Before Sloan, there was Emily. Then there was Sloan and Emily and that meant everything. After a bizarre chance meeting, Emily and Sloan became closer friends than one couple have thought possible. To Emily, Sloan was an exotic creature that was so completely cool, Emily was cool by association and to just be around her was all the friendship she needed. Then Sloan dissapears and Emily is back to being herself before Sloan. The quite, resigned girl that stayed at home, wishing her life away. No phone call, no letters- just a list. That is all Emily has left of her best friend; a ‘to-do’ list. Skinny Dipping, Stealing Something, Penelope, Ride A Horse – all these strange tasks that Emily must complete if she stands a chance in finding what happened to Sloan.
Morgan Matson’s Since You’ve Been Gone won’t be blowing anyone’s mind with a captivating, theoretical analysis on friendship and self exploration, but then again; who says it has to? What you will find is an initially tedious example of one sided friendship that quickly becomes a heart warming story of confidence and adventure. This being the first book of Matson’s I’ve devoured, it’s difficult to say what I was expecting. Yes, perhaps something a little darker and more deep rooted then just girls drifting in and our of each others lives, but while finding just that, I allowed myself to sink back into my seventeen year old self and encourage the wave of nostalgia to wash over me, making the entire reading experience more pleasurable that initially expected.
The general feel of Since You’ve Been Gone can often feel juvenile and I can imagine this will be the case for any reader over the age of twenty. At the very start of the novel, Emily is so overly, completely besotted with her best friend Sloan that it comes across as irritating. One may find themselves asking what could be so great about Sloan? Still, readers may soon realise that the image of of this mysterious girl is not all it seems. However, due to the continuous praise of a girl that has just disappeared, I found myself really disliking Sloan. Indeed, this enabled me to sympathies more with Emily, pitying her but a sense of frustration comes with that also and remains there for the entire book.
Still, as the narrative continues, so does Emily’s personality, perseverance and bravery, something I found highly enjoyable, at times a little cringey, yet strangely familiar. Any middle school wall flower will notice themselves in her character, that natural change in your own nature when your own grove as well as finding others you truly belong with. I believe nostalgia is the key to the book reaching an audience older than that of young teens, I found myself reading and observing like a concerning sister, rather than finding myself out rightly in Emily’s position. This is neither a positive nor negative, it simply resides within the age and maturity of the reader.
While this sens of old times lost in comforting, enjoyable and relaxed there was one aspect to Matson’s story that I found immensely disappointing. With narratives like these, I understand that a love interest is often key to story drive and reader interest but for me, Emily’s relationship with Frank felt slightly rushed and forced towards the end. It seems Emily had finally outgrown her dependany to Sloan and simply off-loaded it to Frank instead. While Matson tried hard to ensure the reader that Emily has indeed grown into a self sufficiant woman, there’s a slight feel that she has just swapped her friendship for a relationship, without too much bother.
While You Were Gone has no doubt found an appropriate audience within the young teen market, that quite easily spills out towards an older reader, feeling nostalgic for the past. It’s easily to see why our first friendships are those that shape us the most and Since You’ve Been Gone is a easy going, no fuss example of that.