Morgan Matson's Since You've Been Gone has my favorite cover art of any spring or summer publications I've seen out this year, and was the reason I picked it up at the bookstore a few days ago. I didn't think I knew anything about Matson when I bought the book - really, it was all about the cover art. But I started to fill in the pieces in a coincidental way, before I'd even started reading.
My sister actually got to Since You've Been Gone before I did, because unlike me, she was actually quite familiar with Matson. Matson's second book, Second Chance Summer, is one of my sister's favorite books, and as soon as she saw Matson's name on the cover of this new book, she wanted to read it right away. Meanwhile, I had been doing some research on road trip YA books - Paper Towns, Going Bovine, Lost at Sea, and As Easy as Falling Off the Face of the Earth - when I came across the recommendation of Matson's first novel, Amy and Roger's Epic Detour. Matson's identity as a YA author came together in fairly short order, and all through this new publication, Since You've Been Gone. Since finishing the book, I've also learned that Matson also writes under the name "Katie Finn," so that the new publication Broken Hearts, Fences and Other Things to Mend is actually another one of Matson's books. I've seen the cover all over the place in different bookstores, and added it to my Amazon wishlist a few days ago (Matson's books have really good cover art).
Since You've Been Gone was a perfect book to read at the beginning of the summer, because it's really a summer book. It takes place between June and August, neatly wrapped up in that hot handful of months. Emily is excited about the summer she's going to have with her best friend Sloane, a teenage girl who moved to town a few years ago and yanked Emily out of her shy, quiet routine. Now the two of them are a package deal, making sure that they get summer jobs at the same place and making plans for parties at the Orchard. But this year, Sloane isn't going to be spending the summer with Emily. She disappears suddenly in June, leaving Emily with a list of thirteen things to do without her. They include straightforward instructions ("go skinny-dipping" "steal something") and also quizzical imperatives ("55 S. Ave. Ask for Mona" "Penelope"). Unable to do anything else about Sloane's disappearance, Emily dutifully begins making her way through the list, hoping that by the time she gets to the end she will have her best friend back.
But the list does something that Emily isn't expecting. Instead of closing off her world - she feels like she'll be lost without Sloane - it actually opens it up again. She becomes friends with several unlikely candidates, including Frank Porter, the A+ student at her school who is working at an indoor climbing wall for the summer, despite the fact that he's terrified of heights. Slowly, Emily's new friends help her work her way through the list. But will Sloane be waiting at the end of it?
I loved Since You've Been Gone. It had the feeling of a Deb Caletti or a Sarah Dessen book, something you know is going to be a good read by the author name alone. And you know it's going to be at least a little bit of a romance, and a little bit of a find-yourself book, and a little bit of a summer adventure. I'll be reading Second Chance Summer next (which I know my sister has), and then I'm going to get to Amy and Roger and the new Broken Hearts. Matson will be one of the authors whose new publications I will watch out for year after year.