Since You've Benn Gone begins when our main character, Emily, when she discovers that her best friend, Sloane had vanished unannounced after they had planned what seemed to be the most incredible summer of both of their lives. However, Sloane doesn't leave Emily empty handed because she ends up leaving Emily with a to-do list that could ultimately help Emily break out of her shell without her. This list contains 13 tasks that Emily was reluctant or scare to do in the past, nonetheless, these tasks will force Emily to break out of her comfort zone.
These tasks include: Kissing a stranger, going skinny-dipping, stealing something, breaking something, sleeping under the stars, and dancing util dawn, to name a few of the 13 tasks written on this list. Emily believes that if she completes these 13 tasks it will help her discover the whereabouts of Sloane, but what she ends up finding relates more to self-discovery than friendship rekindling.
What shocks Emily the most is when she ends up getting help from a few unexpected characters such as Frank Porter, the school academic nerd and soon to be class president, Matthew 'Collins,' a humungous player, and Dawn, a Captain Pizza employee with a broken heart, these rag-tag Stanwich-ians will help Emily check off the items on her list and help face some of her biggest fears, such as riding a 'Dern horse, ya cowpoke.'
Overall, I was a bit underwhelmed by the plot of this novel, despite loving a few of the characters. If it weren't for Frank and Dawn or Morgan Matson's writing style, I might have DNFed this book (Do Not Finish). What surprised me the most was how quickly Emily was able to forget about her search for Sloane after receiving the to-do list on page 27 of chapter one, as if this to-do list was her answers to all her problems. Readers, such as myself would then have to commit a total of 371 pages, just so that Emily from page one would reappear on page 398 to realize that she was neglecting the very question that was suppose to drive the entire story, "So where the hell was Sloane?" (Matson, 2014, p. 398). This answer does come to fruition by the end of the book, but bear in mind this book is only 450 pages long.
I'd been avoiding questions like why my best friend had just left me without a word. I'd been thinking , hoping that this would lead to something. But maybe it was like her other lists, full of things she mush have known, deep down, I would be too scared to attempt" (Matson, 2014, p. 398).
Another issue I had with this book, related to some of the tasks placed on the to-do list itself. Tasks including the using of a fake-ids (Penelope) in order to sneak into a bar undetected, stealing someone else's belongings, and skinny-dipping are just a few of the rebellious actions Emily takes that summer, despite her disapprove from the start. These actions would be consider delinquent behaviors, characterizing peer pressure and the negative influence Sloane had on Emily due to being Emily's only friend thus far (beginning of the novel). In my opinion, I believe Emily was a way better friend to Sloane then Sloane ever was to Emily because Emily was able to protect her innocence and had a moral compass.
Thirdly, I found a few of the plot lines to be predictable, especially the plots including Frank and Emily's relationship, however, obvious, I found myself rooting for these characters and their potential teenage romance.
There were also many elements to this story I did enjoy, such as seeing Emily create new and healthier friendships than the one she had with Sloane. I also enjoyed Emily and Beckett's relationship as brother and sister demonstrated in one of my favorite scenes in the entire novel. The scene was when Emily goes camping in the backyard with her brother after Beckett's camping trip with his father gets cancelled, which depicts Emily's love for family.
After reading this novel and thinking back on my reading experience, I would give this novel a 3.25 out of 5 stars, making this my least favorite of Morgan Matson's novels, but this in no way shapes my opinion of Morgan Matson as an author, as she will continue to be an 'auto-buy' or 'instant-must-read' author for me and I can't wait to see what her next work will bring, however, I might have to wait another two years, as she just released The Unexpected Everything this past year.
Matson, M. (2014). Since you've been gone. Simon and schuster.