REVIEW: Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson
I was not blown away by this. It was a nice summer story, but stuck on the balance between okay and good, with some issues or things that irritated me, and (almost) no diversity.
I loved the premise. Shy Emily finds the summer of her dreams in ruins after her best friend, Sloane, disappears without a trace, only to leave behind a list of things for Emily to do. With a summer bucket list, way out of her comfort zone, but the only real tie to a friend who seems now lost, Emily starts her journey to becoming herself, finding friends, courage and belonging along the way.
I liked Emily well enough, but she wasn't an extraordinary character. Her development was nice, and for the most part, I liked her interaction with Frank.
Frank was really nice, but together with the others, fell a bit flat. The parents were all (almost) nonexistent, which felt a bit lazy. It would have been so much more interesting if we could have seen more family dynamics, and it would have made Emily much more fleshed out. I liked Bucket and wish I could have seen more of him.
The flashbacks were a great way to show what some of the items on the list were about, and to introduce Sloan and show the relationship between Emily and her. Finding meaning behind the items on the list was fun. It was, for me, also the only thing that wasn't obvious yet. The items themselves and how they were done were interesting, but the rest of the book was pretty predictable. That isn't necessarily bad, but it was a bit too much, which made the book lose some of its pull. It wasn't hard to see where the relationships were going and what would happen with them. Sloane was slightly different, reading more about her did give me some surprises (and made me like her less), but the main question, why or where she had gone wasn't that hard to figure out. Of course, it wasn't a mystery, but with that much predictability, the book didn't have much left.
I didn't really like Sloane, actually. Disregarding the fact that she left without a trace, which was a shitty but somewhat understandable, she wasn't such a good friend. At least not in the more recent flashbacks, not when she had been with Sam. She was too pushy, wanted things - and Emily - to go her way. I liked her more in the last chapter but felt like it was someone different then, almost a bit out of character.
On to other things I did(n't like) but might fall in spoiler-y territory:
I liked the buildup between Emily and Frank. Their relationship was over all pretty predictable, but I feel like the main romance in contemporary YA usually is. I liked seeing it grow and go slow but hated that Frank was still in a relationship. That both he and Lissa waited to deal with things until it was too late, which was completely unnecessary and made me irritated and dreading the closeness between Frank and Emily.
It was good, in my opinion, that Dawn disagreed, because it was a key issue in her own character development. Another reaction would have felt untrue. However, she was hard, and the fact that that wasn't resolved by the end was strange. Not that she had to forgive Emily, but it felt like a part was forgotten, we didn't get closure either way, which was really too bad.
Why was the gala in Sloane's old house? Awfully convenient, but strange and without explanation.
A quick read with a nice summer feeling, but aside from the things that irked me, pretty forgettable.