How would you feel if your best friend vanished without a trace for the entire summer, never messaging you or answering your calls? What would you do if she sent you a list, complete with thirteen tasks to finish that might help you be more sociable or help bring your friend back? Well, that’s exactly what Emily Hughes experiences when her dearest friend, Sloane Williams, simply disappears. On the way to complete the items on her list, Emily enlists the help of class president Frank Porter, his best friend Matt Collins, and Dawn Finley, the employee at Captain Pizza next door.
This YA contemporary fiction takes place during the summer in present-day Stanwich, Connecticut. Our main character, Emily Hughes, is always side-by-side with Sloane, to the point of being known as ‘the girl who is always with Sloane Williams’. Without Sloane, Emily is shy and introverted, and the to-do list helps her to break out of her shell. At home, Emily has an adventure-loving younger brother named Beckett, and playwright parents who, when working on plays, are constantly absorbed in their work.
Things are different for Frank Porter, class president, National Merit Scholar and High Honour Roll recipient. Although he is balancing his school and home life (it is hinted his parents often have feuds), and all the while trying to work out a long-distance relationship with his girlfriend, Lisa Young, Frank has one of the most loyal best friends anyone could ask for.
In general, Since You’ve Been Gone was a light summer read, not action-packed or filled with romance but it was adorable, clear and well-paced. This book was quite realistic in the sense that not all of the relationships were perfect: Sloane and Emily had disagreements once in a while, Frank and Collins didn’t always meet eye to eye, and Dawn and her (former) best friend Mandy broke off their friendship when Dawn’s boyfriend secretly started seeing Mandy. Every few chapters, there would be an in-the-past scene so you could see Emily and Sloane’s relationship clearer. These scences were often in the form of a list or a song playlist- this unique formatting was very memorable.
However, I felt the ending was too abrupt and neatly-packaged. The book didn’t finish quite where I liked, and I love bittersweet endings. Since You’ve Been Gone felt too perfect, with all issues resolved. I would have liked more character description, and I felt Emily kept overemphasizing and was way too dramatic about some items on the list. Sure, the novel is about trying new things, but some items on the list such as ‘apple picking at night’, ‘sleep under the stars’, ‘break something’, and ‘share some secrets in the dark’, really aren’t that big of a deal.
This book was a nice quick read— the type of book I’d imagine someone reading at the beach. Although the book was not exactly my cup of tea, it was still enjoyable, and I would recommend it for YA contemporary fiction lovers.
☆ ☆ ☆ // 3 STARS