Review – Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson

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I don’t think I’ve ever connected with a novel on a personal level the way I have with Since You’ve Been Gone. It is a story that is resounding with me to the point that I’m writing this post the moment I closed the book. It has left me feeling challenged and nostalgic and inspired. It has left me wanting more out of life and yearning to be brave – even if it’s in a small way. “I don’t think you have to do something so big to be brave. And it’s the little things that are harder anyway.

Since You’ve Been Gone is about a girl called Emily who’s best friend mysteriously disappears from town and leaves behind nothing but an intimidating to-do list for wallflower Emily to tick off. Things like kiss a stranger, steal something, and go skinny dipping. Hoping it will somehow lead her to her best friend, Emily starts out small. But in fulfilling these tasks she finds herself interweaving with new opportunities, and making friends she wouldn’t otherwise have made if she never stepped out of her comfort zone.

And as the sun rose behind us and he bent his head down to kiss me again, I leaned forward. Toward him, and to whatever came next.

The reason why I connected with this book so deeply boils down to one thing. The main character is me. I am Emily.

It’s like Morgan took a picture of my soul and painted its image with words. Emily’s every thought, every reaction, every insecurity is a carbon copy of me. And I think it’s because of this fact, and understanding her so completely, that I was brought to tears a few times. Not because it’s a sad book, but because I walk in her shoes. I felt her moments as if they were mine. I know exactly what it’s like to go to a party and feel like everyone is silently judging you, all while feeling like you’re about to cry. I know the internal monologue that revolves in your mind, of all the things you should be saying out loud, but then nothing finds its way out. I know what it’s like to be so afraid of leaving your comfort zone that it ends up making someone else angry, because “what’s the big deal?”

As Emily starts crossing off the ‘easy’ things on her list, I see myself in that too. The older I get I find that I push myself more to step out from behind that wall. But because I’m still in the ‘easy things’ stage, reading about Emily taking on the bigger, scarier tasks gave me a huge rush. I felt her freedom in letting go. I felt her release and I was strangely energised because of it. I want to experience that for myself and Emily has inspired me to do it.

One of my favourite moments in the book is when Emily goes home dressed in Frank’s clothes, after a night of dancing and skinny dipping:

I killed the engine and caught my reflection in the rearview mirror. My hair was in tangles, and the wedding makeup I’d worn was half washed off, half smeared under my eyes. But my cheeks were flushed and even though I looked like a mess, I looked happy. I looked like someone who’d had a night, and had a story to tell about it. Which was, I realized as I collected my dress and heels in my arms and made my way, yawning, to the front door in the cool early light, exactly what had happened.

As I read that I smiled with her. I felt the smudged mascara on my own face, the weariness and contentment in my body and the early morning air on my skin. I lived that moment with her.

As I like to do with all books I read, I chose my favourite swoon-worthy scene: “Indoor camping,” Frank repeated. He gave me a look. “Someone once told me that in a well-ordered universe it’s the only way to camp.” You will need to read the book to understand this… But trust me. *Swoon*

The friendship between Emily and Frank was refreshingly realistic. The growing of their attraction toward each other was so slow and subtle, so lifelike that it took me back to my teen years, to the boys who were my ‘Frank’. It couldn’t have been more beautifully done. And of course I will forever be impressed by Morgan’s ability to gift us with a completely real personality in Emily.

After reading this book I find myself with a final thought: In a well-ordered universe I’d have my own to-do list to be challenged with – minus the skinny dipping, of course.

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Find out more about the author at morganmatson.com or read her blog at morganmatsonbooks.tumblr.com