Since You’ve Been Gone by Mary Jennifer Payne • Magan Reviews

Since You've Been Gone by Mary Jennifer Payne

Since You’ve Been Gone by Mary Jennifer Payne
Publication Date: February 17, 2015
Publisher: Dundurn Group
Pages: 224
Target Audience: Young Adult Fiction
Keywords: missing parent, London, abusive parent
Format Read: ARC from Publisher (Thank you!)

Summary: Edie and her mom Sydney flee to London to get away from her abusive father; the day after her mom’s first night shift at her new job, she doesn’t ever return home. Edie decides she can’t go to the authorities because she doesn’t trust them (since her dad was a cop). She goes in search of Sydney with a guy from her school, Jermaine.

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Since You’ve Been Gone had the potential to be a really great “whodunnit” thriller if it had kept me on the edge of my seat. Unfortunately, timing and unnecessary sexuality prevented me from staying hooked.

Edie and her mom, Sydney, pack up their lives within a few hours to flee Canada and take cover in London. For years they’ve been hopping from location to location to hide from her father. They left him when his abuse was no longer just verbal. He’s in law enforcement so outrunning him is difficult, but it is even less likely that someone would believe this cop is capable of being so aggressive.

Edie’s life in London is less than ideal — their apartment isn’t as homey as it is shabby (minus the chic). Forget about making friends; somehow she pisses off the mean girls on her first of school. Worst of all is that after her mom’s first day at her sketchy new job, she never reappears. Edie doesn’t receive a phone call from her and knows something’s gone awry; somehow her dad has always been able to figure out where they’ve gone. Has he resurfaced again so soon?

With a trail of lies following her and a lot of fear she’ll be thrown into the foster care system, Edie knows she can’t go to the authorities. She has to start the search for her mom on her own. She makes an unlikely “friend”, Jermaine, who has a rumor mill of gossip outlining his juvenile record. Jermaine and Edie set out to find Sydney, but hit dead end after dead end.

Edie’s story is an interesting one; I’m always fascinated by how people will get out of unbelievable circumstances. How would Edie and Jeramine do this on their own as two young teenagers with no detective skills scrounging for clues in London? That was the catch for me, but Since You’ve Been Gone lost its footing when things came to a screeching halt with a surprise revelation. It seemed like things were wrapped up abruptly from that point on. Essentially she had too much to handle and no way out without this loophole.

Quite possibly more upsetting was the escalation of the romance between Edie and Jermaine. I’m just going to go out on a limb and say that not all books need a love story. It didn’t feel authentic here. These two really started out as enemies, two people who didn’t trust one another, when the story began. When less than 24 hours later, they find themselves in Jermaine’s house and Edie is contemplating having sex with Jermaine all while tangled up in this great search for her mother, things just didn’t feel convincing. Is it possible to consider losing your virginity with a boy you’ve just met that you didn’t even trust at the beginning of the day all while wondering if you’re mother’s been kidnapped or murdered?

My answer would be no.

Since You’ve Been Gone had the potential to be a story I would have loved with more refinement and focus. I suggest you check out Liars, Inc. or Twisted Fate if you’re looking for a good “edge of your seat” book.

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joint book review of Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller

Book Report: Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller

Hello, friends! It’s been a long, long while (over a year!) since we’ve done a joint review (aka: book report around here) together. How this works is we each read the same book and have a nice, long chat about it. We really try not to be spoilery, and if we think something might be, we’ll let ya know. This time we’re discussing Trish Doller’s new release Where the Stars Still Shine.

joint book review of Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish DollerWhere the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: September 24, 2013
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Pages: 352
Target audience: Young Adult
Keywords: kidnapping, Greek family, reunification with family
Format read: ARCs from the publisher (Thank you!)

Summary: Callie and her mother have been on the run for over ten years. After her mother’s arrest, Callie is reunited with her large Greek family and biological father, from whom her mom kidnapped Callie. She’s torn between making a new life with him and being loyal to her mother.

We’re changing up the formatting a little bit for this review. You can keep track of who said what by our little photographs. Just in case you’re not familiar with what we look like, here ya go:

Magan Blasig Magan

Estelle Hallick Estelle

Magan Blasig Where the Stars Still Shine is Trish Doller’s second book. We both loved Something Like Normal. After finishing WtSSS, how do you feel about Doller’s writing?

Estelle Hallick Something Like Normal was fantastic and I think my only disappointment was the length. I wanted more! So as far as that goes, I think Trish really nailed it in her new book. It felt developed in a different way and gave us a longer amount of time to spend with these characters.

Magan Blasig I completely agree. I really felt time passing in this book and connected so deeply to the situation. From the very first chapters, I felt invested. We have Callie, a girl who was kidnapped from her father by her mother as a result of their divorce. She and her mother have lived in countless cities and assumed as many identities. The situation made me feel such a tightness in my chest. I’m pretty sure I didn’t breathe sometimes, especially as we learned more and more about Callie’s life growing up.

Estelle HallickSame here. I really felt for her. She had such love for her mom, even though she was pretty much absent and all of these terrible things were happening. When you read about a situation like that, you can’t help but think JUST HOW LONG CAN THIS GO ON? It made me think a lot about labels, and having affection for people because they are in this authoritative position. Like of course I love her because she’s my mom but she is not a stand up person. Does that make sense?

Magan BlasigYES! It really hurt because Callie knew right from wrong, but every time her mother re-entered her life, all logic went out the window. It made me realize how blind we can be. It’s no secret (per the book’s summary) that Callie is reunited with her biological father after her mother is arrested. I really, really felt for her dad. I admired his character so very much.

