworthy, and especially, wholesome. If he hadn’t clearly had grander ambitions, I could have seen him in ads for peanut butter and heart-healthy breakfast cereals. When Sloane had first come to Stanwich High, she had looked him up and down and asked, not unappreciatively, “Who’s the Boy Scout?”
I loved getting to see Emily’s interpretations of each item on the list. However, one thing I’m still unsure about are the chapter headers. Sometimes it felt like they were giving it all away. You would expect one thing to happen, or Emily would set out to do one thing but another thing would take place instead, and you knew it was coming because of the way the chapters were named. It wasn’t a huge problem, but it was a bit frustrating.
Since You’ve Been Gone is a great contemporary that focuses on friendship, and also a great summer read. There were some amazing scenes, including (but definitely not limited to) Frank and Emily’s running scenes, the scenes with Emily and her brother, Beckett, and also the living room theater scene. Like Matson’s other books, Since You’ve Been Gone contains great characters and character development, and is so much more than just a typical YA contemporary.