The weakest part of Since You've Been Gone is its beginning. From the start, this novel feels all too much like an ode to a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, SlThe weakest part of Since You've Been Gone is its beginning. From the start, this novel feels all too much like an ode to a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, Sloane. Our protagonist, Emily, is shy--she lives in the shadow of her best friend, Sloane, rather happily, content to follow in her footsteps and stretch her limits, but only just barely. When Sloane up and disappears in the beginning of the summer, Emily is lonely and lost--why did Sloane leave? So when Emily receives a list from Sloane, she's determined to finish it--to cross off every item on the list, no matter how scary--because maybe, just maybe, it will bring her closer to Sloane.
I really enjoyed this novel. Not as much as Matson's latest, The Unexpected Everything, but pretty darn close. Emily is the type of protagonist I can get behind--reserved, confused, but determined to push forward. I mention that the beginning of this novel is the most difficult to get through but that's because Emily is still a shell of a person. Not only is she fixed upon an idea of herself that is inexplicably linked to Sloane, but she remembers Sloane as a Wild Thing, full of life and light. I'm so tired of that romanticized Manic Pixie Dream Girl who seems to float through life effortlessly but is secretly hiding a deep pain. But, the story quickly changes direction, becoming more about Emily and less about Sloane.
It's easy for me to read this book with a heavy dose of disdain, only because I am no longer the shy, reserved teen I used to be. Perhaps if I had read this when it released two summers ago I would have been shocked and inspired by Emily's dares to go skinny-dipping or wear a backless dress. After two years in college, I am quite the different person and I found myself both sad that Emily--and Past Me, really--was so reserved and proud of the growth that Emily undergoes throughout this novel. She finally finds herself--who SHE is--without Sloane or anyone else to define herself by. It's so hard and so important to tear yourself away from the friends who "know" you and really know yourself on your own and I appreciate that Matson puts so much emphasis on that.
The friends Emily makes are unlikely, from class president Frank to his desperate-for-a-girlfriend cousin and Dawn, the girl who works at the pizza place around the corner from Emily's ice cream store job. Each of them shape her and motivate her in different ways and I always like how Matson's novels feature lots of time for growth and simple interaction. Emily's family is eccentric and her younger brother is daring and though she doesn't have any issues with them, I enjoyed how they were incorporated into the story in a meaningful way.
And, of course, the romance. Morgan Matson writes the perfect slow-burn romances and this one was no different. Frank and Emily start off as friends and they don't even realize when they begin to blur the line between best friends and something more. It's a little messy because Frank has a girlfriend, but fear not, the drama is minimal. What I enjoyed most about their friendship is that it's not just Emily who is re-defining herself this summer; it's Frank, too. We don't have as much of a insight into his psyche as we do Emily's but I really enjoyed how Emily went from thinking of Frank solely as class president or by his accolades and instead began to see him as a person.
My one qualm with this novel remains Sloane. We see her through Emily's eyes for almost all of this novel and she is painted as the classic Manic Pixie Dream Girl (as I've mentioned). By the end, though, there are a series of events that catapult us to learn more about Sloane--the full extent of her affection for Emily, her "secrets", why she moved, etc.--but I felt as if it was too much far too quickly. I wanted more time to process Sloane and her friendship with Emily before this novel abruptly cut to an end. Moreover, I felt as if there were a few dangling threads and while I can guess what would have happened, it would have been nice to get an epilogue or just a little something more after such a huge bomb is dropped in the last couple of chapters.
I think it's safe to say, though, that I've found a new fave in Morgan Matson. Though this isn't a favorite of mine, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and would recommend it without hesitation. It's a thoughtful look into re-defining who you are and I'm sure that if I had read this a few years ago I would have been floored. Present Day Me is a little more mature and a lot more extroverted so while I can still appreciate this book, I won't be clutching it to my chest with tears. But, regardless of where you are in your life, give this one a try--I don't think you'll regret it....more
I didn't finish this one but I will say that it is far more about the sex and romance than the plot. And the plot is interesting enough, asRating: DNF
I didn't finish this one but I will say that it is far more about the sex and romance than the plot. And the plot is interesting enough, as are all the secondary characters, but I just couldn't get invested in this. Perhaps McMaster is just not for me. Plus, it's so hard to care for characters when they have their own backstories with each other and are ripping each others clothes off all the time. I'm all about the sexual tension and slow-burn and character development and...this book isn't that. Not bad, but just not for me....more
I have a confession to make: I didn't expect to enjoy Morgan Matson's novels. I know, I know--how could I make a judgement like that without ever pickI have a confession to make: I didn't expect to enjoy Morgan Matson's novels. I know, I know--how could I make a judgement like that without ever picking them up? But something about Matson's novels screamed "summer" and "contemporary" and somehow a little too...young? But I was really in the mood for a fun, contemporary summer romance so I gave The Unexpected Everything a shot and, color me surprised, I found a new favorite novel. I genuinely loved this book. It had everything I look for in my most cherished novels--a complex parental relationship, a prickly heroine who didn't always do the right thing, a tight-knit group of friends who grew and changed, and a slow-burn absolutely swoon-worthy romance. All against the backdrop of a sticky, hot summer and I wound up reading this with my window open, droplets of rain brushing my ankles as I stayed up late finishing this novel.