Estelle HallickME TOO. Wasn’t he the best guy? He could have so easily made Callie’s mom out to be this enemy but he didn’t.

 

Magan BlasigYou’re so right! He never bashed her or said negative things. Even though their marriage ended, it was clear that he would have tried to make it work. I think dads are so often absent in YA books, and I applaud Doller for how involved she made Greg. And really, her entire extended family. How much did you love her BFF/cousin, Kat?

Estelle HallickLike you, I loved loved all the supporting characters. Loved seeing a Greek family. I don’t remember seeing that in any other YA book. But Kat was awesome. So many times girls are feuding in books or being bitches and Kat was so open and warm and wonderful. It was interesting to watch Callie’s reactions to that.

Magan BlasigYES! I could visualize Kat and Callie’s family so well. One of my college friends got married last year and they had a big Greek wedding. I felt like Doller really nailed everything about this aspect. And I couldn’t agree more about Kat. She just inserted herself into Callie’s life — Callie had never had a friend, much less a best friend. I admired how they worked through the tense situations that came up, especially pertaining to Alex.

Estelle HallickYes. Alex. Did you not fear for the worst?

 

Magan BlasigIt really took some time for me to trust him. Their relationship was SO HOT from the very beginning and I just knew bad things were looming.

Estelle HallickWasn’t it?? Hearing about Callie’s relationship with sex was like… not what I was expecting.

 

Magan BlasigTotally. Doller was, to me, very bold with how she handled sex in WtSSS. She was very careful about how she described passionate scenes, not taking things too far, but at the same time, I felt like she pushed the limits, too. Does that even make sense? HAHA!

Estelle HallickTotally. I loved it.

 

Magan BlasigSo Callie has some… ghosts in her closet. She has some pretty serious issues to deal with. I personally struggled a lot with these revelations. I wanted to punch things, skip the scenes, and protect her all at the same time. Do you have reactions like this to these kinds of things in books?

Estelle HallickOf course, I felt terrible for her and I wanted her to be able to move forward from this. But sometimes I feel like these books are the most effective. (Like Live Through This.) Trish didn’t let this become “an issue” book because, just like in real life, when something nightmarish like this is occurring real life keeps rolling on.

Magan BlasigI’m really glad you brought up Live Through This. This book and WtSSS are the two books that stand out, in my mind, as being really effective at discussing the mental and emotional turmoil people suffer through. I found both of these to be a little difficult for me to read, but equally addicting. And I agree with you about WtSSS not becoming an issue book. I was pleased to see Callie learning to trust people and letting herself open up about certain things when the timing was right. Ideally, I hope this is what someone would do in real life.

Estelle HallickMe too! I really do. So what was your favorite scene and what do you think could have been improved?

 

Magan BlasigOh my goodness. TOUGH QUESTIONS. As much as I would love to say that my favorite was the scene where Alex and Callie go snorkeling, I think I have to say when Greg takes Callie to see a house that’s under construction. I felt that was a major breakthrough for them. (Actually, both scenes really were.) And I don’t really have anything that I feel super needs to be improved, but I think in the future, I would like to see Doller explore a family that has their shit together. In Something Like Normal, there were some pretty messed up dynamics, and there definitely were here as well. I would love to see her create a family that’s well-balanced and see where she goes from there. What would the major drama be there? I’m sure she could come up with something excellent. Now, right back atcha. What do you think?

Estelle HallickOh, I love everything you just said. The snorkeling scene was amazing and made me want to snorkel again. The exhilaration Callie feels? Amazing and so true to life. I also did love any scene with Callie and her Dad, like the one you mentioned. BUT I also loved how much books meant to Callie. I do think so many readers are going to love how connected she felt to them, and how much they meant to her.

Magan BlasigOh, gosh, yes! THE BOOKSTORE!

 

Estelle HallickWasn’t that the best? I wanted to go there!

 

Magan BlasigYES! Me too! Soooo, what about improvement?

 

Estelle HallickI think there could have been a little more at the end? Another scene with the family? The pacing was great and the story felt whole but I could have used a few more scenes to get it going. Also I would love to see a companion novel about Kat.

Magan BlasigOH! That’s an awesome idea! I really did love Kat. She was such a standout character. I cannot say that enough. And yes, I can see how the ending felt a little unsatisfactory. I have to admit that I was a little bit shocked by how things ended, but I wasn’t unhappy.

Estelle HallickMe neither. So maybe it’s just a selfish desire to want more, as we do with really good books.

 

Magan BlasigAbsolutely. Well put! Any final thoughts about Where the Stars Still Shine?

 

Estelle HallickI think this is one of the most solid reads of the year for me. Trish does a great job of balancing a lot of different plotlines and personalities and her writing is just top notch. It’s definitely on the serious side but I think that makes the joyous, sweeter moments pop more.

Magan BlasigI completely, completely agree with you. When I wasn’t reading it, I was thinking about it and planning out the next time I could! I really, really want everyone to read this book. And I’m such a fan of Doller’s. You described it best: solid.

Estelle HallickAny final notes? Should we say something more about Alex?

 

Magan BlasigI’m not sure. I kind of liked the mystery surrounding him.

 

Estelle Hallick Me too. Haha!

 

Magan BlasigI will say that I think readers should set aside plenty of time to read this all at once. I hated that I had to read it over a few days.

Estelle HallickI agree. I rarely read books all in one sitting but it was nice to have airplane time to dive into this story. (Esp. when I was so sad to leave you!)

Magan BlasigAww, sad day!

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