Thursday 5 June 2014

Book Review: Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson.

Product details:
Publisher: Simon &Schuster.
Hardcover, 449 pages.
Release date: May 6th 2014.
Rating:  3½ out of 5.
Ages: 12+
Source: Purchased.

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...

Note: If you DON'T want to know what our friends Amy & Roger from Amy & Roger's Epic Detour have been up to since we last saw them, then DON'T read the final paragraph of this review!

Emily and Sloane are BFF’s in an intense, joined-at-the-hip, never-spend-a-minute-apart kind of way.  It’s been that way ever since they met a couple years ago and Emily can’t imagine it ever being any other way. Emily and Sloane are pretty much opposites in every way: Sloane is outgoing where Emily is shy; she is adventurous where Emily is cautious to a fault. For Sloane, life is all about taking risks; for Emily life is all about playing by the rules. And yet, these two, they just get each other. And they are totally inseparable. When we meet Emily she’s looking forward to spending the best summer ever with Sloane. Problem is: Sloane is nowhere to be found. It’s almost as if she’s just vanished into thin air. That, in itself, isn’t cause for concern. Sloane’s parents often whisk her away on exotic vacations at a moment’s notice. As the weeks pass by though, and there’s still no word from Sloane, Emily starts to worry.

Where has her best friend gone? And why isn’t she answering her phone?

Then, one day, a letter arrives from Sloane. The letter doesn’t offer any explanation as to Sloane’s whereabouts; instead it comprises a seemingly random list of things for Emily to do. Items on the list include: skinny dipping, hugging a Jamie, kissing a stranger and dancing until dawn. Emily is not best pleased that Sloane has abandoned her, but she thinks that completing the list might somehow lead her back to her best friend.  With the (unexpected) help of all-round-good-guy-with-a-long-term girlfriend, Frank Porter, Emily sets about completing the list.

 You should know that while Frank has a girlfriend, said girlfriend is away for the summer. You should also know that Frank is kinda, sorta, all-kinds-of-cute (a fact our girl Emily can’t help but notice!) Oh, yes. There may be (boy) trouble ahead – and that’s before Emily even gets started on that list of hers!

Morgan Matson is one of those authors (along with Jenny Han, Gayle Forman and a few others) that are on my Contemp auto-buy list. Basically, I will read anything this lady writes. Her previous novels, Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour and Second Chance Summer are great favourites of mine, and it’s no surprise that I was really looking forward to reading Since You’ve Been Gone ---it’s got a title that makes me want to sing (at the top of my lungs) the only Kelly Clarkson song I know and a title that just screams summer (and makes me crave ice-cream and want to wear heart-shaped sunglasses). What could go wrong? Well…

I guess a couple of things. First off, I never really warmed to the character of Emily. I guess…well, I guess I found her a little boring.  At the start of the book Emily seems totally dependant on Sloane for pretty much everything – even her boyfriends. If Sloane dates a guy, then Emily dates his best friend, because, you know, that way Emily doesn’t actually have to strike up conversation with a guy she might be interested in – Sloane’s already done it for her. Of course, while this is something that irked me about Emily’s character, it’s not done without reason. Emily has been wilting in the shadows of Sloane’s exuberance for too long, and this book is all about how Emily fares without her best friend to guide her. It’s Emily’s time to shine. And that happens.  It just takes a while to happen.

That’s another thing about this book. It’s slow moving. I found Second Chance Summer a little slow-moving at times too, but here I just felt like nothing much happened for the longest time. And the huge chapters don’t help either. I swear, the chapters in this book are seriously lengthy –and it has to be said that Emily takes her sweet time to get started on that list.

