Before Sloane, Emily didn’t go to parties, she barely talked to guys, and she didn’t do anything crazy. Enter Sloane, social tornado and the best kind of best friend—someone who yanks you out of your shell. But right before what should have been an epic summer, Sloane just…disappears. There’s just a random to-do list with thirteen bizarre tasks that Emily would never try. But what if they can lead her to Sloane? Apple picking at night? Okay, easy enough. Dance until dawn? Sure. Why not? Kiss a stranger? Wait…what? Getting through Sloane’s list will mean a lot of firsts, and with a whole summer ahead of her—and with the unexpected help of the handsome Frank Porter—who knows what she’ll find. Go Skinny Dipping? Um…
There should be an official sub-genre of YA novels called “life changing summer books”, because then they would be easy to identify and I could go out and read all of them. I have no idea why, but I have a huge thing for those books that follow the main character through a series of existential-ish experiences that change their life in some way over the course of one summer. They’re usually really fun and cute and romantic, and they always serve as great buffer/recovery books. And that’s exactly what I needed after the huge book hangover that came after the insanity of finishing Heir of Fire.
When I first saw the summary of “Since You’ve Been Gone” it sounded like the perfect recovery book after finishing the “Throne of Glass” series. The premise actually kind of seemed like a mix of “Paper Towns” and “13 Little Blue Envelopes” (two of my all-time favorite contemporaries, or really just books in general.), so I was super hyped to read it. And oh my god, it completely lived up to the hype. Honestly, I definitely recommend it, the characters were identifiable, the romance was amazing, and the plot was very well written. This is actually my first book by Morgan Matson, but now I’m probably going to look into reading her other books!
SPOILERS FOR “SINCE YOU’VE BEEN GONE” BEYOND THIS POINT
So now let’s get on to the actual book. First off we have our main character, Emily. Emily was honestly so relatable, like she starts out as a very shy and introverted character who kind of lives in the shadow of her best friend. She’s established as wanting to be outgoing and do the crazy stuff that Sloane does, but she doesn’t really want to attract attention, and as someone who is painfully awkward in social situations I could identify with her so hard. And I think that’s what makes it so enjoyable to read about her completing the list. We get to see her slowly coming out of her shell and making friends, and in a way it’s actually kind of inspiring! Overall her entire arc is completely an awesome example of character development done right!
And then we have Sloane. From the synopsis Sloane sounds very much like the standard contemporary best friend, you know, someone to make the introverted protagonist go out and do things and serve as an outgoing foil to the quiet main character. And too an extent that is kind of true, the list she leaves for Emily does cause her to leave her comfort zone and become more confident. But the interesting thing is that she’s really more of a destruction of the Standard Best Friend- the story is more about what happens when the protagonist is left without her friend and has to act on her own without the friend’s encouragement, and that’s actually a pretty cool concept as compared to a lot of contemporaries.
We do learn a lot about Sloane in the flashbacks, and she did seem like a really good friend. There was the one flashback, where her boyfriend kissed Emily and blamed her, and I was so worried that Sloane was going to blame Emily and there would be all these misunderstanding-induced issues like in so many other books. But then I was so relieved when Sloane actually believed Emily, and it was so nice to see such a strong female relationship that doesn’t resolve around dating-related drama. Even though the romantic aspect of the book was amazing!
Speaking of which, next we have the main romance of the book. Now I’m going to be honest, the first time Frank appeared, my first thought was “Well, there’s the love interest.” But then I ended up shipping it hard. And I mean it, the relationship between Emily and Frank has seriously become one of my all-time favorite contemporary romances. It’s just so great how they start out as friends with the running and comparing music, and then he helps her with the list, and the romance is this amazing slow build from friendship to gradually becoming something more instead of an Instant love thing and oh my god it’s all so amazing. (And if you’ve been reading this blog you know I have a major thing for slowly developing relationships.) So in regard to its romantic plot this book is a total A+!
I did wonder a lot about Gideon though, like he actually did seem like a contender if a love triangle had formed around Emily, and while I am glad that the book didn’t go in the direction of a love triangle, I still thought of him a lot. The whole thing with the cherries and the sharpie tattoos was really cute (except I was a little confused about the last one, like I’m not sure, but did he actually get it tattooed on his skin, because that’s kind of odd…) and I did feel bad for him in the way his and Emily’s relationship ended. I think the only problem is that we didn’t get to see a lot of him in the book, and I would probably have a stronger opinion if we had learned more about him as a character.
So let’s go through some specific highlights. For one, I absolutely loved all the theatre related stuff throughout the whole book. The whole thing with Emily’s parents being playwrights completely engrossed in a new show really worked to explain the whole unrealistically free-range teenager thing that happens in a lot of contemporaries, plus made for a pretty unique situation. On the same note, I don’t know if it’s just because I’m a huge theatre nerd, but the living room theatre scene was definitely one of my favorite parts. It was just the whole set up where the two characters in the main pairing are playing romantic leads, and you know they both have feelings for each other but they won’t tell each other yet, and they come this close to kissing and it’s all super cute and romantic and god I love this kind of book!
The whole sequence with crashing the wedding and finishing the “skinny dipping” part of this list was amazing too. There was just this overall sense of Emily finally coming out of her shell and these great friendship scenes between the main characters and everything, I think it was these scenes particularly that made this one of those books that make you want to go out and do crazy things. Like I know I’ll probably never do these things, but whenever I read one of these books I really feel the need to go swim naked or sneak into a wedding or other things that I know probably aren’t as fun as they’re portrayed in YA literature.
Of course, since this was a contemporary book we have to get through that part that’s in every contemporary where there’s a misunderstanding and the main character is left alone and there’s secondhand embarrassment everywhere, and it’s always really sad but for some reason in this one was especially painful. It’s just that Emily had lost pretty much all of her friends and it all could have been avoided if she and Frank had communicated, and it just kept going and going… I think the worst part was that we never learned if she resolved things with Collins and Dawn, like the book just kind of ended while she was still in a bad place with them, and I really wish we knew if they all were still friends after the end of the book.
I really did like the ending though. I will admit that the last few scenes with Emily and Sloane after she finds her in North Carolina did seem a little too seamless, like I expected that there would be slightly more confrontation, but overall I am happy that it wasn’t too emotionally painful, and that they kept their really strong relationship stayed in contact with each other. And the last scene with Emily and Frank was so darn cute and romantic and overall it was just such a good way to end the book.
So overall, I really loved this book. It was a bit deeper than a fluffy romantic comedy, but it kept a great comedic tone with amazingly written romantic and platonic relationships, and I’d be willing to say that it’s become one of my all-time favorite contemporaries! This is one that I would definitely recommend to anyone!
Well that’s about all this time! Thanks for reading and see you later!