So this was the first Morgan Matson book I’ve read, and since starting my blog and checking out other book blogs, it’s pretty much impossible to escape Morgan Matson fan girls. Like, they’re everywhere. And…well, I think I’ve become one of them. 🙂
Author: Morgan Matson
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: May 2014
Hardback: 449 pages
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
How did I get this book: Borrowed from the library
Let’s start with a brief 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?
Go Skinny Dipping? Um…
What I thought:
As you now know, Sloane leaves a list for Emily to complete. I’m a huge fan of lists, so I’m going to do my review in one. J
1. I think I need to start first with the friendship between Sloane and Emily, which is the basis for the novel. Their friendship was strange at first because I’ve never had a friendship that I was this crazily wrapped up in, but the way Matson writes gets you involved in what Emily is going through and you feel for her as she pretty much mourns the loss of her best friend. The time away from Sloane, along with what happens to her during this time, really gives Emily a new perspective on their friendship. Sloane was behind all of their fun and adventures, so Emily didn’t know who she was apart from that or what to do when Sloane wasn’t there. It was great seeing her stepping out of her comfort zone; I could completely relate to this. I used to be pretty shy in high school (I know, it’s hard to believe), and I found myself in college by breaking out of my shell and doing things by myself and meeting new people. I saw myself in Emily quite a bit.
2. Sloane isn’t who Emily thinks she is. As we learn more about Sloane through flashbacks to when she was still around, we, along with Emily, find out that Emily has built her up to be this perfect person, and she just isn’t that. Emily has lost herself in Sloane, following her along and doing what Sloane says to do. We find out that Sloane needed Emily just as much as Emily needed Sloane. Sloane put on a bit of a front, and I appreciated that; she felt more real this way. Honestly, I wasn’t really a fan of Sloane’s until closer to the end when you began to understand her more.
3. FRANK. Asdfjkl; He’s not your average love interest in a book. He’s the class president/”boy scout”; he’s a leader, but he’s not nerdy either. I think he really just wants to be normal. That’s what he gets with Emily. He was so complex and rounded and lovely and I’m in love. I can’t really put into words all the reasons why. But I swooned. Several times.
4. There are quite a few music playlists throughout the book, made by both Emily and Frank. How cool! It gave the book a really awesome, complete experience. And this is another reason I loved Frank so much: he had a playlist with Twenty One Pilots (one of my top two favorite bands), Andrew McMahon, fun., Swedish House Mafia, and more. I liked the idea so much that I made it into an actual playlist on Spotify (if you are so inclined, you can check it out here: Since You’ve Been Gone – Mix #7). Also, there’s a fake band called The Henry Gales, which I love because that’s Dorothy’s uncle’s name in The Wizard of Oz but it is also Ben Linus’ fake name in Lost. I don’t know if this is why Matson chose it, but I’m going to pretend it is.
5. I can tell that Matson has been writing for a while. Her writing is clear and succinct, nothing was unnecessary. Each sentence was perfectly placed and well-rounded. I was kind of surprised by just how well-done this book was; it’s not your typical YA/Contemporary romance, that’s for sure. I thought the voice was definitely genuine, and even though she name drops some playwrights and obscure bands, the voice still felt like that of a teenager. Also, I wanted to know what was going to happen and lost myself in the novel. I was undoubtedly impressed.
6. Oh, the romance. I thought the romance between Frank and Emily was really sincere. It was gradual, not an all-at-once instalove, which I appreciated. They become friends first and foremost (he has a girlfriend when they start hanging out). But it wasn’t just that he had a girlfriend: they needed each other, needed a friend to talk to. So they were friends first, and then came the feelings, yet it wasn’t forced; it felt organic, like it actually came from their friendship and appreciation of the other person. Because of this, the romance felt more realistic to me. Of course, the reader knows where it is heading, but you still hold your breath when problems arise, and you root for them the whole time (at least I did).
7. Emily’s transformation was really gradual and not all at once, too. I liked this. No one changes all at once; no one can just dive into being brave and doing things out of their comfort zone. It felt more honest and real this way. She was scared when she started going through the list, but with a little help from her new friends, she knows she can do it. Also, I won’t give any details, but I think she even backpedalled a little bit towards the end; I liked this because it shows that even after you change some, you’re not perfect and you still make mistakes.
8. The list was such a great idea! Sloane couldn’t be there, but she gave Emily a list of things to do that she knew would break her out of her shell. Through it, Emily made new friends, found herself, and can now go through life on her own path. And it was so fun to see her do these things. A couple of things from the list: Ride a dern horse, ya cowpoke, dance until dawn, share some secrets in the dark. The list was sweet and entertaining, and I enjoyed seeing Emily figure out how she’d do them and felt for her as she struggled to get up the courage to do some of them.
9. Something I didn’t like: I thought the ending was a little rushed. Again, I don’t want to give away too many details, but the book led up to this big event (which was pretty genuine and I understood it) but it felt too fast.
10. I liked the secondary characters – Beckett (Emily’s little brother who is basically a ninja), Dawn (Emily’s new friend from the pizza parlor), Collins (Frank’s best friend). I thought they were all well-developed, rounded, and were each included with a purpose.
11. However, we are left without knowing what happens with two of the secondary characters who played a pretty big role in the book. I wish we could have found out what happened there, but I suppose it’s nice to be able to make up my own mind about that.
12. This quote: “I closed my eyes only to open them once more, and make sure it was all still there – the riot of stars above me, this whole other world existing just out of reach.” –Page 261
13. I borrowed this book from the library, but I’m pretty sure I’m going to be buying it along with Matson’s other two books. I was seriously impressed and I can completely understand the hype in the book blogosphere around Morgan Matson.
The bottom line:
This is a book about self-discovery, friendship, young love, and finding your own path in life. Everyone can relate to Emily in one way or another, and I was sucked in pretty quickly to the story. The romance and transformation of the main character was real and genuine and organic, and I appreciated it very much. Honestly, the more I think about it, the more I like this book.
Rating: 9 – Practically perfect
Have you read Since You’ve Been Gone? What did you think? Tell me in the comments!
Reading next: The Eye of Minds by James Dashner