Publishing Info: May 6, 2014 by Source: Audible
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: July 17, 2015
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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?
Go skinny-dipping? Wait...what?
SINCE YOU’VE BEEN GONE was actually my first Morgan Matson book (yes, yes, I know)! I had purchased the audio a few weeks prior to reading it and when it was time to for a new audiobook and I happened to be in a contemporary mood, the timing was right to start SINCE YOU’VE BEEN GONE!
I really wasn’t sure what to expect. Having never read one of her books before, I was going in a little blind with no knowledge of Morgan Matson’s writing style or what might pass for a typical character or concept. All I knew was that she’s a fan-favorite and I felt a lot of pressure to enjoy the book (especially seeing it has a 4.21 rating on Goodreads which is pretty high), so when I started listening to the book and found myself struggling, I really started to worry.
I really thought I was going to be the black sheep on this book. I had a really hard time with the beginning, especially with the characters. I never made it to the point where I thought I would put the book down, but it was really just a middle-of-the-road contemporary read for about the entire first half. I really had a hard time with Emily and how awkward she was and I found her actions cringe-worthy to witness. Other characters didn’t quite click for me either. Emily’s parents seemed silly and like characterizations rather than real people. Collins was goofy and seemed like a bit too much for me and I really didn’t care for him either. And even though Sloane wasn’t physically present in the book at the time, the flashbacks to her interactions with Emily bothered me as well. The writing just didn’t work well for me throughout the first half and scenes felt forced instead of just playing out naturally. BUT the good thing was that I had plenty of friends who had enjoyed the book and promised me it would get better so despite my hesitations, I was ready for the book to improve!
And those friends turned out to be right! I finally found some cute moments between Emily and Frank about halfway through and really started to enjoy their friendship and whatever might be developing between them… then I started to enjoy their relationship even more and before I knew it, the whole book was finally taking shape. Characters really started to feel real instead of just a collection of traits on a page. Relationships were really blossoming — not just between Emily and Frank. I loved the new friendships that Emily was forming in Sloane’s absence and really all of the characters grew quite a bit. I was really impressed with how much each one had changed and felt so much more realistic, but I was sad that I had felt so disconnected from them in beginning. I felt like the growth was exponential but I had that lingering memory of how much they had annoyed me in the first half of the book.
I did enjoy the second half of the book but I just wish I had been able to feel those things in the beginning! Not to mention I felt like one scene was directly out of ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS (although it’s not that like scene hasn’t happened anywhere else… but I’m so ANNA-obsessed that I couldn’t NOT see it) and a bit of a stunt there at the end that was totally insane for someone Emily’s age (I wonder if there were any consequences for that…) but I just let it go and rolled with it.
I was very on the fence with how I felt about Emily and Sloane’s friendship. I honestly don’t really think I’ve had a friendship like that. A lot of my close friendships were a group of three of us (or more) and I feel like I didn’t have ONE best friend that I spent all of time with who was just MY best friend. Sometimes their friendship felt too clingy for me (mostly likely because I didn’t have the same experience so I didn’t quite relate) and I also didn’t like how Sloane felt so much more dominant than Emily (although I totally understand that). I felt like their friendship has some great moments and other times, I didn’t like it at all.
I guess you could say it was an interesting read for me! I actually kind of liked that my opinion on the book didn’t seem to align with so many others because I was able to have my own take on the book. Sometimes when I love the same book that everyone else loves, it isn’t that the book doesn’t deserve it but sometimes I feel like my opinion isn’t unique so it was fun to bounce my reactions off of other people and see how our feelings differed. I was hesitant in the beginning but upon finishing, I’m excited to read those other Matson books that I have on my shelves! I’m not sure they’re high-priority or that I will love them like everyone else loves her work but I’m also open to leaving my expectations at the door and seeing where the books take me!
“The View from Goodreads” is a featured section in my reviews that I decided to incorporate! I tend to update my Goodreads status a LOT when I read — reactions, feelings, notes — so I thought it would be fun to share the sort of “reading process”! All status updates are spoiler-free (no specific plot points will be revealed) but will contain reactions to certain pages and/or characters!
Emily // Character Obsessions: Sloane, the list, trying new things, comfort zones.
I had a really hard time with Emily in the beginning. What’s funny is that at times, I think she reminded me of myself when I was her age… and maybe that’s why it was so painful to see how awkward she was! But I also feel like it’s very hard to read such awkwardness in the pages of a book. For some reason it just makes everything feel awkward and I think it had an effect on the writing for me which is a bummer. I really DID like how much she grew throughout the book, though. The progression felt natural and… actually… I think she needed to be without Sloane to see that it was possible. Sloane was the dominant personality in their friendship and anything daring that Emily would have done with her would just have been her acting under Sloane’s influence and safety net. Even though “the list” came from Sloane and they were her ideas, I think Emily was able to grow not only by taking chances and doing things to prove that she could be brave and have fun outside of her comfort zone but that she could really do things on her own and have friends with different kinds of encouragement and support.
Kept Me Hooked On: Character growth. As much as I was irritated with the characters in the beginning, I was really impressed with how much they changed and grew throughout the course of the book! I really enjoyed where each one ended up at the close of the book.
Left Me Wanting More: Connection. I felt a bit sad that it took me so long to make that connection with the characters. The awkwardness put a damper on our relationship and I was just bummed that I didn’t really connect until the last half of the book!
This wouldn’t be a book to purchase for me, but I think it’s a good read! I really did like the messages about friendship in the end and though I was expecting it to more of a lesson revolving around Emily’s friendship with Sloane, I think it was much more pertinent to her friendship with Frank, Collins, and Dawn. It also was a great story of learning to stand up for yourself and really figure out who YOU are and not who you are with someone else.
BOOKS LIKE SINCE YOU’VE BEEN GONE
(Click the cover to see my review!)