Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Me on Since You've Been Gone

Title: Since You've Been Gone
Author: Morgan Matson
Release Date: May 6, 2014
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

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...

Since You've Been Gone is a summer of experiences and excitement, of learning and loss and love, of friendship. In the beginning, Emily is lost, unsure of how to navigate life after years of Sloane dragging her around, providing fun and support, but thankfully, Sloane has a plan for her.

At the beginning of the book, Emily has almost no personality. Without Sloane, the best friend she's ever had, she's aimless, drifting, and unsure of what to do next. It seems that Emily only knows how to define herself by being with Sloane, and without her, without that security blanket her best friend provides, Emily isn't much of anything. But then the list arrives. But then the whole summer happens. The whole point of Sloane's list for Emily seems to be to pull her out of herself and experience life. Not that she never did with Sloane, but on her own. Actually experiencing and not just witnessing.

Friendships can make or break your teenage years. Without having someone close to you, someone always by your side in your corner for when things get rough (and vice versa), those years of high school, of awkwardness and angst and crushes can be lonely. Emily is lucky to have has Sloane as a friend, and after she disappears, she still has her. Only now she's a list of daring and frightening tasks for Emily to complete. So it's like she's still there, talking with Emily when things are hard, laughing with her, but it's not enough. Fortunately for Emily, she comes across some others who are like her, teens spending the summer drifting, trying to figure things out. Being alone sucks, but friends will always make it better.

I don't read a lot of contemporary YA, but when I do this is what I turn to. It's a fun book, it explores that weird part of teenage life that's discovering who you are, challenging yourself, making friends, searching for what's familiar while experiencing what's new. It wasn't heavy or depressing (not that I'm putting down dark and depressing contemporary YA, they're just not what I'm into). This is a summer of self-exploration for Emily, one I enjoyed more than I thought I would.

(I received an advance copy of this title to review from Simon & Schuster Canada.)

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