Character, Reading, Review, Young Adult

YA Review: SINCE YOU’VE BEEN GONE by Morgan Matson

Happy New Year!

I finished reading my first book of 2018, and I loved it! I’ve had SINCE YOU’VE BEEN GONE by Morgan Matson on my to-read list forever (it came out in 2014), so I was excited to snag a copy on my annual trek to the Scholastic Warehouse Sale. Here’s the description.

Since You've Been Gone by Morgan MatsonThe Pre-Sloane Emily didn’t go to parties, she barely talked to guys, she didn’t do anything crazy. Enter Sloane, social tornado and the best kind of best friend—the one who yanks you out of your shell. But right before what should have been an epic summer, Sloane just… disappears. No note. No calls. No texts. No Sloane. There’s just a random to-do list. On it, thirteen Sloane-selected-definitely-bizarre-tasks that Emily would never try… unless they could lead back to her best friend.

Apple Picking at Night? Okay, easy enough.

Dance until Dawn? Sure. Why not?

Kiss a Stranger? Wait… what?

Getting through Sloane’s list would mean a lot of firsts. But Emily has this whole unexpected summer ahead of her, and the help of Frank Porter (totally unexpected) to check things off. Who knows what she’ll find?

Go Skinny Dipping? Um…

 

Here are the five things I loved most.

1. The friendships – Really this novel is all about friendship in its various forms–girl friendships, girl/guy friendships, guy friendships. And then it’s about the more specific friendships Emily forms with Sloane, Frank, Dawn, and even goofy Collins. I loved how unique and complicated each of these relationships were.

2. The list – The list Sloane leaves for Emily is both fun and scary, as you can see just from the few listed in the description. As a teenager, I would have said a resounding “Nope!” to a few of them. However, I completely bought into Emily’s reasoning for pursuing the list, despite it seeming to go against her personality.

3. Emily’s growth – Tying in with the previous point, I loved how Emily grew during the story and discovered who she was without Sloane.

4. The tension – There was so much tension threading through this story. From the growing romantic tension to the increasingly unanswered questions about Sloane, I found it completely gripping.

5. The flashbacks – It’s tricky to get flashbacks right, but they’re very well-done in this novel. Every snippet gave the reader another glimpse into Emily and Sloane’s story, another clue either to why Sloane might have left or why she’d suggested a particular item for the list.

I thoroughly enjoyed SINCE YOU’VE BEEN GONE and will definitely be checking out other books by Morgan Matson. I’m open to suggestions on what I should read next!

Reading, Review, Young Adult

YA Review: SPINNING STARLIGHT by R.C. Lewis

While I enjoyed R.C. Lewis’ first book, STITCHING SNOW, it didn’t quite edge up to love for me. But her latest, SPINNING STARLIGHT, rises above the debut, in my opinion. While the two books are both sci-fis and the covers are complementary, they are not connected. But on to the description …

Spinning Starlight by R.C. LewisSixteen-year-old heiress and paparazzi darling Liddi Jantzen hates the spotlight. But as the only daughter in the most powerful tech family in the galaxy, it’s hard to escape it. So when a group of men show up at her house uninvited, she assumes it’s just the usual media-grubs. That is, until shots are fired.

Liddi escapes, only to be pulled into an interplanetary conspiracy more complex than she ever could have imagined. Her older brothers have been caught as well, trapped in the conduits between the planets. And when their captor implants a device in Liddi’s vocal cords to monitor her speech, their lives are in her hands: One word and her brothers are dead.

Desperate to save her family from a desolate future, Liddi travels to another world, where she meets the one person who might have the skills to help her bring her eight brothers home-a handsome dignitary named Tiav. But without her voice, Liddi must use every bit of her strength and wit to convince Tiav that her mission is true. With the tenuous balance of the planets deeply intertwined with her brothers’ survival, just how much is Liddi willing to sacrifice to bring them back?

Here are the five things I loved most.

1. The fairy tale – I liked the use of a more obscure fairy tale, “The Wild Swans.” I confess I don’t get tired of the Snow White or Cinderella retellings, either, but it was fun to read something different.

2. The challenge – Think about how hard it would be to try and communicate if you couldn’t speak or even make a sound. Then add on to that the fact that in your world they’ve phased out the written word and everything is voice-activated, so you can’t even write out your distress message. I found it somewhat disturbing to consider this is where technology might take a civilization–but also believable in some ways. Yikes!

3. The romance – So on that note, how do you fall for someone when you can’t speak to them? More pertinently, how do they fall for you? I was impressed with how Ms. Lewis developed the romance and made me believe it despite this major obstacle.

4. The flashbacks – Often as writers we’re cautioned about using flashbacks, but when they’re done well, they’re very effective. In this book, they have the dual purpose of showing Liddi’s relationship with her brothers and revealing bits of herself that she can’t due to her inability to speak. I felt they were well-placed and powerful.

5. The stakes – Let’s add another layer of difficulty onto the communication challenges. Once Liddi ends up on Tiav’s planet, even if she could tell him what’s going on with her brother, she faces deep-held beliefs on that planet that could mean the natives won’t help her anyway–including Tiav. So it’s not only a matter of communicating but of trust. Hey, in this case, maybe it’s good she can’t talk?

Overall, it was a well-told story with a fantastic romance in a fun sci-fi world. Hey, I grew up in a family that pretty much kept the TV on anything that included space or aliens :). Anyway, if you haven’t checked this one out, I recommend it, and I look forward to whatever Ms. Lewis writes next!