Source: Hardcover, Published May 6, 2014 by Simon & Schuster
Verdict: Very Good
The Pre-Sloane Emily didn’t go to parties, she barely talked to guys, she didn’t do anything crazy. Enter Sloane, social tornado and the best kind of best friend—the one who yanks you out of your shell. But right before what should have been an epic summer, Sloane just… disappears. No note. No calls. No texts. No Sloane. There’s just a random to-do list. On it, thirteen Sloane-selected-definitely-bizarre-tasks that Emily would never try… unless they could lead back to her best friend. Apple Picking at Night? Ok, easy enough.Dance until Dawn? Sure. Why not? Kiss a Stranger? Wait… what?
Getting through Sloane’s list would mean a lot of firsts. But Emily has this whole unexpected summer ahead of her, and the help of Frank Porter (totally unexpected) to check things off. Who knows what she’ll find?
Go Skinny Dipping? Um…
Morgan Matson has created and crafted another gorgeous, slow-burning summer read with Since You’ve Been Gone. Her last YA novel, Second Chance Summer, is a favourite of mine, and I couldn’t wait to dig in to her next book. While perhaps this one didn’t reach the same emotional peak- for me, at least- as Second Chance Summer, it was still a wonderful read.
Emily, our protagonist and narrator, is suddenly at a loss when her best friend Sloane up and leaves town with her parents. Panicked at the thought of what might have happened to her friend, why she left without a word, and lost at the thought of a summer without Sloane, Emily can’t think of what to do or who to turn to.
Then, the list arrives in the mail. A list from Sloane, with thirteen to-do’s for Emily to accomplish. But why? Why now? And why nothing else? Believing that somehow, in some way, completing (or trying to complete) the list will bring Sloane back, Emily decides to plunge in. But how will Emily get through these things without her confidante, her cheerleader and brave friend pushing her on? She slowly finds support in a few unlikely places over the summer. A chance trip at an indoor sports facility with her younger brother, for example, leads her to Frank Porter- a very bright, kind, very confident classmate, who appears to have it all- and ends up becoming something more than Emily could ever have imagined.
Does Emily ever find Sloane? Does Sloane ever find her way back to Emily? For me, Emily’s journey through the tasks on the lists were so absorbing, whether or not we ever found out what happened with Sloane almost took a back seat. Without giving too much away here, I will say that the ending (and that short climb to the end) is altogether satisfying. (Though perhaps a wee bit rushed…). Matson takes, I think, an interesting diversion in the last section of the novel in piecing the puzzle of Sloane together; thoughtfully weaving in Emily and even, and perhaps especially, Frank.
I believe I’ve said it before: fans of Sarah Dessen’s writing style, and summer-themed novels might be particularly taken in with Matson. (That being said, I actually feel that Matson’s writing is even more perceptive and dare I say, fresh, than Dessen’s latest efforts have been). Readers who enjoy Huntley Fitzpatrick, Jessi Kirby, Nina LaCour, and Stephanie Perkins might also enjoy this. If you haven’t read anything by Matson yet, and are looking for genuine, contemporary, coming-of-age YA, then I definitely recommend!
PS. If you have the hardcover version, be sure to slip off the book jacket and look at the inside art.