Apple Picking At Night: Friendship, Risks & Summer Loving

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Since You’ve Been Gone
Morgan Matson
Simon & Schuster

Since You've Been Gone. Morgan Matson. Simon and Schuster.

I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy (ARC) of the book from the publisher for an honest review.

Since You’ve Been Gone is about Emily and Sloane: two best friends about to embark on an epic summer of fun. Right before it even begins, Sloane disappears leaving Emily confused and in possession of a list of thirteen Sloan-esque things to do. Before Sloan, Emily was the wallflower. After Sloan, Emily was brought out of her shell and was doing things she normally wouldn’t. Now she’s got a list of tasks (i.e. “Kiss a Stranger”) that she would never do…but she will because it could lead her to her best friend.

I read this book a few weeks back and I felt like sunshine, lemonade and Birkenstock sandals by the end of it. It was a fabulous summer read and I really wish I could’ve gotten lost in it under the sun. Not surprising when Morgan Matson has written two other books that both take place in the summer heat, perfecting the book’s overall tone. It had three things I enjoy and seek out in a book: friendship, personal growth and a natural approach to romance. All great for fiction overall but more so for young adult readers which this book targets.

The book’s synopsis states that our main protagonist, Emily, is brought out of her shell by her best friend, Sloan, which is true. Ever since meeting Sloan, Emily can do things she never would have done like help haggle down the price of aviators at a flea market or go to a party at an abandoned orchard. However, Emily’s act of putting herself out there is dependent on Sloan’s company and she uses Sloan as a crutch in dealing with social interactions as we see in the flashbacks. This list and Sloan’s absence forces Emily to stand on her own in making decisions, taking chances and doing the activities that scare her the most. These were things I could relate to as someone who lived (and still lives to a degree) in a state of comfortability and safety as a teen. Why go to parties and out myself as awkward, klutzy and uninteresting when I can stay home and read, write and watch other peoples stories on screen? This is a personal growth that gripped me despite it not being about saving the world in a crumbling society.

Sloan comes across a little like the Manic Pixie Dream Girl which could garner criticism from readers but how is this information delivered to us? Sloan is shown through flashbacks in Emily’s point of view. It’s not surprising that Emily would put on rose coloured glasses when it comes to the friend who made her life more exciting. Yet, Sloan has her own issues and her issues (such as her absence) allows for Emily to truly smash her way out of her shell which results in friendships and quite possibly love. With that said, Sloan’s list prompts these actions through a vague promise that its completion could lead to her location thus using Emily’s dependence on her to get her to live a life she’s created for herself. In turn for this new independence, she offers a new and much needed dynamic to the friendship.

What this book is ultimately about is the various aspects of friendship. There are friendships of dependence that hold you back, friendships that help add to the momentum that’s pushing you forward and intimacy built on the foundation of friendship. Frank, Collins and Dawn are people you’d love to have in your life and Sloan is someone you learn more about yourself through if you’re willing to pull back the curtain. This book lulls you into comfortability because of its summer feel but it packs some really interesting topics and aspects to friendship often left on the sidelines of young adult storytelling. I would recommend it as a fun read in a hammock but it’s okay if you don’t have one.

But even better if you do.

Since You’ve Been Gone is in stores now. 

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About Author

Senior Editor. BA in criminals (a minor in daydreams). Batman seeks her advice constantly. Bylines at Book Riot, Teen Vogue, Slate, The Toast and Hyperallergic.

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