Book Talk: Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson

Book Talk: Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan MatsonSince You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson
Published by Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers on May 6, 2014
Genres: Contemporary YA
Also by this author: Amy & Roger's Epic Detour, Second Chance Summer
Format: ARC
Source: From Author
Amazon/Twitter
Goodreads

I received this book for review consideration from the publisher. This in no way swayed my opinion of the book. Pinky swear!

 

 

 

 

book synopsis When Sloane came into Emily’s life, it’s like she became a new, more daring person and did things she wouldn’t normally do with Sloane by her side — though she still wasn’t quite up to Sloane’s speed. Just as the most perfect and epic summer is about to start for the two girls, Sloane just disappears. She doesn’t leave any explanation — not even when, a few days later, a Sloane-made list that Emily has experienced before shows up in the mail with 13 tasks for Emily to do — things Emily wouldn’t do on her own. Emily hopes that by doing the things on the list she’ll be reunited with Sloane or given some sort of clue as to where she went so she sets out to tackle the list full of firsts, scary things, embarrassing things, random things and more — things that lead her to meeting people along the way who end up helping her complete the list!

 

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Morgan Matson is one of my favorite authors ever. Her books always just strike the right chord within me and I connect emotionally and always just love the story, the writing and the characters. Since You’ve Been Gone, I’m happy to report, kept that trend alive…but in a different way for me. Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour and Second Chance Summer were really, really personal for me because they dealt a lot with grief and loss. There was that personal connection there for me. This one there wasn’t that same HUGELY personal element (though I connected quite a bit in ways) but it proved my love for Morgan Matson’s books even more fiercely because DAMN can she write a story that sucks me in, makes me love the characters, makes me swoon and gives me all sorts of emotions. Since You’ve Been Gone, like her other books, just does it all for me. That perfect feeling of getting lost in a great book.

So let’s talk:

1. I’m used to Morgan Matson’s books making me cry (okay SOB FEROCIOUSLY in the case of Second Chance Summer) but Since You’ve Been Gone just made me grin like a fool — allegedly…according to Will who apparently watches me while I read but I’m too absorbed to notice. Okay, he’s right though. My face hurt from grinning so much. This book gave me happy feels and I did some happy crying at times. I could produce for you a whole LIST of these moments that made my heart happy or made me giggle. This book is sweet, heartfelt and a wonderful story about friendship and really finding yourself. I just felt giddy the whole time I was reading it. And the relationship between Emily and Frank made my heart melt like an ice cream on a hot day…just a sticky sweet puddle of heart eyed feelings. Ooh the friendship and then the tension.

2. I love lists and I loved watching Emily deal with Sloane’s list: I was so pissed at Sloane for leaving Emily with no explanation..just this list. Like YOU HAVE SOME SPLAINING TO DO, Sloane. WHERE ARE YOU? I half wanted Emily to crumple the list up but obviously I was happy she was going to tackle the list because I was so interested in what some of them meant and HOW she would do some of them (skinny dipping, kiss a stranger, steal something). It was a super fun premise and I felt like each thing on the list helped me to get to know Emily AND Sloane even more. Obviously watching Emily go out of her comfort zone with this list was a given, which I’ll talk about below, but I felt like I got to know Sloane in learning where some of these list items came from and WHY she put them on her. I’m a bucket list enthusiast so I was excited about this premise.

3. I loved experiencing Emily figure out who she was apart from Sloane: I don’t know about you but I’ve had the experience of being in relationships (friendships/romantic/otherwise) where I don’t know who I am apart from the person and it’s only when I’m forced to confront that absence that I start to realize how strongly my identity was in those people. Doing these things on Sloane’s list helped her to start to figure out who she was without Sloane there. Sloane had been such an integral part in her past couple years and Sloane was the driving force of their fun and excitement. I loved watching Emily be brave, in the small and big moments, and start to figure out who she was while tackling this list. Even though at first she was doing this list in hopes it would help her find Sloane, she began to do it for herself. Her growth was wonderful to watch and she honestly kind of inspired me.

4. I loved the focus on friendship: Without Sloane, Emily really didn’t have any other friends so I loved watching her meet some new people like Dawn, Frank and Matthew. I just loved them so much and loved how they ended up helping her with the list and it really became less about this THING she was doing for Sloane but for herself and with these new friends. I also really loved how this experience really gave her perspective on her friendship with Sloane and really added even more depth to it when she eventually figured out what happened with Sloane. All these friendship feels made me miss that feeling of making new friends — those friends who end up being your partners in crime, the ones you tell all your secrets to, etc.

