I received a pre-release issue of this book from the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Okay, I’ll just get it over with; I’ll pull off the bandaid. I didn’t love this book. It didn’t grab me or excite me or enchant me. I didn’t pull at my brain when I really should have been doing something else. Don’t get me wrong: for the most part, it was good, but it was just … lacking something … and I can’t put my finger on what. Maybe it was emotion? This book definitely didn’t open my tear glands or my anger valve. It had no emotional impact on me.
Edie and her mother are running from Edie’s abusive father and the story opens with a rushed relocation from Toronto to London. Whilst in London Edie, the protagonist and narrator, spends much of her time complaining about new-starts until she comes wakes up one morning and her mum hasn’t returned from work. A desperate goose chase involving evading the police and robbing the school ensues in a less-than-thrilling bid to find her mother before her father gets to them (also, her dad’s a police officer so she can’t go to the police). Edie’s ally in this detective work is supposed ‘bad boy’ Jermaine Lewis who she, predictably, sparks a romance with (I didn’t like the romance: too obvious and unemotional). The main theme in this novel is domestic violence directed at teenagers and what this can cause.
Many of the novels about domestic violence or dark secrets I’ve read are either incredibly straight forward and you know the whole story in the first chapter or (and this is my favourite method) they have you on a drip, revealing tidbits every couple of pages until you guess the big truth. I feel like this book tried to do this. Mary Jennifer Payne put a ‘him’ or a ‘he’ in italics every now and again and hinted that Edie and her mother were running form someone but Since You’ve Been Gone lacked the mystery of other novels like those by Courtney Summers or Melina Marchetta (especially Rose by Any Other Name).
I also feel that the book stopped being fiction and became preach-y in the last couple of chapters with lines like “It never occurred to me that other kids might be dealing with domestic violence as well” and “If people talked about things that happen in their homes that no one sees, rather than feeling ashamed, there might be less violence.” When the book starts stating its “message” like this things just start rushing downhill for me. But if that’s what you’re into you might enjoy this book.
Overall this book (apart from going preach-y) was neither good nor bad.