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Title: Since You've Been Gone
Author: Morgan Matson
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Pub. Date: May 6, 2014
Rec. Age Level: 14+
When Emily's best friend Sloane and her family suddenly disappear from town, leaving nothing behind but a list of 13 random things for Emily to accomplish, Emily is lost. Her most recognizable trait is that she's Sloane's friend, but now that Sloane is suddenly gone, Emily doesn't know who she's supposed to be. And the list? Sloane was always sending Emily off with lists of dares, but, now that Sloane is the one that's gone, Emily's only hope is that the list will somehow lead her to Sloane, wherever she is. Emily is determined to accomplish everything on the list, even the things she's terrified of, like riding a horse. With the help of the clean cut, perfect Frank Porter, Emily will cross all 13 dares. Over the summer, she'll conquer her fears, make new friends, let loose, and, unexpectedly, now that Sloane is gone, understand her in ways that she never did before.
I LOVE this book. At the beginning of the novel, Emily only defines herself in relation to Sloane, but, by the end, she's her own person. She becomes braver and more herself than she's ever been before. Her journey is really, really inspiring, but underneath all of that, Sloane and Emily have a really wonderful relationship that actually grows in important ways after Sloane mysteriously leaves town. Absence makes the heart grow fonder and, in this case, smarter.
One of my favorite elements of the novel was the look at family it offers. Emily's family isn't perfect, but she comes to realize how loving and enviable her home life is in comparison to many of her friends'. Sloane and Frank live in perfect houses and have traditionally successful parents, from the outside their lives look perfect to Emily, but she soon comes to learn that it really is what's inside that counts... that her messy, crazy, theatrical family is nothing to scoff at.
Now somebody write me a list of dares that will change my life!