published by Simon & Schuster in May 2014
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.Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
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?
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?
Nath: Since You've Been Gone... I really loved Amy & Roger's Epic Detour. That book made me fall in love with Ms Matson's writing. Consequently, I expect to be blown away with every new release. While Second Chance Summer wasn't perfect, there was something to the story, to the writing. It was just so poignant. Unfortunately, with Since You've Been Gone, I feel Ms Matson missed the mark. It wasn't bad per se, but I have to say I struggled a lot with the heroine, Emily, and I guess that affected my overall enjoyment of the book.
Rowena: Aww man, I'm sad to hear that you didn't like this one as much as I did because I did...like this one, a lot. I thought it was cute and I'm not at all ashamed to say that I grinned like a crazy person throughout the entire thing. Her whole romance with Frank and seeing Emily come into her own? I really enjoyed it. This is my second favorite book by Matson, the first being Amy & Roger's Epic Detour. I thought Emily was hard to connect with at first and I wanted to smack her upside her head for relying so much on Sloane to have a life but you see her growth over the course of the book and her journey to having her own life was enjoyable for me.
What didn't work for you?
Nath: Oh I agree, certain parts of the book were great and I did smile. I liked Frank and their entourage and I liked the idea of Emily completing a list of 10 random things. What didn't work for me was Emily. It's exactly as you said... I wanted to smack her for relying so much on Sloane. You were able to overlook this, but I guess I couldn't. Perhaps it's because it hit a bit too close to home... I'm a person who values friendship a lot and it's great to have a best friend who's bigger than life... but it's never okay to me to have no identity. To be happy to be known as 'Sloane's friend', that wasn't okay with me. That was very sad as well as Emily's lack of backbone because of Sloane's absence. For me, Emily was just too dependent on Sloane and the whole "Sloane this, Sloane that" got old very fast :( Yes, she grew throughout the book, but it was a bit too late...
Rowena: I guess because Emily is a teenager, I was okay with letting that stuff slide because in the end, she did learn that it wasn't okay to live in Sloane's shadow and she ended up being her own person so I was glad. The new group of friends that Emily made over the summer was proof that she did learn from her mistakes. They were her friends but she had a personality and a life outside of them. I thought they were really good for her and I thought they were all adorable together.
I loved seeing Frank and Emily grow closer together. I loved the Emily that she was around Frank. She didn't want to be his friend but that didn't stop him from pursuing the friendship anyway. He was so completely different from Emily but so completely perfect for her too. He didn't let her get lost in their new group of friends. She wasn't a sidekick. She was a part of something real and I liked that for her.
Nath: Oh there was definite growth in Emily and it was very well-done. It was good to read about Emily coming into her own person, making her own friends. I also understand that she couldn't just forget/give up on Sloane and in the end, her perseverance really paid off... But at times, she'd think of Sloane and that would annoy me because it would be like almost undoing all her growth ^_^;
I quite liked Frank and the other secondary characters, Dawn and Collins. They were a good group and I enjoyed their interactions... I also thought that some of the things Ms Matson brought up was very realistic such as Collins being a bit jealous of Frank and Emily's friendship and Dawn's reaction to Emily and Frank's kiss. I also really liked Emily's family. Unconventional, but very fun LOL.
Rowena: Yeah but that's only natural when you're trying to build something that you didn't have before. Emily didn't have the confidence to be her own person. She was happy to live in Sloane's shadow so when Sloane up and disappears, she's thrown for a loop. She was forced to build a life for herself and not one that she could share the spotlight with anyone. Everyone slips up every now and again and I thought the slip ups that Emily had were realistic and did show just how much she'd grown over the course of the summer because those slip ups didn't keep her down. It kept her real. She wasn't perfect and I liked that. I liked that she liked the person she was becoming without Sloane and she kept right on fighting the good fight until the very end. And I think my very favorite part of the book (after the romance with Frank, of course) was that even when she built this new life where she was the main show, she didn't forget about Sloane. She needed closure from Sloane's split and she got it.
Overall, I thought Emily proved that she was a lot more than Sloane's best friend and I thought Matson did a fabulous job of showcasing her strengths. I was a grinning machine while reading this entire book. The whole thing just worked for me. I loved the main character, the love interest and the other friends that Emily made along the way. I even loved Emily's family. They were a treat too.
Nath: You're right about Emily not forgetting Sloane. That part, I did like. She changed and grew, but didn't put Sloane in a box labeled "Past" and that was nice. She's definitively loyal :)
I guess I just didn't have your patience. I enjoyed the story and the writing. I really liked the list and how Emily managed to accomplish it :) It's just at times, Emily really got on my nerves and that dimmed my enjoyment of the book a little. As such, I'm giving a B- for Since You've Been Gone.
Rowena: If this had a heroine that was much older than 17 than I probably would have had less patience with the heroine but I just keep the age thing in mind when dealing with YA books. They're young and do dumb things because they're still young where it's still okay to make them. Had they been older, yeah, I'd be right where you were.
I'd give the book a high B. It was very enjoyable for me.