DNF Review: Since You’ve Been Gone – Morgan Matson

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Summary:

It was Sloane who yanked Emily out of her shell and made life 100% interesting. But right before what should have been the most epic summer, Sloane just…disappears. All she leaves behind is a to-do list.

On it, thirteen Sloane-inspired tasks that Emily would normally never try. But what if they could bring her best friend back?

Apple picking at night? Okay, easy enough.

Dance until dawn? Sure. Why not?

Kiss a stranger? Um…

Emily now has this unexpected summer, and the help of Frank Porter (totally unexpected), to check things off Sloane’s list. Who knows what she’ll find?

Go skinny-dipping? Wait…what?

Review:

Okay, a bit of context since I obviously don’t review contemporary fiction on this blog. I was in a Random Questions with Nori (#RQWN) chat a few weeks ago and one of the questions asked us to admit to something popular that we haven’t read. I admitted to not having read contemporary YA. I have read Anthony Breznican’s Brutal Youth, but that’s so outside of the traditional mold that I’m not entirely sure it counts.

Regardless.

Our hostess was so surprised that I had never read any and asked why, and I told her the simple truth: I’ve just never really been a fan of contemporary works, even in the adult form. Well, she asked if she could recommend one book and if I’d give it a chance. Since I do believe in giving books a chance that I otherwise might not, I said sure.

And this is what she recommended it.

As I struggled to make it through the book, i finally today pinpointed why I’m not enjoying this:

I can’t relate to these characters.

At all.

I grew up in the suburbs, the child of two parents who were very much a part of my life. Here we have the classic tropes of both small town girl and flightly parents who can barely be called parents, the sort that are so self-absorbed they seem not to give a shit about their kid. It’s both awful to read (hello, your daughter clearly needs to talk and get your head out of your ass, you’re a parent first a playwright second, you shouldn’t be relieved she has a damn job because it means you can neglect her even more) and plot convenient all in one go. I also think that for a girl with so little stability (couch surfing as a child is not healthy) that she seems awfully stable, if maybe not a little reserved, though I suppose that that is understandable.

So then she has a list of things to do like “hug a Jamie” and “kiss a stranger.” Because this would go down SO well in today’s world. At best, you’re going to get a lot of strange looks. At worst…well, we don’t think about the at worst.

There are the using playlists as means telling us about their character, I guess? It seems lazy at best. Maybe it’s because I’m part of the generation where getting a CD player was a big deal and playlists weren’t a thing until I was well into college.

I don’t know. Everything just seems so clean and pure and relatively wholesome. Kids may be drinking underage, but no gets drunk or does stupid shit like drive while under the influence. I guess in a way contemporary YA are like the teen movies of the 80s (which for the record, I’m not a huge fan of either. I blame it on having to watch Dirty Dancing 93084329084309832 times). Harmless enough and I suppose fulfills that romantic element that I think a lot of people wish for, but don’t have in their own lives.

I get why this book and why this genre appeals to people. But I don’t believe in these kids. They don’t feel real to me. For all my qualms with a book like Brutal Youth they felt like real people for good and for ill and for all that entails. For me though, this is a book about a girl whose friend mysteriously disappears, doesn’t tell anyone that she’s disappeared, and when she gets contact from her in form of a list of things to do she doesn’t get mad that her friend went silent, or didn’t send an explanation, she’s like OK, awesome! And just…yeah. Not happening.

There is clearly an audience for this book, and clearly I am just not it. But at least I can say I gave it a chance, which I’m glad to have done. I do think that if this is the kind of thing that you’re into, that you’ll enjoy it.

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