since you´ve been gone

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?

{SORT OF SPOILERY, BEWARE}

Something that I love about the YA community is that writers and readers are constantly trying to raise awareness for all sorts of things- mental and physical disorders, endangered species, bullying, and so much more. And lately we´re also getting a lot more representation. We´ve got books with an incredible variety of main characters: black, Asian, Hispanic, Islamic… not just white. Which is really, really awesome. But authors are also writing about the smaller issues, the things that people deal with every day. For example, in Since You´ve Been Gone, we´ve got Emily, who wrestles with social anxiety.

She never really comes out and says that, of course, and she does interact with other people, but she gets anxious whenever her actions seem to be affecting another person´s life even a little bit. She is very shy and when her best friend disappears, she feels like she can´t do much by herself. I reaaally identified with Emily while reading this book; her thoughts, her fears, her reactions…it all felt like I was reading about myself. So it felt so, so good when Emily started taking risks and trying new things, despite being shy. Her growth throughout the story really inspired me, and I found myself getting excited about going on adventures. If Emily could do it, so can I.

But I´ve got to confess…although Sloane seemed really fun and got Emily doing all the cool things in her list, I also felt like she was holding her back. Before her disappearance, Emily never felt like she had to take the initiative, never had to go and try something new (even when it came to talking to new people), because Sloane would do it for her anyway. I hated how small Emily felt around Sloane. She didn´t seem to mind it at the time, but it bothered me to no end, because she´d put Sloane on a glowing pedestal. So that´s why I LOVED their reunion in the end of the book: Emily sounded so strong and confident in herself, and just as she made peace with Sloane, she started seeing her as just another person, much less idealized. A human being, with strengths and weaknesses.

Morgan Matson has a gift for good character development; not just how they change through the book, but also how they´re presented to us in the beginning. For example, I get all warm and fuzzy when thinking about Emily´s family. They´re quirky, definitely not perfect, and fun to read about. Both her parents are playwrights and that created such an interesting family dynamic, because they were all very well versed in the theater world (including her little brother, Beckett, who acted as stage manager during their home plays. While riding around in wheelies). They had this thing called Living Room Theater where her parent´s colleagues, students and friends would meet up and do impromptu plays- no costumes, no real stage, script in hand and a whole lotta yummy snacks. I loved it, and just so you can appreciate it as much as I did, here´s a quote about it:

“Innocent bystanders had a tendency to get cast in these things, which was how two years ago, the plumber who´d come by to fix a leak had ended up playing Mercutio and had almost fainted.”

But you know, even if I loved her family, the real star of the show is Frank Porter, class president, cinnamon bun extraordinaire. He is an actual, living teddy bear. I loved his and Emily´s running playlists (even if my taste in music is a lot more like Frank´s than Emily´s), and how real he felt. He put all those perfect, unrealistic, ab-infested teenage boys from other books to shame. His relationship with Emily developed beautifully: accidental, tentative friendship first, than good friends, followed by best friends and then maybe a lil´ bit more. Also, I´d like to thank the author for FINALLY giving me a book that characters get red, sweaty and smelly after running, because I´m so tired of characters who look impeccable during and after exercise like, “Ah, yes, just ran 146336373 miles and I still smell like vanilla/peaches/sunshine/rainbows!”

Although I think the ending was okay, like, the Sloane thing was solved, Frank and Emily are finally together, it didn’t feel enough. What about Dawn? Did they patch things up? I NEED TO KNOW. But at the same time, I had so so so much fun reading this story. It´s set an absurdly cute town, with the most relatable characters I´ve seen in a long time. Plus, the list is a really cool plot device; it created plenty of opportunities for interesting scenes.

For example, the skinny-dipping scene was really well done. It really felt like it was a bunch of teenagers, and I loved how they all closed their eyes and how cute the scene was. Emily was freaking out and it had nothing to do with hormones or lust or whatever, but just the idea that they were swimming buck naked, and they were all giggling like little kids and acting slap happy. Ahh, how good it is to read about realistic teenagers.

I´m not a HUGE fan of the Contemporary genre, but this one has just the right amount of spice in it to make it interesting. No insta-love, no insta-lust, no insta-attraction, no insta-anything. LOVE that. All the relationships (be it romance, friendship, family, etc) progress realistically, and feel so real. All the details, quirks, funny and sad moments…it all makes the story seem like something that could really happen.

In a well-ordered universe, everyone would read this book. It inspired me to do new things and take risks (and miracle of miracles, got me to take up running once again). The story and the characters showed me that nothing is impossible. But in all seriousness, at the end I didn´t even want to close the book! I wanted to keep it open and keep living in the story for a little while longer. This is probably my favorite Summer read.

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