by Morgan Matson
Published on May 6, 2014
by Simon & Schuster
Synopsis from Goodreads: 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?
My take: I've been a big fan of Morgan Matson since her first book, Amy and Roger's Epic Detour. I also read and enjoyed Second Chance Summer. But I have to say that I think Since You've Been Gone is my favorite book of Matson's yet. It took some of the themes and plot elements of AaRED (facing fears, slow burn romance, road trip) and some from SCS (friendship) and made them into a story that is YA perfection.
I related a lot to Emily. She's a little quiet and reserved, and her friend Sloane had always dragged her on all kinds of fun and crazy adventures. (One of my best friends from college was a little like Sloane and this book reminded me I needed to email her and catch up!) But when Sloane vanishes without a word, all Emily is left with is a long, lonely summer and a wacky to-do list. I'm not always crazy about the bucket list as a plot device, but I thought it worked really well in this book. Some of Sloane's tasks for Emily were very specific, but most of them were about getting Emily to face her shyness and come into her own.
Matson's books always have a strong family element and this one is no exception. In fact, I give this book an award for Most Creative Way to Get YA Parents Out of the Way Without Killing Them. Well done! The romance in this book was of the friendship to love variety. I must be honest: I wasn't 100% crazy about Frank at the beginning. Plus, he had a serious girlfriend. If you are wary of cheating plots and angsty, unnecessary love triangles, do not be afraid. Others may disagree, but I felt that Frank and Emily stayed firmly in the Friend Zone when appropriate.
The mystery of Sloane's disappearance was another minor element of the book. I had a theory that (highlight for spoiler) Sloane disappeared on purpose as a way to force Emily to come into her own. (end spoiler.) But the real story behind Sloane's disappearance was even better. I loved the way that, without being present in the book, Sloane still became a fully developed character.
If, like me, you are a fan of contemporary YA books that are fun and entertaining but also have a strong emotional core, you definitely don't want to miss this one. Since You've Been Gone is a great summer read about facing your fears and insecurities, about the importance of friendship, and about finding confidence in the face of uncertainty.