Kerry Winfrey
June 02, 2014 10:28 am

After reading Since You’ve Been Gone, I’m placing Morgan Matson on my list of Authors Whose Books I’ll Always Read. Seriously, between this and Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour, I just trust that anything she writes will be awesome. Even if her next book is a history of peanut farming, I’ll just be like, “Well, there will probably be a great romance in here somewhere. I’ll give it a try.” Just like A&RED, Since You’ve Been Gone features tons of romantic tension, but it also has super-close BFFs. Basically, I couldn’t be more in love with this book.

Full disclosure: I received a free copy of Since You’ve Been Gone (although that doesn’t affect my review at all, duh–I am a highly principled lady who cannot be bought!) and the book came with a delightful pair of heart-shaped sunglasses. They make me feel like a non-creepy, adult version of Lolita and I’m in love with them. Ideally, you should try to read the book while wearing heart-shaped sunglasses (presuming they don’t make reading too difficult), but if that’s not possible, just try reading it outside. It’s a perfect summer read. In fact, I got so into it that I forgot how long I’d been sitting outside, and now I have an unfortunate sunburn on my legs. This book has the power to cause sunburns.

Now that I’ve spent two paragraphs gushing, let’s get to the plot. Emily and Sloane are BFFs who do everything together…that is, until Sloane and her family disappear. The only trace of Sloane is a to-do list for Emily’s summer, including items like “apple picking at night,” “kiss a stranger,” and “hug a Jamie.”

Desperate to figure out what happened to her best friend, Emily decides to complete every activity on this list. This ends up being easier said than done–without Sloane, Emily’s life feels empty and boring. That is, until she starts hanging out with all-around good guy Frank Porter. Oh, Frank Porter. He’s the class president, a champion for social justice, and a total babe. Naturally, over the course of the summer and the to-do list, Emily starts to develop some feelings for him and his good-guy ways.

But as much as I loved Frank Porter (and I really did love him), he’s not really what the book’s about. The real heart of the book is Emily and Sloane’s friendship, and Emily’s ability to find herself in Sloane’s absence. Through Emily’s descriptions, Sloane sounds sort of like a Manic Pixie Dream Friend. She dresses like she’s from another decade! She haggles at flea markets! She can talk to anyone! But as Emily’s summer progresses and she figures out more about where Sloane might be, we come to realize that Emily might not actually have the right idea about Sloane at all. Maybe she’s not just a wacky girl with an ability to brighten up Emily’s life–maybe she’s an actual person and a real friend. However, it isn’t until Emily tracks down the truth that we know for sure what’s going on with Sloane.

Despite the sunburn still stinging on my legs, I loved Since You’ve Been Gone. Rarely does a book manage to cover friendship and romance equally. Sloane and Emily’s friendship felt real and made me think of my best friends. This book reminded me of Paper Towns (tracking down a missing girl) meets The Blonde of the Joke (a mysterious best friend) meets Anna and the French Kiss (SO MUCH romantic tension). If you love YA romance and reading about super close female friendships, you’ll love this book.

SOME HIGHLIGHTS: -Sloane is definitely the best name for a cool best friend. I mean, every Sloane I’ve ever heard of (basically just this one and this one) is super cool, therefore I can only assume that all Sloanes rule.

-I love, love, loved the list that Sloane left for Emily, mostly because it reminded me of the weirdo things my friends and I did in high school. Did we use to dare each other to do things like hug people we didn’t know and sneak up under other people’s umbrellas? Maybe we did. What I’m saying is that Sloane and Emily sound like they know how to have a good time.

-Just like with Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour, the romantic tension here is OUT OF CONTROL. Frank and Emily spend a lot of time going on runs and having meaningful conversations. There’s even a “sleeping next to each other without making out” scene, which is one of my all time favorite romcom conventions.

-Even though the book is mainly about Emily and Sloane (and Frank), Morgan Matson also writes some amazing side characters. Frank’s sidekick Collins is hilarious, and Emily’s parents are interesting (if scatterbrained) playwrights. There was also a (very minor) character named Kerry, which I loved because do you know how often the name is spelled that way? Never. Kerrys of the world, we must demand more representation.

What about you guys? Have you read Since You’ve Been Gone or Morgan Matson’s other books? Let me know in the comments! And, as always, I love to hear your suggestions for books to feature in Young Adult Education. Leave a comment, email me at youngadulteducation@gmail.com or find me on Twitter @KerryAnn.

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