Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson (twitter | website)
Publication Date: May 6, 2014
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Target Audience: Young Adult
Keywords: best friendships, losing a friend, list of challenges
Format Read: ARC received from the author.
Summary: After the sudden disappearance of Emily’s best friend, Sloane, she receives a random list of things to do written by Sloane. Emily takes this as a sign and accepts the challenge to complete all of the items, as frightening as they are. Skinny dipping? Penelope? Yikes.
There’s absolutely zero doubt that Morgan Matson is one of my favorite authors. Without a second thought, I pre-order her books and add them to my Goodreads to-read list (likely without even reading the summary). Morgan creates these worlds in which I not only know and love the main character, but I can envision their entire world — their homes, their neighborhoods, their day-to-day routines. And that’s exactly how deeply I wish to know all of the main characters in the books I read.
Since You’ve Been Gone was no different than her other stellar books, Second Chance Summer and Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour, providing exactly the escape from reality I was so wanting. There’s a girl, Emily, who is aching after the abrupt departure of her best friend, Sloane. There’s no explanation, no clues, and zero warning. Sloane disappears in the blink of an eye and her house is left vacant; her family just picked up and moved on. While it takes Emily a little while to come to grips with what’s happened, it jolts her when she receives a list in the mail from Sloane, something she would randomly send Emily. Except this time, instead of discarding it, Emily accepts it as a challenge and hopes that it will provide answers that will lead her to wherever Sloane has gone.
I love that Since You’ve Been Gone is essentially a road map of sorts; it provides an emotional journey that Emily must work through, a ton of growth she must face, and a lot of ground to travel as she tries to figure out how to step outside her comfort zone to complete Sloane’s list. And unexpectedly, it involves one go-getter guy she befriends without intentionally trying to, Frank Porter. As we begin the journey with Emily, we see that she’s a closed-off, introverted girl who has little faith in herself and has greatly depended upon Sloane. She’s lived inside Sloane’s shadow, following along and not speaking up though she might have had a differing opinion at times. Emily is only known to others in association with Sloane.
When Sloane disappears, Emily loses her own identity. She’s begun to identify herself so closely with Sloane that she’s uncertain of who she is anymore. It’s a scary and frightening thought, but yet it’s so incredibly beautiful that we can bond with someone so deeply that they’re such an intricate part of who we are. Emily begins to tackle the list and somehow, Frank Porter continues to bounce into her life. Frank has a girlfriend who is away for the summer and it seems he’s trying to pass the time just as Emily is. Helping her work through the list provides a much needed distraction for him from the chaos of his own personal life. They begin running together. They bicker over the other’s musical choices and begin making one another playlists to listen to on their runs. We begin to see Emily’s world expand just a little bit as she releases some of the pain of losing Sloane and begins to bond with an entirely new group of people.
Since You’ve Been Gone has all of the elements we love and adore about Morgan’s books — an emotional journey, a road-trip of sorts (though this one is a little more metaphorical), a really sweet boy, a good dose of parental guidance (in the form of two playwrights on a mission to write their next big production), and a lovely town with wandering streets perfect for running, a quaint (and often quiet) ice cream shop, and a beach (that may or may not be the place where a few special events occur).
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In the vein of Sloane’s list to Emily, I was inspired to write one for Estelle. Sloane’s list includes several things that take Emily out of her comfort zone. Things that make her a little uncomfortable, but are meant to challenge her in positive ways. Here’s my shot at doing the same for my BFF.
- High-five a stranger on the busy streets of New York City.
- Choose a random table in a restaurant and buy their lunch.
- Write a letter to a friend who has wronged you for closure.
- Apply to five new jobs, even if you’re not sure you’re qualified.
- Begin a solo flash-mob song and dance to your husband James in the middle of Times Square.
- Invite someone you just met to attend a Broadway show with you.
- Bake a pie for one of your neighbors.
- For your next vacation, close your eyes and blindly choose the location on a map.
- Go on a date and wear your fanciest outfit.
- Reconnect with someone you haven’t spoken to in a long time.
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Friends, I sincerely hope you read Morgan Matson’s Since You’ve Been Gone soon. SOON. You won’t wont to miss out on seeing Emily blossom and Frank keeping her in check. (Or Frank’s sincere passion for the Beatles.)