Since You’ve Been Gone by Mary Jennifer Payne

since youve been gone by mary jennifer payne Since You’ve Been Gone by Mary Jennifer PayneBuy Since You’ve Been Gone
Special price $9.47 Regular price: $13.34
Publisher: Dundurn Press
Format: Paperback
Reviewer: Melissa on April 10, 2015
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Is it possible to outrun your past? Fifteen-year-old Edie Fraser and her mom have tried to do just that for the past five years. Now things have gone from bad to worse. Not only does Edie have to move to another new school suddenly, she’s in a different country. Her mother promises Edie that this is their chance at a fresh start, so Edie tries her best to adjust to her new life in London, England despite being the new target of the class bully. However, when her mother doesn’t return home from working the night shift, Edie is afraid that the past might have finally caught up to them. Alone in a strange country, Edie is frightened that a call to the police will lead to her being sent to live with her abusive father. In Since You’ve Been Gone, Mary Jennifer Payne delivers a fast-paced plot that will grab teen readers as Edie faces the most difficult challenge of her young life.

Time and time again, I’ve heard one thing: if the plot of a novel isn’t fast-paced and gripping, it won’t sustain a young person’s attention. While I’m certain that some of the novels I loved as a young adult weren’t always action packed, when it comes to contemporary YA thrillers, like Since You’ve Been Gone, there is definitely some truth to this generalisation. Mary Jennifer Payne may be a debut YA novelist, but she clearly knows a thing or two about the genre in which she’s working. From the opening chapters, she creates a lot of tension between Edie and the students in her school and Edie and her mother, which only increases the further into the story the reader gets. That said, I liked that not every chapter ended in a cliffhanger. (Cliffhangers can be useful literary devices, but I think the author shows that they aren’t the only way to get the reader invested in the characters and their stories.) In addition, the author doesn’t reveal everything about Edie and her mom’s past (or that of the other characters) right away, but instead seems to instinctively know how much she needs to say to keep it shrouded in mystery for as long as possible while still creating satisfying resolutions to the various character arcs.

Beyond Edie, my favorite character would have to be Jermaine Lewis. He is gossiped about by the students in Edie’s new school and treated like a troublemaker by the teachers. With this introduction, it’s no wonder that he becomes another source of tension within the novel for Edie. Through the development of Jermaine over the course of Since You’ve Been Gone and that of some of the other secondary characters, Mary Jennifer Payne demonstrates her understanding of and facility with developing complex characters, characters that are more than they first seem to be. In addition, the tension that Jermaine creates in Edie’s life means that she’s forced to realize that her actions can have negative consequences in the lives of others. After being forced to focus on herself and her mother since they’ve been on the run, this is an important point of growth in her character, which changes the way she interacts with other students and authority figures at her school.

There were a few typos or inconsistencies that were a little jarring for a finished copy of a novel, including the way that Edie internally questions why her mother is using the British work “cooker” meaning “stove,” but later seems perfectly comfortable with the dialect. I know that her mother grew up in England and has a British passport, so it makes sense that Edie would have been familiar with many of the common expressions or words that differ from those used in North America. However, it doesn’t make sense to me that she wouldn’t have been familiar with her mom using the word “cooker” already. Even with these few issues, I found Since You’ve Been Gone to be a good contemporary YA thriller overall and believe that other readers will get a lot of enjoyment out of it.

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