Title – Since You’ve Been Gone
Author – Mary Jennifer Payne
Fifteen-year-old Edie Fraser searches for her mother, who has gone missing shortly after the two move to London, England to escape Edie’s abusive father.
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.
The synopsis for Since You’ve Been Gone by Mary Jennifer Payne is what immediately grabbed my attention. Something about the potential for courage and strength in a time of utter confusion and darkness just intrigued me. This is a quick couple hour read that gripped my attention from the very beginning; however, I was left feeling like there wasn’t much that actually happened once I finished. The synopsis for Since You’ve Been Gone by Mary Jennifer Payne is what immediately grabbed my attention. Something about the potential for courage and strength in a time of utter confusion and darkness just intrigued me. This is a quick couple hour read that gripped my attention from the very beginning; however, I was left feeling like there wasn’t much that actually happened once I finished.
We follow through the eyes of Edie, a fifteen-year old girl who has never truly known stability in her life. Her mother doesn’t return home one morning from work and Edie is thrown into a high-pressure situation where her gut is telling her something is wrong. In having to deal with all the uncertainties, she transforms into this powerful, strong woman who is forced to grow up. I truly appreciated the character growth in that sense. She very easily could have stopped searching for her mother or given up hope, but she never did. She persevered and fought until she was read to stop and face what her and her mother had been running from. I can’t imagine that would be an easy thing to do so it really showed me just how far she had come from the timid, pouty teenager at the beginning of the book.
“I think it’s good to talk. If more people talked about things that happen in their homes that no one sees, rather than feeling ashamed, there might be less violence.”
I also admired the issue of bullying that is so delicately weaved throughout this story. The characters of the story experience it through many different ways and it helped to make the book very poignant and harsher in a sense. Not only do we see it happening in numerous school settings, which is incredibly appropriate to the times, but we have many other instances of it as well: child abuse, domestic abuse, racism, etc. All these conflicts come together in a way to highlight the overlying message of standing up for what you know is right; to find strength in order to confront your demons rather than run from them.
My biggest complaint with Since You’ve Been Gone lies in the fact that I didn’t feel like much happened and some parts felt very surface level for me. It really spans the course of a few days, but they were high-pressure intense moments. I wish that there would have been more exploration into Edie’s feelings and how she came to gain her strength. I also would have liked to see more about her adjustment in the end. Rather than ending it with a quick “here’s where the characters are going”, I think it would have enhanced the book if it were a little longer and explored what happened once Edie found the stability she had been lacking for so long. Overall, I did like the book and thought it was well written. The author clearly had a story to tell and even though I would have preferred some deeper exploration, I am walking away from Since You’ve Been Gone with a clear message. I only hope that other readers will experience the same feeling.
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Mary Jennifer Payne’s writing has been published in journals, anthologies, and magazines both in Canada and abroad, and she is the author of several YA graphic novels. Since You’ve Been Gone is her first YA novel. She teaches with the Toronto District School Board and lives in Toronto.