A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Although this isn't meant as an educational or historical story, readers will learn about Tesla and Edison, since they're the focus of the play Emily's parents are writing.
Since You Were Gone encourages readers to take chances, seize the moment, and step out of their comfort zones. Although some of the tasks seem a bit iffy at first (stealing something, breaking something), they can be metaphorical tasks that help the protagonist boost her confidence and figure out who she is without her best friend's presence. This also is a story about friendship being unconditional and proves that distance doesn't have to end a close relationship.
Positive Role Models
Emily's a devoted friend and a wonderful big sister to Bennett, particularly because their parents are often preoccupied with their artistic endeavors. Despite how unavailable they might seem, Emily and Bennett's parents are more observant than the kids give them credit for, and they do want to know what's going on in their kids' lives. Frank's smart, caring, and funny -- and his best friend Collins is an excellent and loyal lifelong friend. Sloane has her flaws, but she wants the best for Emily.
Sex, Romance & Nudity
Emily recalls how Sloane went pretty far physically with her boyfriend, whereas she barely kissed hers. Emily has a rather explosive kiss toward the end of the book and wonders if Frank has had sex with his long-term girlfriend. Two members of a couple sleep next to each other but don't have sex. There also are references to "cheating" when someone hooks up with someone who's already dating.
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Occasional strong language and insults include "f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," "bitch," and "douche bag."
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Products & Purchases
Brands mentioned include Volvo, Hermès, BMW, Diet Coke, Fritos, and other food items, and pop culture references to music, plays, and movies abound.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Grown-ups drink at parties; teens also drink but only a couple of times in the current time line or in flashbacks.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Since You've Been Gone is the latest summer-set teen novel by young-adult author Morgan Matson. Unlike her previous book, Second Chance Summer, which was heavy and emotional, this story is more light-hearted and friendship-themed, chronicling how the main character spends a summer crossing off items from a must-do list sent by her best friend. There's some infrequent strong language ("f--k," "s--t," "a--hole") and a couple of adolescent-appropriate references to making out, hooking up, and finding someone to love. Like all of Matson's books, Since You've Been Gone is a lovely tribute to unconditional friendship, strong sibling relationships, and finding the kind of romance that changes your life.
Is It Any Good?
Author Morgan Matson has quickly developed into one of contemporary YA's most delightful authors, creating thoughtful stories about friendship, family, and first love. Whereas Second Chance Summer and Amy and Roger's Epic Detour both focused on main characters grieving the loss of a parent, SINCE YOU'VE BEEN GONE chronicles a different kind of grief: the abrupt loss of a friend (who's still alive but mysteriously gone without any communication except a letter). Matson deftly captures the intimacy of teen best friendship -- how it really does feel like you're "only half" (and, in many cases, the "lesser" half) of a two-person whole. Emily sans Sloane is barely able to talk to strangers, so the list is like a farewell present that dares Emily to find out what makes her awesome all on her own.
The romance in Since You've Been Gone isn't as straightforward as it is between Taylor and Henry in Second Chance Summer, but it's a satisfying slow burn reminiscent of Amy and Roger's in Matson's first novel. The friends-to-more theme might be obvious in YA (and all romances, for that matter), but it's a much more fulfilling alternative to the "instalove" that's so prevalent in teen books. What's even better than the romance in Emily's story is that it's a tale of self-discovery. At first, Emily honestly doesn't think she's worth knowing without her more popular and outgoing best friend, so it's heartening to see her discover how captivating she is, too.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.