Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Distiller: Hikari Loftus      
Drink: Diet Coke with Twizzler's straw

Since You've Been Gone
by Morgan Matson
Simon & Schuster (May 6, 2014)
464 pages


I've taken a little break from YA recently. It was really wearing on me for some reason. But after my recent stint in Adult, I was ready for good, non-F word littered, predictable storyline with happy endings that make up YA. This did the job and I really liked it.

Since You've Been Gone started out a little annoyingly for me. Emily Hughes' best friend Sloane Williams has disappeared. Like, literally, gone without a trace. When Emily returned home from a family vacation, her joined-at-the-hip bestie is not answering her phone (goes straight to voicemail), and her house is deserted. What was annoying was how Emily rattled on and on about how awesome and perfect and beautiful and friendly (add 100 wonderful qualities about the perfect girl/perfect friend) and about how NOT awesome she is. And how she cannot function without Sloane.

After awhile I was like, "OK, we get it. Sloane is wonder woman and you are invisible to any of your peers without her."

BUT something finally shows up from Sloane. A letter with no return address. Well, a list to be accurate. Whenever Emily would go on vacation, Sloane would write up a list of crazy things for her to do. (which shy Emily would never take seriously and only accomplish a few of the 'easy' ones.) This list contained 13 items that Emily should accomplish during the summer. (Kiss a stranger, go skinny dipping, apple picking at night, dance until dawn, ride a horse, hug a Jaime etc). Emily gets it in her head that if she accomplishes ALL the tasks, it will lead her to Sloane. 

At this point I had forgiven the annoying first pages and got interested. I suppose that all the rambling about how not awesome/invisible/shy Emily is was a way to set up how impossible some of the tasks would be to someone like her. I even found that my high school self was a lot like Emily in several ways, so it made me wonder how I would have handled some of the items on her list. 

By the end, I really enjoyed reading about how Emily and her summer are completely transformed by the challenges on the list. Emily's character growth was really satisfying. Honestly, it made me want to come up with a list of my own (or have someone write one up that would challenge my insecurities) and find ways to accomplish them to see what would happen to me and who I would meet by the end of it.

There were so many scenes that made me recall in detail what it felt like to have a new crush and wonder if it was reciprocated, to be out late with friends laughing uncontrollably, to be pushed out of your comfort zone (from a high school kid's perspective). And since it's been 12 years since I graduated high school, I have forgotten what those things felt like. But Matson captured those feelings so authentically, that I could remember and feel those past moments and feelings like they were fresh. I haven't had those feelings resurface so vividly in any other YA book I've read and this one felt more like a memory than a peek into some kid's life. 

I know that resolving Sloane's disappearance is obligatory in this story, but I found that I didn't care for the way it was resolved. ha. It was a little anti-climactic. I'd gotten caught up in the new friends and love interest that come into Emily's life and almost didn't care what happened to Sloane by the last chapters anyway, so it didn't hurt the reading experience. In fact, it ended on the best, cheesy note and I ate. it. up. haha.

If you want a fun, fast-paced read that will make you want to be a more adventurous and daring, or make you feel nostalgic for the fun parts of being in high school, I really recommend this. 

Sloane and Emily are big diet Coke drinkers. Whenever they go to the drive in for a double feature, they always get Twizzler's and suck up their soda through their Twizzler's straw. By the end of the book, there was really no question that diet Coke through a Twizzler's straw was the only way to go for this drink recommendation. 


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