5. Morgan Matson gives me an experience: I could say this about her other books but I think maybe I felt like it with this one even more. She makes me feel like I am really involved in the story with the details she gives and how she takes her time in the best way possible to get you to feel it and to KNOW the characters. She just doesn’t paint me a picture of the scene and of the feelings but she makes me feel and experience everything. I feel like I’m there in the midst of it all. I feel the pain of missing Sloane, the fear of doing the things on the list, the thrill of the moment they skinny dipped,the awkwardness of making new friends and seeing Emily’s ex boyfriend. I couldn’t contain my reactions and feelings at times — the laughs escaped, the happy tears fell, the tension constricted my heart and the love just flowed.

6. FRANK FRANK FRANK. That’s all. Also, that boy has excellent taste in music. Okay, so maybe that’s not all. So often in YA I see these boys who are not in fact teenage boys but like supposed to be hot, hunky man candy with all the right moves and words. Frank made me swoon like a school girl in love but he was not perfect or mysterious or anything. He was a teenage boy who was smart and had so many facets to who he was. He felt like somebody I would have REALLY fallen for. And I loved the friendship that he and Emily built. MY HEART. I would like to guarantee a Frank for my nieces and if I ever have daughters (I mean, unless they aren’t into boys). WEAK IN THE KNEES FOR FRANK!

7. Be happy, fans of Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour…the music playlists are back!! And they are so, so good though Morgan said they are a little different in the final copy!

book reviewsI LOVED IT. Morgan Matson just keeps solidifying herself as one of my favorite authors. My heart wants to seize up with happiness over Since You’ve Been Gone. It was a most anticipated book for 2014 and it did NOT disappoint. If you love contemporary YA, read it and then go read her other books if you haven’t!

 

 

 

short book review

Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson

Let’s Talk: Have you read this one? What did you think of it?


The Perpetual Page-Turner

 

Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson | Book Review (Errr A Letter To Morgan Matson)

Second Chance Summer Morgan MatsonBook Title/Author: Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson
Publisher/Year
: Simon & Schuster 2012
Genre: Contemporary YA
Series: No
Other Books From Author: Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour

Amazon| Goodreads | Twitter |

I received this from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way swayed my opinion. Pinky swear!

 

 

 

 

 

Taylor and her family are heading up to their summer house in the mountains for their last summer together as a family. Her dad has been diagnosed with cancer and only has months to live. Taylor doesn’t want to confront this reality nor does she want to go back and confront the mess she left here at the lake house 5 years ago – including her former best friend, Lucy, and Henry, her first love. She spends the summer confronting her past, her new reality and trying to make up for the moments lost and not pass up those second chances.

 

 

This isn’t going to be my typical review. I tried to write a review for this but I couldn’t so I’m going to instead write a letter to Morgan Matson. It’s not spoilery but I hope it will give you some insight into just how special this book is. Honestly, it’s incredible. I will give my “Final Thought” at the end still so you can get a general idea of what I thought.

Dear Morgan,

You know I’m a big fan of Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour but Second Chance Summer is undoubtedly one of the most special books I’ve had the pleasure of reading. Sometimes you read a book that hits so close to home and it’s SO hard but worth it. Even if I had not gone through what I had gone through I know, without a doubt, I’d still be raving about this book and telling everyone how special it is. Second Chance Summer is just such a complete book — it’s about so much more than a girl watching her father die. So often books that touch on this toe the line of just screaming HEY THIS CANCER IS A PLOT DEVICE. Second Chance Summer did not do that. It felt like a genuine piece of someone’s life – a really, really tough time in ones life but not at all the whole story. It’s about honest to goodness life. Ups and downs in all its glory.

I’ve never cried so hard while reading a book and really it was the last chunk of the book that did me in. I teared up a few times throughout but that last chunk felt like I was reliving my own life. My story? My mom was diagnosed with brain cancer in December 2004 when I was a senior in college and passed away in July 2006. Those years of watching her slowly lose the fight KILLED me to watch and I’ll never get some of these images out of my head.

Most of the books I’ve read with teens who lose parents is the “After” where the grief is really dealt with but this was the most beautiful, perfect story of the “finding out” you parent has cancer and the process of losing them. Of watching them die, to put it bluntly, which draws that grieving process out. It’s in the details where this book was so perfect. It was perfect, beautiful and painted one of the truest pictures of what this really looks like. The story may be different for everyone but that bare bones experience is so similar. What I liked about it that it was so representative of life. The whole summer was not all about the cancer because real life is not like that. I’d have days where my mom’s cancer didn’t loom so low over my head, days that felt almost normal. I’d deal with normal teen problems, that I knew were trivial in light of things, but these were still my days…my life.  Then there were days that were hard – the days where significant change happened or moments when my mom had to give a little more freedom over. I appreciated this.

