books and reading · reviews

Book Review: Since You’ve Been Gone by Mary Jennifer Payne

Edie Fraser and her mother have been on the run for years now.  In fear for their lives, Edie’s mother has moved them all over the place, never letting them settle down anywhere long.  Now her mom has decided that they’ll actually jump across countries and plops them down in London.  In addition to trying to navigate a new city and a different culture, Edie’s also dealing with a schoolyard bully.  But then her mom doesn’t come home from her night-shift job and Edie knows something is very wrong.  Afraid to call the police and tip them off, and afraid that she’ll be sent back to her abusive father, Edie is on her own.

Readers willing to overlook the slightly implausible plot will gobble up this quick, short read.  Fast-paced, compelling, and with a lot of elements that make it work for young teen readers, this is an interesting, fresh take on loss and growing up.  Edie is a smart, resourceful girl, and her fish-out-of-water narration makes the story all the more compulsively readable.  The addition of new friend and possible love interest Jermaine adds a complexity to the story as well.

There’s definitely a lot of coincidences to be found in the book, but readers willing to suspend disbelief will find it easy to swallow most of them.  A quickly-wrapped up ending makes for a bit of a jarring experience, but it isn’t enough to overwhelm the book’s other good characteristics.  Edie’s relationship with her mother feels real and her loss of that support is palpable.  There’s a nice mix of adventure and emotion here to meet the needs of a broad swath of readers.

Overall recommended.  This is a quick read that should work for a wide variety of teens, both reluctant and otherwise.  Payne has potential, and this story only hints at what she might offer in the future.

Since You’ve Been Gone by Mary Jennifer Payne. Dundurn Group: 2015. Electronic galley accepted for review via Edelweiss.

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