While Since You’ve Been Gone starts slow, though, it finishes strong. The romance, which is a slow-burn affair starts off as a friendship, and is all kinds of complicated because, as previously mentioned, Frank Porter has a girlfriend. Emily and Frank bond over a love of running and shared playlists, and soon, Emily wants to share a whole lot more. But she can’t go there – not with a guy that’s in a long-term relationship. Emily is just not that kind of girl. Or is she? Her summer without Sloane has changed Emily. First she went skinny-dipping and now she’s all about taking risks.  She even embarks on an impromptu road-trip in her quest to find her missing best friend. Just where is Sloane anyway?

I guess I should mention that I wasn’t the biggest fan of Sloane either. We meet her in flashback-form and she’s pretty much all round self-absorbed. I did wonder why Emily considered her such a good friend – especially since she walked out of her life without a word. I guess at times I just didn’t buy that they had such a great friendship.

Since You’ve Been Gone is a book for those long, lazy summer days; best enjoyed in the shade with a tall-glass of ice-cool lemonade. This is not a book about quick fixes, instead it’s story of one girl’s journey of self-discovery as she embarks on a summer without her best friend. Emily must find out if she can go it alone. In the end, her summer without Sloane changes Emily’s life in more ways that she ever could have known.   And along the way she might just get to kiss a cute guy (or two!) and make some new friends.

Amy & Roger fans: Our favourite duo made a guest appearance in Second Chance Summer and I’m happy to report that Amy Curry gets a mention here too.  Word is that Amy’s recently been backpacking around Europe with her boyfriend (Roger is not name-checked, but it’s got to be him, right?) Now that is one summer book I would really love to read!


  1. Lovely review! I was super excited for this one, but after reading a few reviews I'm not sure if I'll bother... There are just too many books on my TBR that I KNOW I'll love, you know? I think I'd prefer read the backpacking adventures of A&R instead :-)

  2. ChristinaBookAddict5 June 2014 at 12:36

    Awesome review, Leanna. I agree with you completely. I wasn't the biggest fan of Emily and the whole reason I continued with this book was Frank (loved him!) and the pace of the second half of the story….it definitely got better. I'm glad I stuck with it, but, like you, I didn't love it as much as her other novels. :(

  3. I was super excited for this one too! It was a little bit disappointing, although I will say that I liked it by the end. It just too a while to get going! I've love to read all about the backpacking adventures of A&R! :)

  4. Yeah, Frank is a sweetheart! I guess I had very high expectations for this one since I loved her first two books. This one: liked it but didn't love it.

  5. Jenny @ Supernatural Snark5 June 2014 at 15:02

    Hmmm. There are aspects of this one that have me really excited (I love lists!) and aspects that make me nervous (is there cheating?). It's a shame most of the book is a touch slow-moving, but I'm glad it finishes strong. I can overlook a lot of what came before if a story ends with a flourish. Thanks for your thoughts Leanna!

  6. Liz @ Planet Print5 June 2014 at 16:30

    I really like Morgan Matson too, Amy & Roger is my favourite! Didn't love Second Chance Summer as much, but still liked it, so might give this book a go as well. It's a shame you never really warmed to Emily, but glad you enjoyed it overall! Thanks for the review.

  7. Jess Hearts Books5 June 2014 at 16:48

    Yes! Every time I see the title I start to sing that song! I'm excited to read this one and am so glad we get to catch up with Amy and Roger too :)

  8. I love lists too! I was very excited to read this one, but while it has a lot of positives, overall I just didn't enjoy it as much as her other books. As for cheating - not so much. There is a kiss, but mostly the characters have strong morals and they know when to take a step back and sort out any relationship issues before things go further. One of the characters really has a problem with what happens cheating wise - but the issue with that character is never resolved. I would like to have seen how it worked out!

  9. Amy & Roger is still my favourite of her books. I'd like to catch up with those two! :)

  10. Ha! Yes - she always gives A&R a mention in her books. I believe it's a very Dessen thing to do? Now that I've actually read Dessen I can finally make these references! ;)

  11. This is one author whose bandwagon I need to get on it seems! This one sounds super cute and I'm kinda glad you didn't love it completely because with all the 5 star reviews I've seen it's nice to have expectations tempered!


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