Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson is about quiet Emily, whose life revolves around her fabulous and spontaneous best friend, Sloane. However, Sloane disappears at the start of summer, leaving nothing but a to-do list for Emily with things like going skinny-dipping, kissing a stranger, and other things outside of Emily’s comfort zone. With the help of new friends, discoveries, and bravery, Emily tries to complete the list, hoping that she will be able to find Sloane at the end of it all.
“In a well-ordered universe…”
I was relieved that Matson didn’t give some loosely put ending like “Oh, she was a ghost this whole time!” I found the book to be an enjoyable light read, even though it took a while for the story to pick up in the beginning. I especially enjoyed the themes of youth, leaving one’s comfort zone, and the invisible balance of love in relationships and friendships.
“Let’s go have the best night ever.”
The to-do list Sloane leaves behind is full of things that Emily would normally never do, but every item on the list practically screamed PG-13. There was nothing crazy like “Hey, go buy a house and do drugs in it” or “Sleep with someone who has a girlfriend”. They were cute and exciting things like overcoming her fear of horses, sleeping under the stars, etc.
There are so many feelings and symbols affiliated with youth, and I find youth to be one of the most beautiful themes in the literary world. There is something about being young that draws out vibrant memories, like splashes of passion, unexpected hilarity, thrilling decisions, and an infinite fearlessness. Matson does an excellent job of reminding readers what it is like to be young, daring, and free to love.
“I don’t think you have to do something so big to be brave. And it’s the little things that are harder anyway.”
Emily is another one of those characters that are so timid that it half ticks me off. You know what I’m talking about – the kind of girl who runs away from the boy before he confesses his love because she believes he doesn’t like her, even if he and the entire story have been building up to it. If Emily were a real person, she would be the type to look down on herself with a deep lack of self-confidence; she is the girl who can’t say what she wants to say, and that is the most frustrating thing about reading in her POV.
Bug Juice is the name of her parents’ play (side note: her parents are non-existent. They go write this play and never talk to her, which I found astonishing and kind of lazy in terms of character building). But the main character of Bug Juice is modeled after Emily. It is a play about a girl who is afraid but grows to be brave at the end. Unsurprisingly, Emily becomes brave as she completes Sloane’s to-do list, which is both nice to read but also kind of boring due to the predictability.
Nevertheless, the idea of pushing yourself out of your comfort zone is one that I continuously hope to implement more into my own life. Being outside of your comfort zone is where you grow the most and it is also a place where you learn more about the dusted corners of yourself.
The world through Emily
It just gets hard, always being someone’s second choice.
There is a saying that “Whoever loves least controls the relationship“. Similarly, Emily has always believed that she is the one who “loves more” in her friendship with Sloane. Sloane is the center of her world – bringing her out to parties and adventures. After Sloane disappears, Emily is left alone, lost and confused, while the implication is that the bold and free-spirited Sloane will live just fine without her.
Emily finds a disposable camera that is supposed to depict the world through her eyes. When she goes to develop the photos, she is not surprised to find that Sloane is in almost all of them. What surprises her, though, is that she is also in all of Sloane’s photos – an outcome she didn’t think would happen because Sloane is supposed to be wild and worldly, so why would someone boring like Emily be Sloane’s world?
Perhaps this goes back to why I found Emily to be a semi-frustrating character. When you lack self-esteem and self-love, you put others on an untouchable pedestal and you tell yourself to stay at the bottom. You stop believing that the other party cares for you at all because why would they, when you lack all the lovable qualities they possess?
In a well-ordered universe, best friends don’t just disappear without a word. But in a well-ordered universe, people would also understand that true friendship or love isn’t just a one-way person being the center of another’s world. It is reciprocal, mutual, and to have it be any other way would simply be mistreating yourself and the other party.