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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Lefty's Lowdown: Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson

Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson
Genre: YA contemporary
Published: May 6, 2014 by Simon & Schuster
Source: made it available to read for free for a limited amount of time, but that doesn't affect my love for this book.
Summary from Goodreads: 
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? 

WOAH, Morgan Matson quickly earned herself a new fangirl in me with this book. I'd never read anything by her before, but I'd seen some high praise for this novel, and I loooove contemporary books, so I was excited to see this on Well, I am absolutely blown away! It was fun, it was immensely engrossing, it was emotional, it was real, it was amazing.

Our narrator, Emily, is used to being Sloane's overlooked other half. She doesn't mind all that much, because since Sloane became her best friend, her life has become a billion times more interesting and she's come out of her shell. But then Sloane and her family skip town without giving word to anyone, not even Emily. Emily's life pretty much revolved around Sloane's friendship, so she's barely a person after Sloane's abrupt disappearance. The only thing that gives her life is a list from Sloane that comes in the mail--a list with 13 ridiculous, super-out-of character tasks for Emily to complete over the summer. Emily, believing that this list is the key to finding her best friend, vows to complete every task. Her quest to cross out items on the list leads to unexpected friendships, romances, and self-discovery.

I have SO MANY thoughts and feelings about this book (having finished it less than a half hour ago), but I'll start with all the incredible characters that Matson introduces us to. They're all very real, very distinct characters. Even the characters we didn't see a whole lot of. Emily is a likeable and relatable narrator. I can't speak for everyone, but I know that I have certainly felt like I was living in the shadow of a friend, like I cared way more for that friend than she did for me. I know what it's like to cherish a friendship so much, you never want to do anything that will scare them away. I also felt like, at first, Emily displayed some characteristics of serious social anxiety and I just felt that on such a spiritual level. It was such an accurate portrayal of how daunting and exhausting social settings can be for some people (me), so I really appreciated that. She grows SO FREAKING MUCH by the end of the novel and I was so happy for her. She's far from perfect, she makes pretty big mistakes, but I loved getting to witness her evolution. I'd want her to be friends with her!

Then there's Frank, who absolutely stole my heart. When we were first introduced to him, all I could think was, "Frank. Frank is his name. A very un-sexy, un-swoonworthy name. Who is named Frank????" (Sorry to all the Franks out there). But, name aside, Frank is adorable, intelligent, determined, and endlessly kind. I CHALLENGE YOU TO NOT LOVE HIM. He was dorky and funny, and basically my ideal guy, if I'm being honest. I loved the way he complemented Emily! The tension between them was fantastic!¡ The other great characters are Frank's faithful companion Collins, Emily's surprising new friend Dawn, and Emily's little brother Beckett. They all have so much personality. Matson is clearly a pro at introducing delightful characters and developing them and bringing them to life.

Another thing that was really great about this novel was the plot and pacing. I tend to favor quest plots in contemporary novels, where the character spends the book working to accomplish something. And I liked how this novel was a series of accomplishing little, very different things to accomplish something bigger. It made the pacing perfect! Every chapter held a different adventure. It was lots of fun and made it very very hard to put down (but once 5 am came and I could barely keep my eyes open, I kinda had to).

Now, one of the most important and prominent aspects of this novel is friendship, which I love. There are so many different friendship dynamics in this novel, and it was extremely interesting to read about them all. Friendship between two girls, friendship between two guy, friendship between a guy and a girl, friendship between two siblings, friendship in a group setting. The one I found especially interesting, though, was the friendship between Sloane and Emily. Though Sloane is largely absent throughout the story, we get flashbacks and memories, giving us a very good idea of their friendship In a way, they had a great friendship. They were practically connected at the hip, they rarely fought, they trusted each other (for the most part), they had fun together, they could talk about anything and everything. It sounds pretty damn wonderful. But--and this is never explicitly stated, it's just my perception--it seems a bit toxic. It definitely hindered Emily. She was trying to be what Sloane wanted her to be. She let herself sink into the shadows. She idolized Sloane. I've had that friendship (in fact, I'd say I still do), and it really doesn't feel like a bad thing, and it doesn't feel like something you want to escape, even when you realize the truth of the friendship. I just really appreciate and respect how accurately this was demonstrated in Since You've Been Gone.

I love the way this book ended. Not everything was wrapped in a pretty little bow, but there's still hope. It feels like there is still so much left for these characters to figure out and work through, and I love that because it just makes them feel like real people.

If I haven't already made it abundantly clear, let me reiterate one last time: I am 100% in love with this novel. The characters are beautifully crafted, the story kept me hooked, and there were some very touching moments in this book. I definitely got up in my feelings at some points. I'd without a doubt compare this to the works of Sarah Dessen, which is honestly one of the best compliments I could give a book. I definitely plan on reading every other book Morgan Matson has/will ever write.

My rating:

Morgan Matson was born in 1981 and grew up in New York City and Greenwich, Connecticut. She attended Occidental College in Los Angeles but halfway though a theater degree, she started working in the children's department of Vroman's Bookstore and fell in love with YA literature.
Following college graduation (and the proud bearer of an incredibly useful theater/English degree) she moved back East to attend the New School, where she received her M.F.A in Writing for Children.
Amy & Roger's Epic Detour, inspired by Morgan's three cross-country road trips, was published in May 2010. It was named an ALA Top Ten Best Book, a PW "Flying Start" book, and was shortlisted for the Waterstone's Book Prize.

In the meantime, Morgan moved back to California, went back to school again and in 2011 received an M.F.A. in Screenwriting from the University of Southern California.

Her second book, Second Chance Summer, was published in May 2012. It was inspired by her experiences spending summers growing up in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. It was named to the ALA Best Fiction for Young Adults list, and selected as a School Library Journal Best Book of 2012.

Her third book, Since You've Been Gone, will be published on May 6th, 2014.

Morgan's work has been published all over the world, and translated into 10 languages so far.
She lives in Los Angeles, though she loves to travel and does it whenever she can. She is currently writing another book, to be published in 2016.
website / goodreads / tumblr / facebook / twitter / insta


Amy and Roger's Epic Detour
 Second Chance Summer
The Unexpected Everything (Coming May 3, 2016)

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Thank you so much for taking the time to read what I have to say and give your opinion on it. It really means a lot to me. And of course, I will do my best to return the favor. However, as easily distracted and scatter-brained as I am, please don't be offended if I forget to comment on your blog.