After reading and falling in love with both Amy and Roger's Epic Detour and Second Chance Summer, I was pretty positive that I would love Since You'veAfter reading and falling in love with both Amy and Roger's Epic Detour and Second Chance Summer, I was pretty positive that I would love Since You've Been Gone. And I did. I REALLY DID!
Since Emily met Sloane, things have been good for her. Before, she was the shy girl who never really knew what to say or how to act around kids her age. After she became with Sloane, she might have still been shy, but she knew that Sloane was always there to save the day. Very quickly, they became best friends, doing everything together. Then, at the beginning of summer holiday, Sloane disappears without a word. First Emily thinks that she's just gone for a couple of days, maybe taking a family holiday. But as weeks go by, it starts to dawn on her that maybe Sloane is actually gone. Just as she is about to lose all the hope she has of reuniting with Sloane, she gets mail from Sloane. In the envelope is a list, including tasks such as "go skinny dipping" and "kiss a stranger". At first, Emily is positive there's no way she can do such things. But then the wheels start to turn and Emily finds herself with a new group of friends, realizing that she can be brave without Sloane. She just does not want to, if only possible.
While Emily goes through the list, treating it as a clue to finding Sloane, she finds herself from a new group of friends. There's Dawn, the girl working at the pizzeria next to the ice-cream shop Emily works at. There's Collins, a slightly goofy and at first glance, over-confident guy whose mission is to find a girlfriend. And then there's Frank Porter, a guy on his way to being the class Valedictorian and a future Ivy League scholar. Once these new friends learn about the list, they start to help Emily with it, and as the summer goes on, Emily finds herself connecting with these new friends in ways she never expected she would connect with anyone else but Sloane.
Much like Amy and Roger's Epic Detour and Second Chance Summer, Since You've Been Gone manages to juggle a coming-of-age, finding yourself-type of story with family problems. Emily's parents, a pair of playwrights, completely isolate themselves to the process of working on a new play idea, which means that in addition to taking care of herself, much of the care of her younger brother Beckett is on her shoulders. Then there's Frank's parents who are going through rough times while attempting to keep up a facade of happiness and professionalism. Finally, mostly through flashbacks, the reader is introduced to Sloane's parents, who Emily sees in a very positive light, but who from time to time manage to disappoint their daughter.
This family narration adds a level of realism to the story and allows Matson to open up the lives of her main characters in a more extensive manner to her readers. The pacing of the novel is well executed and it feels like every single page gives you more information about the characters and allows you to get to know them a little bit better.
Emily is such an easy character to identify with, because like her, I tend to be quite timid and shy and often scared of taking a leap/risk. Her friendship with Sloane has often meant that Sloane has been the one taking the risks, and now that Sloane is gone, she's faced with a reality where she needs to be the one taking the risks. Since You've Been Gone does not deal with a similar type of loss than Matson's previous novels, but as I kept reading, I understood where Emily is coming from. I have had the same best friend for 21 years, and I think if she just suddenly left without a word, I would feel the same way.
Like with Roger and Henry from Matson's previous novels, I pretty much instantly fell in love with Frank. I loved the fact that Matson decided to go with a "popular nerd" rather than a "popular jock". Don't get me wrong, I do love me some popular, sweet jocks, but once in a while, it is nice to read about a guy who seems like an "unconventional hottie" (though it seems like these nerdy guys are becoming the trend these days). For some reason, Frank brought into my mind Jim Halpert from The Office, probably because like Jim, Frank just honestly seems like SUCH A GOOD GUY!
Unlike Matson's previous novels, Since You've Been Gone includes much more friendship narrative, which I loved. Though I love romance, I have recently found out that I tend to like awesome friendships even more! Nothing really beats BFFs.
With Since You've Been Gone, Matson further solidifies her status as one of my favorite YA contemporary authors. I absolutely loved this book and I think you should all read it (most of you probably have already because you know that Morgan Matson's A QUEEN). ...more
"Everyone has a reason to fear the boy with the gun". That tagline got me right away and desperately made me want to read this one. Also, a couple of"Everyone has a reason to fear the boy with the gun". That tagline got me right away and desperately made me want to read this one. Also, a couple of years ago I read Dave Cullen's Columbine, an incredibly detailed and thought out nonfiction book about the 1999 school shootings at Columbine high school. After reading that book, I have been increasingly interested about the way school shootings are covered in media (I am a film and media student), especially in United States.
