Happy Faith No More Day! I’ve been waiting years to see these guys again and now they’re finally back in town. Just a few more hours to go. Why not tough it out with another book?
Since You’ve Been Gone is next in a stream of young adult books that remind me of classic summer songs. First you love them. Then they keep going and going until not even the ice cream on the cover looks good. I really wish this book didn’t share the title of a super catchy song. But actually, Kelly Clarkson’s dance party power hit sets the right tone for this sometimes lonely, light abandonment story.
Emily’s best friend Sloane is missing. Not runaway missing, she’s just gone and Emily needs to now why. Instead all she has is this list Sloane mailed her. It’s the typical outlandish to-do list Sloane made for Em before her trips, but this one is serious. It includes moves that’ll force her to face her fears and put herself out there, like riding a horse and kissing a stranger. It’s the kind of list you make for someone when you don’t think you’ll ever see them again. A good-bye have a fun life list.
Emily is convinced completing the list will somehow lead her back to Sloane. She has to do these things even if they force her out of her comfort zone. The more she chews on her missions, the more she realizes Sloane was her comfort zone – always taking the lead with strangers and bringing out the best, more outgoing side of Em. I imagine many readers can relate to this. We’ve all had that one friend we can’t get enough of as much because of who they as as who we are around them. So it’s easy to empathize. Emily feels like she’s lost the best parts of herself, the funny, witty, curious, more capable parts. There’s a hole in her life and only the list will fill it.
Overall it’s a fun read, but there were things I liked and things I didn’t. It doesn’t merit 440 pages. The story marches through these tasks hitting predictable notes with a whole lot of filler in between. I had a hard time getting past the tedious, cutesy writing and super cheesy dialogue, but like Em I was curious to see where the list would lead.
Emily’s on the cross country team and I haven’t come across many YA books featuring a runner. Running is an important part of her life, it’s something she did before Sloane and continues doing after. When she runs she feels like herself. It’s also how she becomes friends with one of the most popular boys in school. I was so happy at first, thinking finally here’s a book about a teen girl and boy becoming friends without romance, but no.
I also didn’t mind how ordinary and boring the characters and their problems are. That sounds backhanded, but it’s refreshing to read a book many young readers wouldn’t have to stretch their imaginations to relate to. Lives aren’t at risk. The future of our world doesn’t hinge on whether Emily goes apple picking. These things matter to her though. Her fears and shyness are preventing her from experiencing the different types of relationships, mistakes and experiences that balance the pressures and frustrations of adolescence. Her new friendships evolve pretty quickly. Convenient that they all have holes left by recent breakups in just Emily’s size.
The writing and unnecessary length weren’t the only flaws. Judging by the size of Sloane’s pedestal, I expected this wild strange crazy journey. Instead it’s quite tame, but to be fair the tameness reflects the book’s limited scope. My biggest peeve was the ho-hum skinny dipping scene. It came up on the list and I thought at least this’ll be interesting. Nope. Oh well. I have noticed this book has lots of OMG LOVED IT reviews from younger readers, so this is probably just a case of not for me.
The next book I read will probably have iced coffee on the cover because that’s how I select books these days. Right now I’m drinking this cold brew coffee we’ve been making all summer (thanks to my sister giving us a coffee sock kit!). It’s supposed to be better for you than hot because it’s less acidic. I like it because it tastes even better. We add a bit of chicory to get that smooth, almost chocolaty flavor. Good fuel for Faith No More!