Second Chance Summer really got those details almost down to the T from the protective dog that wouldn’t leave my mom’s side, to the day when work told her she couldn’t work anymore (she was MUCH like Taylor’s dad in her workaholic ways), to the days when all she would do is sleep, to the arrival of our grandmother to hold and take care of her daughter in her final weeks or to the moment you walk in the room and see your parent lying there with no more breaths left to breathe.  The tears that litter the pages of my book are a testament to the heart and soul you created within these pages; as well as a reminder of what I’ve gone through. It gives me refuge in some ways. I AM NOT ALONE. I HAVE GOTTEN THROUGH THIS. I CAN GET THROUGH OTHER THINGS I’M GOING THROUGH.

I really want to THANK you for Second Chance Summer. For a character I could relate to. I felt a lot of guilt for living my life while my mom got worse and worse just like Taylor did. I closed myself off a lot. I RAN and still RUN from things a lot. I know I shouldn’t but I do. I want to do great things every day. Like Taylor, I never thought there would be that moment when my mom would never be there. I reflected on this in my Mother’s Day post. Most of all, I love how STRONG Taylor truly was. So often the strong heroines are the ones fighting dragons and bad guys but, after going through this, I view strength in a whole different way — the strength to get through something like this, the strength of family and the strength of the person who is looking cancer (or any adversity) right in its ugly face.

I want to thank you for a beautiful story about watching someone you love die because it was one of the hardest most defining moments in my life. I wish I would have had this years ago to read. I want to thank you for doing it with care. I don’t know YOUR story but what I do know is I felt like you saw what I went through. I want to thank you for not just making this a story about a girl who is losing her dad but about life and love and family and friendship that still happens during that process. I genuinely loved Taylor and her family. I loved Henry and Lucy. And Murphy. And really all of the characters to be honest. Everyone seemed real and important.

So thank you. Thanks for writing amazing books. Thanks for writing characters I can truly relate to. Thank you for making me smile, for swooning, for making reflect and for making me remember to keep living. Thank you for not simplifying it but keeping the story and the dynamics of a sick parent as complex as they really are. Thank you for showing great strength in a way that isn’t of the ass kicking variety. Thank you for not having a romance be the only thing to get Taylor through this and showing the importance of family and friends. Thank you for one of my favorite father/daughter stories ever. I truly loved watching their relationship grow. I called my dad immediately upon finishing. Thank you. This book was perfect in every way.

Love,

Jamie

 

Second Chance Summer is one of the best books I’ve read. Period. It’s hard for me to keep my emotions out of my recommendation but I promise you that you will become absolutely absorbed in Taylor’s story. I PROMISE you this story is not all sad, despite my very emotional letter above. It’s a beautiful and moving story, set at at a summer lake house, that’s about love, friendship, family and second chances — not just about a girl whose dad is sick. Matson simplifies nothing.  It’s equal bits sweet, funny and heartbreaking but this story just felt so COMPLETE. It’s perfect and balanced and JUST READ IT PLEASE. Morgan Matson solidified herself as an auto-buy author for me and she is the cream of the crop when it comes to well written, relatable contemporary YA books with lovely romances and complex, moving stories.

 

Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson book review

You May Also Like: The Book of Broken Hearts by Sarah Ockler, The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han

Let’s Talk: Have you read this one? Heard of it? What did you think? Did anyone else bawl there eyes out??

five-stars

Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson

Amy & Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson
Also by this author: Second Chance Summer, Since You've Been Gone

Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson
Publisher/Year: Simon & Schuster 2010
Genre: Contemporary YA

Amy’s life bears no resemblance to the normal life she once had after the sudden death of her father. Her mother decides to move across the country and her brother ends up in rehab and Amy is left alone in California to finish out her school year in a house and town haunted by memories of the life she once had. After the school year ends, Amy heads across country to join up with her mother and is accompanied by the son of a family friend whom she hasn’t seen in years. Amy and Roger embark on a road trip of truly epic proportions as the open road inevitably brings adventures, heartfelt conversations, stark realizations and sometimes a little romance–and for Amy– confronting her father’s death and the start of re-assembling those pieces of her life.

I feared reading this book for two reasons. The first reason is because I was afraid the eternal travel bug in me would take over my body and I’d find myself in my car for an impromptu road trip only to realize I left home without any money and clean underrooos. The second reason I feared reading this book was because it seemed to be everyone’s favorite and I was afraid I’d be one of those oddballs that didn’t enjoy it.

