Friday, August 17, 2018

Review: SINCE YOU'VE BEEN GONE by Morgan Matson

Rating: 4/5 stars

I picked this book up amid my fantasy craze because I wanted to read a summery contemporary while it was actually still summer outside, and I was not disappointed. This book was cute and adventurous, I ended up really liking it.

Unfortunately, though, the book got off to a bad start for me. I felt like the first two chapters (chapter two especially) were way too long and drawn out, detailing almost every minute of Emily’s life. The book moved very slowly, and I found myself wondering why so many of those details were pertinent or even included in the story. It really bogged down the book right from the start, plus I was put off because I was noticing a lot of minor errors, things not really worth mentioning but that should have been caught by an editor. One example that really bothered me is this: Frank, as a high school student, was in charge of the bank deposits for his job. There is no way a teenager, who has been working at his job for only two weeks and isn’t even the manager, would be trusted to handle taking a large sum of money to the bank. That’s very unbelievable and unrealistic, and the one thing I want out of a book is a realistic story (just to clarify, fantasy can be realistic too, but it has to be realistic within its own world).

On top of that, something else that really bothered me in the beginning was that the dialogue was badly broken up. Someone would ask a question on the first line of a page, and the question wouldn’t be answered until the last line of the page, or sometimes even the next page. By the time it was answered, I had forgotten what the question was and had to backtrack to find out. It was common in the first couple of chapters for a one-minute conversation to span several pages because of all the description mixed in with the few lines of dialogue. This was very distracting to read and poor structuring in my opinion. Thankfully, this was really only a problem at the beginning, and the story did pick up quite a bit as I continued reading it. It’s honestly surprising to me how much I ended up liking this book after that rocky start.

So this book is about Emily, who’s ready to have the best summer ever, only to discover that her best friend, Sloane, has disappeared without a word. The only clue Emily has is a list she received from Sloane of thirteen things for her to do, tasks that are way beyond Emily’s comfort zone. Believing that completing the list will lead her to Sloane, Emily makes it her summer goal to accomplish all thirteen items.

Something I enjoyed was that Emily would say she was going to accomplish a specific thing on the list next, but then the next chapter’s title would be a different objective on the list. I liked that it was unpredictable in that manner, that Emily’s intentions turned into something else. It kept my curiosity piqued throughout the book about what she would actually do next. I was also glad to see that the things Emily was doing led her to take chances that helped her to grow and become more comfortable with herself.

When Emily mentioned that her playwright parents were working on a new script and were basically shut-ins during this time, I rolled my eyes because that’s just a way to write parents out of a young adult novel. I see way too often books where the teenagers are roaming free with no parental control, and that’s just so unrealistic to me. However, I am happy to say that this book did not live up to that expectation. Despite being engrossed in their play, Emily’s parents were still present in the book more than I expected, and they still disciplined her. I thought this was a much more realistic approach because, at least for me, my mom was very involved in my life as a teenager. We got to see Emily trying to evade her parents’ notice at times, which I totally get, instead of her just acting like they don’t care. Unfortunately, this was only the case with Emily’s parents. Frank’s parents, on the other hand, were completely absent and unresponsible, and I just cannot see two parents leaving their teenage son home alone for basically the entire summer. That is asking for trouble. So the absent-parent-syndrome still affects this book, but not as much as I originally thought it would.

For some reason, ever since about mid-college, whenever I read contemporary books with characters in high school, I always feel like I’m too old for those books. Like I would have loved them in high school when I could’ve immediately related to the characters because of our shared ages and stages in life, but now that I’m past that point, those books just don’t feel like they’re for me anymore. I loved contemporary when I was younger—in fact, it was the only genre I read for most of my childhood—but now I just struggle with it when it’s of the young adult category. Adult contemporary books or non-contemporary books (fantasy, sci-fi, historical fiction, etc.) with high-school-aged characters are fine though, and I have no problem reading those. But Since You’ve Been Gone is a young adult contemporary with a 17-year-old protagonist, and while I did really like the book, I know I would have absolutely loved it if I were still 16 or 17, when what Emily was going through was similar to my own experiences. It is really sad for me that I don’t feel like I can fully relate to young adult contemporaries anymore since a lot of them, this book included, are great stories that tackle real issues teens might be facing. That being said, I do not believe I will ever stop reading young adult contemporaries, but the number I read does decrease year by year.

I had a good time reading Since You’ve Been Gone. It kept my attention throughout the whole book in that I didn’t feel like I needed to take a break every few chapters, which is usually how I read. I do want to check out more of Morgan Matson’s books, although this one sounded the most interesting to me so I don’t know if I will like the others as much. Overall, I would recommend this book if you’re looking for a nice summer read about friends, a clean romance, a mystery aspect, and a great adventure.

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