Since You’ve Been Gone
By: Mary Jennifer Payne
(I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Goodreads Score: N/A (ARC)
My Score (Official): 1.7
My Score (Unofficial): 1000 million similes out of 9000 million similes
Highlights: Quick and short read, cover is nice
Lowlights: I very much dislike the main character, many parts were so cliché
“Is it possible to outrun your past? Fifteen-year-old Edie Fraser and her mother, Sydney, have been trying to do just that for five years. Now, things have gone from bad to worse. Not only has Edie had to move to another new school she’s in a different country.
Sydney promises her that this is their chance at a fresh start, and Edie does her best to adjust to life in London, England, despite being targeted by the school bully. But when Sydney goes out to work the night shift and doesn’t come home, Edie is terrified that the past has finally caught up with them.
Alone in a strange country, Edie is afraid to call the police for fear that she ll be sent back to her abusive father. Determined to find her mother, but with no idea where to start, she must now face the most difficult decision of her life.”
(Taken from Goodreads)
Okay, so let me start this off by saying I am not an unduly harsh critic. Usually, my reviews tend to fall somewhere in the 2 star to 4 1/2 star range. If I give a book a five, then it’s because it’s a new favorite of mine. Usually, though, I can find a couple of faults that knock it down to the four range. And likewise, when I find a book that is horrible, there are usually a couple redeeming things to push it into the two star range.
Such is not the case with this book.
Ugh. This book bothered me so much because it truly had the chance to be something beautiful and insightful. And it irritates me because it was an opportunity wasted. The synopsis from Goodreads is pretty accurate, and the summary is what drew me in. I’ve been on a YA contemporary kick lately, and so I eagerly requested this ARC, expecting nothing but good things. Oh, how wrong I was. Let’s start with the characters, shall we?
Edie Fraser, the protagonist, is so unlikable. Really. One of the most unlikable main characters I’ve met this year. I get that she’s a teenager, and that she has a sucky life, and all that, but really, she makes it so hard to care about her. First off, she’s shallow. Like so shallow, not even small insects could drown in the puddle she’s got going on.
On her first day at school, a “freaky-looking girl” tries to be nice to her, and this is a verbatim thought that goes through Edie’s mind: “What a freak. She actually wants me to shake her hand?”
And then, later in the book, when she and her love interest, Jermaine, are venturing into London to look for her mom, the main thing Edie seems to be worried about are her looks. Seriously. Edie complains about not being able to get enough sleep because she needs to wake up 2 hours early so that she looks decent for Jermaine. 2 hours. 2 hours. What girl cares so much about impressing a guy (and a guy, by the way, who Edie suspects killed his own brother) that she needs two hours to prepare herself…when her mother just went missing? Save that kind of the thing for an actual date, Edie, and let’s focus, please!
Edie is also oblivious to the problems of those that surround her. I know that she has a full plate herself, but she continually lashes out against those that have their own things going on. Of course, she always feel regret for her harsh words like, literally two seconds later, a pace that just seems so unnatural. There are, of course, other characters worth talking about in this book, but if I do, I feel that I’ll end up spending way too much time ranting. Suffice it to say that you’ll know the full personality of most of these characters within pages of meeting them. From the stereotypically horrible popular girl who hates Edie immediately, and then the teacher who seems to want nothing more than to make her life miserable, I’ve seen these characters too many times before. I do think that Mary Payne did a good job with Savitri and Keisha, two of Edie’s friends. They felt more real than any of the other characters. They was nice enough, but they was also sort of snobby and elitist–a cool combination. I wanted to see more of them.
But the characters alone aren’t the reason I rated this book so low. The writing just didn’t cut it for me, either. It improved a lot toward the second half, but I debated giving up many times during the first half. Part of it was because Edie was narrating, and I can’t stand her thoughts, but another part had to do with the writing and I, which just kept clashing. And for some reason, the similes leapt out at me in an awful way. I mean, I’m all for a few good similes, but for some reason, the ones that the author chose had me noticing each and every one, something that never happens in other books. After the first few, they just became more and more jarring, to the point where I was dreading running into another one, and each addition jolted me that much more away from the story. I mean, similes are good in moderation and all, but there comes a point of no return, and this book crossed that point.
I know I haven’t said many good things in this review, so let me end on a positive note. The plot did follow the synopsis, and I was interested the whole time in seeing whether Edie finds her mother, and what ends up happening to her. If this book had been a lot longer than it was, I wouldn’t have cared enough to finish, but it was a short book and so it was of my own free will that I did decide to see it through.
I know that I was harsh in this review. It makes me so uncomfortable to have to be this harsh, but to be honest there were more flaws than the ones I discussed here. Still, with more work and experience, I think that Mary Payne could end up one to watch out for! What do you think? Have you been reading and good books lately? Any awful ones? Tell me about them in the comments below!