The good news is that neither of these things happened to me. I was rather fond of this book and the furthest I ventured out was to get some Chick-fil-a after reading this book. Don’t get me wrong though. The whole time I kept bugging the boyfriend about how I wanted to go on a road trip across country and “Oh, look how cool this place is” and “oh my gosh I am so jealous because I always wanted to see this.” HINT HINT HINT.

I’m a big fan of travelogues and novels that involve traveling or road trips so this instantly held my attention. The kicker with this book is that the narrative journey was enhanced by the mementos, doodling, pictures and playlists from their trip. (Sidenote, Roger and I are so music soulmates. I realized, by the end of the book, that 99% of the songs on his playlists were on my IPod.) I truly felt like I was sitting down with a good friend who was sharing a scrapbook with me of her cross country shenanigans and giving me the dirty deets about her adventure with Mr. Perfection (Roger) himself.

As much as I was interested in the road trip aspect of Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour, I was truly interested in the grief part. I’ve shared a lot on this blog about losing my mother so I’m always drawn to these books where children lose parents. I guess sometimes it’s cathartic, that even though it’s fiction, to know I’m not alone. Perhaps I’m trying to validate my own grief and see how it compares. It sounds weird, I know, but for some reason I just can’t help myself to examine how grief is portrayed in fiction. I thought Matson did an excellent job in handling the grief aspect of this book. It felt raw and authentic like grief is. It’s confusing and you find yourself wondering how you should be feeling and it just builds up until that intended moment when it becomes released from the depths of your soul. That moment, for Amy, just happened to be on the road with a fantastic guy like Roger to let it all out to. 😛

Amy and Roger felt so real to me. I could connect easily with both of them and I really loved how their relationship developed–realistically. I don’t want to give too much up about how their relationship progresses but most people are aware, from the summary on the book, that there is a romantical element to this book and I loved every part of it. I really enjoyed the ending and found it to be fitting. These characters would so have been my best friends when I was this age. A road trip book is always a good start but you need interesting characters and thankfully we got this. I mean, you wouldn’t want to go on a real road trip with two duds who sat in silence and never veered off the beaten path. Well, I wouldn’t. I like spontaneity.

Final thought: Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour was the nicotine patch to my travel addiction. Wanderlust at its finest. I truly felt the thrill of sitting wide-eyed, with my hair blowing and the music blaring, and staring out the open window trying to take in all the sights before me only to realize that I couldn’t possibly take it all in. I loved being able to be on the road, albeit vicariously, but it pacified my annoying little travel bug. Read this book if you tried to read On the Road (one of my favorite books), for the promise of a good road trip, but couldn’t quite take the stream of consciousness writing or the meandering plot and wanted some sweet romance and a bit more action.  4.5 stars.

I wanted to share a playlist I made for my last road trip I went on. I threw it together right before jumping in the car and it was basically a mesh between 3 playlists– one with songs ABOUT travel, songs that names of places I wanted to visit/about places I wanted to visit and a playlist of songs I was diggin’ that month. It’s realllyy random.

Another Travelin’ Song — Bright Eyes
West Coast — Coconut Records
Location — Freelance Whales
In the Aeroplane Over the Sea — Neutral Milk Hotel
Ramblin’ Man — The Allman Brothers (Props to my mom for introducing this to me while I was in the womb)
The World At Large — Modest Mouse
Lisztomania — Phoenix
Wanderlust — Bjork
Ghost Town — First Aid Kit
Airplanes — Local Natives
Little Lovin’ — Lissie
Woke Up in A Car — Something Corporate
Life in the Fast Lane — The Eagles
Santeria– Sublime
Loud Pipes — Ratatat
M79 — Vampire Weekend
All My Loving — The Beatles
Penny on the Train Track — Ben Kweller
Gold in the Air of Summer — Kings of Convenience
Kids — MGMT
I Sing, I Swim — Seabear
Barcelona — Plasticines
California — Phantom Planet
You Remind Me of Home — Benjamin Gibbard
Snails — The Format
Hello Seattle — Owl City
The Funeral — Band of Horses
Hey Ya — Obadiah Parker
Skinny Love — Bon Iver
Daylight — Matt & Kim
Amsterdam — Guster
Like a Rolling Stone — Bob Dylan
Dog Days Are Over & You’ve Got the Love in You — Florence + the Machine

Let’s discuss — tell me about any fun road trips you’ve been on or tell me some songs that are essential for a good road trip. I have about a zillion different playlists for road trips but I’d love to know some of your favorites so I can make some road trip worthy playlists for 2011.

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