When you’re scared of taking risks everyday life obstacles can seem overwhelming. That was what life was like for Emily. She didn’t like being the center of attention or going to parties or really anything involving people. She liked cross county because she loved running with her thoughts and being alone. That was before Sloane moved to town. Sloane was brave and vibrant and exhilarating- everything Emily was too afraid to be. Emily loved to be known as “Sloane’s friend” even to people who had known Emily her whole life but had just met Sloane. It didn’t bother Emily that Sloane got all the guys, all the attention, and all the glory. Emily liked being boring. But then Sloane vanishes without a trace.
Emily shows up like always to Sloane’s house and finds no one is there. Just as quickly as she had come into Emily’s life two years earlier Sloane was gone. The only sign that Sloane had existed at all was a cryptic letter which shows up at Emily’s house a week after Sloane disappears. It isn’t a ransom note or an explanation of what happened, it’s a list. A list of several things Emily feels quite sure she will never be brave enough to do such as pick apples at night, kiss a stranger, and go skinny dipping!
As the days tick by and Emily’s perfectly planned summer is ruined by loss and confusion she makes a decision that completing the list might bring her closer to finding the truth of what happened to her best friend. Emily starts the list thinking it will help her find Sloane but in an endearing, coming of age and self-acceptance story, what Emily really find’s is herself. It is easy to live in someone else’s shadow if it means never having to take risks. But what is a life worth having if you’re not living it?
Since You’ve Been Gone is a wonderful novel full of rich social themes – friendship, self-identity, self-discovery, and self-acceptance. While marketed toward teens this novel is an important reminder to us at any age about being kind to ourselves and others. Emily is afraid to be vulnerable to others but it keeps her closed off to a life full of possibilities. She finds braveness in a friend who appears to be the epitome of everything Emily wishes she was – but we all know appearances are often misleading. So does Emily complete the list? Does she find Sloane and learn why her best friend disappeared over night? It’s well worth the read if you’d like to find out.
Formats Available: Book (Regular Print)
Reviewed by Lindsay, Southwest Branch