August 26, 2015

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

Since You've Been GoneSince You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson
Rating: /5

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Since You’ve Been Gone is the book that will perfectly complete your pleasure in reading YA contemporary. I read a lot of contemporary books in my life. There were those books that swept me off my feet, there were books that got me raised my eyebrows in, and there were books that left me with no feeling other than a fun time spent reading. I’ve read two books from Morgan Matson and both of them belong to the first category.
Just like in Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour, Ms. Matson uses a light tone to voice out the story through the narrator in this book. With a simple yet astonishingly adventurous plot, she brings up a fun read to enjoy thoroughly every single page of it.

Since You’ve Been Gone tells a story about Emily Hughes, a high-school girl who lacks a little too much in social-life department. She’s the kind of girl who always stays on the back of a group of people, nodding at what they say, and prefer to stay invisible than being a spotlight. It’s not that she’s a pariah or someone with a lot of haters. Emily is just shy and born socially-awkward when actually she’s a fun girl to hang out with once you know her well. Befriending Sloane seems to be the best fit since she’s all everything Emily isn’t: easygoing, practically the center of attention everywhere, and daring. Sloane is the girl everyone wants to be friend with and that’s a good thing too for Emily as Sloane has become the bridge that connecting Emily to the others, to the outside world. With Sloane, Emily never has to worry about being the first to start up conversation with others. With Sloane, Emily could easily join in the talk and even make up funny jokes which she strangely couldn’t do when she’s on her own. And with Sloane, that’s when everything feels more reachable for Emily. Sloane makes her ‘sees’ that. Sloane makes her believes that. It’s like Sloane is the sun that makes Emily’s beautiful unlit world shining bright.

So when Sloane goes AWOL one day in the beginning of summer, everything seems to fall apart above and around Emily. Moreover after she and Sloane has gone day and night planning the best holiday in their lives. It feels exactly like a nightmare: unbelievably real and scary as hell. Sloane has literally just disappeared. No words. Not even just simply goodbye. It’s not until two weeks later that a letter comes to Emily with a white envelope, a very familiar handwriting on it. Unlike what Emily expects the letter is about (where Sloane was at the moment or at least why she left out of sudden without saying anything), Sloane sent Emily a checklist in which half of them are the things that Emily would never think of doing, even in her wildest dream.

The checklist brings back the memories from the good ‘ol days when Sloane would make Emily a to-do list and challenge her to do them for fun. Emily used to just laugh at the list instead of finishing them off. But it’s a whole different case this time. The list is the only thing that still makes Sloane hasn’t completely gone and forgotten about her. To cross each thing off the list might be the only way to find her. So here begins Emily’s unexpected summer where the list takes her to a very un-Emily world. The things on the list might be such a burden for her―her being an unsociable person and all―but it also the very thing that brings Emily to learn more about herself and experience the beautiful of friendship from unexpected people in the summer that goes unexpectedly fascinating. In the end, the list doesn’t just give Emily the answer to her question all summer but also the answer to the question she’s been asking all her life.

The use of a to-do list to develop the plot is really an interesting and unique idea. If we take the to-do list out of the story, we could see that the plot is actually pretty simple. And instead of letting Emily finishes the things on the list ordinarily, Ms. Matson puts several twists making it even more fascinating. She perfectly fits ‘the list’ as one of the main element of the story and turns an ordinary story of a sad summer into an escapade of a shy girl takes place in the summer. We could ‘see’ how Emily sounds so lost and lonely with no one to spend a summer with in the beginning. Then as she decides to break her shell and step out to the world where social life has been going every day, she finds out that actually friends, companies, and even love is just somewhere near, around her if she’s just brave enough to look for them.

The past memories slipped within each chapter give a background story of Emily’s friendship with Sloane which started out with an accidental encounter of both of them then just flowed as Sloane’s charming demeanor entwined perfectly with Emily’s quiet trait. Even though Sloane is absent on majority of the book, we get a clear depiction of her personality and I pretty like her. Meanwhile, Emily is a character that I could easily relate with as we share a lot of similar traits. I feel kind of sad for her with the way she reacts to Sloane’s disappearance. The way she makes it seem like the world is falling apart without Sloane in it just shows how low Emily’s self-confidence is. While their friendship is a beautiful bond, it’s not entirely perfect because of the unbalance Emily’s issue has created. I love that Ms. Matson uses the absent of a best friend as the very thing that makes someone realizes how a perfect friendship should have been and at the same time helps them see more of their worth.

While the friendship ‘feel’ is really strong, the romance doesn’t get covered as much but still adds a plus point to the story. I love how the romance is built between Emily and Frank Porter, the boy with whom Emily crosses majority things off of the list with. It goes slowly, carefully; it’s moving inch by inch as we are brought along in a sweet friendship-making of the characters to a stronger level of chemistry between boys and girls.

I laughed a lot while reading this book because of some funny scenes and the awkwardness of Emily itself that becomes more embarrassing time to time. But it also made me a little teary-eyed somewhere near the ending which is truly appreciated because I’m all about a rollercoaster-kind-of-feel while reading rather than staying at one constant feel throughout the book.

About the ending, I never knew I would like this kind of ending that Morgan Matson seemed so drawn in using it. It’s the one she uses Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour as well. It’s indicating a happy end but the ending scene is presented in a subtle manner. She doesn’t necessarily put a wrap on every single twist but instead she chooses to focus on one thing and let the readers judge the ends of the rest.

Since You’ve Been Gone is not be the book that you could easily finished in one sitting for its length that goes on forever than other contemporary books (or at least, it is in my case). But if you’re looking for a light read that’s not just enjoyable but adventurous and have good lessons implied too, then this book is for you. With a delightful writing style, Since You’ve Been Gone delivers a pleasant story of a girl’s discovery of her self-worth, hidden urge to take a risk, and true meaning of friendship during a period of summer when most of the big things of teenagers’ life happenor so I’ve heard.
“I know things might not work.

And I know it’s scary, but the things that are worth it are. It feels right.”
“What is that like?”
“Like a well-ordered universe.”
(Chapter XVII; Since You’ve Been Gone)
Well, just go give this book a try!

Love, read, and review,
Cynthia D.


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