Marieke Nijkamp's This Is Where It Ends takes the perspective of the students and focuses on a time period of 54 minutes within a school day. It is the first morning of a new semester, and after a welcoming assembly, things take a horrible turn. Most of the students are locked inside the auditorium. And then someone starts shooting.
When Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris opened fire at Columbine on April 20, 1999, killing 12 students and one teacher, I was 8 years old and on second grade of the Finnish schooling system. Back then, I probably had no idea what had happened. I really became aware of school shootings on a larger scale when the Virginia Tech shootings took place in 2007. Later in 2007, while I was living in United States, I got the news - there has been a school shooting in Finland. A phenomenon that I thought to be mostly American (how silly I was), had spread to Finland. Suddenly, schools started to feel very unsafe.
Though school shootings, unfortunately, take place all around the world, United States is the country with highest number of school-related shootings. I won't go into why that is (gun laws etc), but rather provide you with a hard fact: in 2014, there were about 40 school related shootings in United States. Though the horror and the panic of such situation is very difficult to grasp into without experiencing it first hand, I think Marieke Nijkamp does a good job in capturing the thoughts and feelings of the student inside and outside of the school that in such seconds changes from a haven of new learning to a war zone. Very quickly, all the students inside that auditorium know that though they will never be okay again, they still might have a possibility to survive and to keep living.
This Is Where It Ends alternates between different point of views. For example, there's Claire, a senior and a track runner, who ends up being outside the auditorium when the fire is opened. Then there's Matt, Claire's younger brother, who needs crutches to move around and who finds himself from the auditorium when the fire opens. Then there's Autumn, a girl who dreams of going to Julliard despite the fact that neither her father or her brother want her to leave town. Through these characters in addition to a few other students, Nijkamp narrates a very thorough account of the events that take place within those 54 minutes, allowing the reader to see the widespread terror of the situation. Also, there's a wide array of diversity in this one; PoC characters, disabled characters and LGBT characters. So if you are looking for diverse YA, look no further.
Nijkamp digs well into the small town mentality of the novel - Opportunity is a small community and things like school shootings are not meant to happen there. Nothing usually happens there. I especially liked the way Nijkamp incorporated into the story the question of whether this shooting, this completely random and horrible event, will define the town for a long time to come. Inevitably, yes. We know the Columbine shooting from the fact that the name of the school was Columbine High, not because it happened in Columbine, Colorado. Events such like these start to define places - one action can change everything. I think incorporating this to the story shows that Nijkamp really has attempted to insert herself to the mind of a student experiencing all of this horror.
I know I have mentioned Columbine several times, but I do have to mention it once more while discussing the way Nijkamp describes the shooter. After Columbine, when you see a school shooter in a film, he (most often it is a he) looks and acts a lot like Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. What makes Columbine so important in relation to school shootings and the way they are described is the fact that it was so largely covered in the media that it worked as a catalyst for stereotypes: school shooters are loners, school shooters are megalomaniacs, school shooters listen to Marilyn Manson and wear long coats. Nijkamp does not fall to the Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold description, at least not too much. This shows research - she does not take the "easy" way out or go with the stereotypical description. Instead, she creates a character who inevitably shares something with the real school shooters, but who is also his own person with his own "reasons" for what he is doing.
I know this review ended up being much more fact-heavy than my other reviews. It is very difficult for me to write about this book without spoiling it for you, but this way I was able to do it. Also, I think going into this book with a little bit of background on the actual facts opens it up in a whole new way and makes the story seem even more harrowing. I cannot really say that I "enjoyed" this book because how can you enjoy a story like this? But I did find it intriguing, well-written and executed novel about an issue that we all should educate ourselves about. This novel will arguably be very controversial and there might be readers who think it is too detailed and too raw - this definitely isn't for everyone. But nevertheless, it is such an important book and one that you should keep in mind.
If you are interested about the way school shootings are portrayed in the media or just want to extent o the topic, I definitely recommend Dave Cullen's Columbine and Michael Moore's documentary Bowling for Columbine. ...more