As the daughter of a Congressman, Andie has grown up in the spotlight. Whether it be a new campaign or a speech or the funeral of her mother, Andie has been photographed through it all. This summer, though, she's about to do something for herself--attend a prestigious pre-med program for high school students in Johns Hopkins. But when a scandal is uncovered in her father's office, Andie's recommendation letter is withdrawn and she suddenly finds herself with no summer plans. Not only is her father home for the summer--taking a leave while an investigation is conducted in his office--but Andie now has to spend quality one-on-one time with her father for the first time in five years, since her mother's death. For Andie, the girl who always has a plan, living each day uncharted has never come easy. But maybe this summer, she'll discover more than she thought...about herself, her passions, and her father, too.
For me, the best aspect to this novel is Andie's relationship with her father. It clearly isn't easy for either of them to be such a huge part of one another's lives this summer. Andie's father has been so dedicated to his job that he barely knows anything about Andie's life. Andie, similarly, has been managing on her own for so long that she can't handle having a curfew or a father who interrogates her dates. While these two begin the summer on a rough path, I really enjoyed seeing as they both made efforts to get to know one another. I loved their banter, the way Andie's father made himself a part of her life, and the manner in which they slowly began to move on from the grief they experienced over her mother's death--together. In fact, I think theirs is one of my all-time favorite fictional father-daughter relationships.
Another huge part of this novel, though, are Andie's friendships. Andie is best friends with Palmer--who is dating a theater geek Tom--and Toby and Bri. Toby and Bri are best, best friends and have been since kindergarten. Though the four of them are a unit, Toby and Bri are together almost all of the time and their lives are so overlapped that half of their school gets the two of them confused. Toby is a romantic, determined to get her rom-com happily-ever-after while Andie treats relationships as three-week flings during which she has to sit patiently through the date to finally be able to make-out with the guy. The four of them are so different but I loved reading their group texts and watching as they made their summer a magical, entirely exciting experience. They've always got one another's backs and they talk about everything, from their families to their boy troubles and I loved that. This book definitely passes the Bechdel test and though their tight-knit friendship goes through its hurdles, I thought it was such a realistic dilemma and was handled in such a mature manner. I love a bittersweet, but realistic ending and that's exactly what this gave me.
Of course, I can't not talk about the utterly adorable romance within these pages. Clark is nervous and shy, a fantasy author who falls for Andie and takes her on a disastrous first-date that neither of them enjoy. Where Andie avoids talking about herself, Clark pushes her to open up and Andie, who is closed-off and never lets any guy get "in", immediately shuts down. But somehow, Clark gets past Andie's defenses and their love story is just too cute. Clark has been home-schooled all his life and Andie pushes him out of that bubble, introducing him to her friends and her father and giving him a summer of memories he won't forget. On the other hand, Clark makes Andie comfortable enough to open up about her life--her father, her mother, her friend group--and for the first time in her life, Andie finds herself in a relationship lasting longer than three weeks. It's such a healthy, equal relationship and though it has its ups and downs, I really loved watching it unfold. I especially enjoyed that Clark wrote fantasy and his passion for writing is just as evident as Andie's passion for medicine or animals. Andie and Clark push each other to become their best version of each other and I loved that--not to mention I fell for Clark and his dimples so, so hard.
The Unexpected Everything was such a lovely, unexpected surprise. I genuinely didn't expect to find my next favorite of 2016 when I picked this up but now all I want to do is re-read it. I can't recommend this enough to anyone looking for a realistic, mature, and romantic summer read. It's a contemporary YA that's cute, sure, but it's also deep and talks about sex and changing friendships and familial relationships. It has so much to offer and I can't wait to pick up Matson's other novels. I only hope they wind up being unexpected surprises too!...more
Strangely, I don't have a lot to say about this novel. I really enjoyed it and though that Khoury's take on this classic tale was well-developed and fStrangely, I don't have a lot to say about this novel. I really enjoyed it and though that Khoury's take on this classic tale was well-developed and fascinating. The world-building is well done, especially the war between jinn and humans, and I loved being in Zahra's head and understanding her helplessness, her fear, and her longing all at once. The romance is a slow-burn and Aladdin is as swoon-worthy, if not more, than he is in the tale we all know and love. The secondary characters, especially the princess (not Jasmine in this tale), were strong characters in their own right and the villains were formidable. I thought there were a lot of really important themes and messages running through this tale and though it's very much a romantic re-telling, the fantasy elements and feminist streak were thoughtfully added. I have a feeling this will be an easy favorite for most. For me, it was a quick and entertaining read; not a favorite, but also not quite one I'll easily forget....more