Book Review: Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson

Title: Since You’ve Been Gone
Author: Morgan Matson
Published: 2014
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary

Synopsis: It was Sloane who yanked Emily out of her shell and made life 100% interesting. But right before what should have been the most epic summer, Sloane just…disappears. All she leaves behind is a to-do list. On it, thirteen Sloane-inspired tasks that Emily would normally never try. But what if they could bring her best friend back? Apple picking at night? Okay, easy enough. Dance until dawn? Sure. Why not? Kiss a stranger? Um…  Emily now has this unexpected summer, and the help of Frank Porter (totally unexpected), to check things off Sloane’s list. Who knows what she’ll find?

My Rating: Red-StarRed-StarRed-Star (in general, for me personally this was a 2 star read)

In this coming of age story Matson presents us with Emily – a shy and awkward girl who has been the perpetual shadow of her best friend, Sloane – the outgoing one. I think this book is for the audience it intends it to be – a teen girl who can identify with our main character. However, I don’t think this book translates well to the adult palette.

I had a really hard time with this book, I came to DNFing it almost 5 times but I kept going because I was able to download the audiobook. My dislike for this book can be attributed to 2 things:

  1. I am way to old to enjoy Emily’s awkwardness. Usually I can appreciate the teen angst but the extreme of Emily’s shyness left me frustrated. I lost my patience with her and the way she’s written and hence I had a really hard time continuing this journey with her. It took me a full 4 days to finish a book that would’ve normally take me 2.
  2. The pacing of this story is ridiculous. I don’t think I can comprehend how a YA contemporary sits at 450 pages, most especially when while reading I felt like taking a red pen and crossing out chunks of this book that served as extra fluff or run-on descriptions of Emily’s shyness like a sledge hammer over and over to the reader. (a classic example of a lot of telling not showing)

I would divide this book in 2 parts – the first 60-70% of this book could’ve have been reduced in nearly half. There’s scene after scene that could have been deleted to employ a more  cohesive narrative. There’s also a lack of urgency in the general plot despite Emily claiming to be desperate for her best friend. Now, I don’t need all plots to be urgent but I truly felt like chunk of the book were rather stagnant.

The last 40% of the book really picked up for me and I enjoyed most of it, Emily has changed in her journey, she became more a much more appetizing character  and I was willing to go through this journey with her. The 3 stars are entirely for the last half of this book. Despite the pick-up at the end, I felt this book was very… vanilla. Tame and lacking in excitement. I felt like I was reading diary entries “today I woke up, went to work, was shy, spoke to someone, but it consisted of one word answers and long pauses and I didn’t know what to do with my hands so I didn’t do one of the things in my list, I miss my friend, end of day.” In retrospect, I will completely forget this book and that’s the bottom line.

Despite the blatant flaws I found, I think this is a great teen book, I think they will enjoy it far more than I would and for that I will be gifting it to my friend’s teen daughter. I think she will love this to pieces because she’s the right audience for it.

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