Another debut novelist on the blog today with a story that will appeal to teens & tweens ….
Since You’ve Been Gone:
I’ve been back and forth while writing this review, wondering just what was prodding me to be uneasy with the story. Mary Jennifer Payne writes beautifully: her descriptions and emotional impact is clear to see, and the character of Edie is instantly sympathetic whether an adult or teen is reading. The underlying reasons for Edie’s story are all too familiar if one reads the headlines, and running away from a bad situation does often seem the only choice for child or parent desperate to keep them safe.
Edie and her mother have fled Canada for London: Edie’s father is horridly abusive, and Sydney is desperate to keep her daughter safe and allow her other options away from the abuse. They’ve been running for years – yet her father keeps finding them and the abuse starts again. In London, Sydney believes that Edie can have that fresh start, and life will start to look more positive. But, when she doesn’t return home from her overnight job, Edie is convinced her father has returned – and this sends her into a series of choices made in desperation….
Gripping and completely engaging, Payne has latched onto the emotional angles that will grab a reader and keep them moving forward. However, there isn’t a ton of introspection or development from Edie: she’s most obviously holding issues of anger from both the abuse and the fact she is thrust into new situations constantly. Her own psychological ills from the abuse and anger are barely touched upon, and her understandable yet somehow not, instant connection to Jermaine seem to contradict her own trust issues with people, men most specifically. We also have her encounters with Precious the Mean Girl, who is simply reflecting and acting out on her own anger and hopelessness at her own family situation.
But, Payne doesn’t attack these issues head on, she dances through them with small mentions. And that is what has me uneasy, I think. Teenagers are capable of dealing with the hard truths of life: it isn’t always pretty and no one has it easy. Learning that Precious was dealing with similar issues that caused her to regain her own power by bullying Edie MAY give teens a sense of understanding as to WHY people act as they do: it isn’t always just because they can. There were so many moments to expand and show with character and scene development that these are issues, not personality, and that issues can be faced, addressed and dealt with.
What emerges is a good and gripping story that, with a touch more character development and a few more head-on attacks of the issues could have been great, and not felt so rushed at the end. There are often no better ways to learn than fictional stories, don’t sell your audience short by not addressing the rough, tough and often distasteful moments that arise. Payne is most certainly an author to watch, and this story will appeal to teens and tweens for the character of Edie alone, I just wish there was a bit ‘more’ meat on the bone.
Title: Since You've Been Gone
Author: Mary Jennifer Payne
Genre: Teen Reads
Published by: Dundurn Press
Published on: 24 January, 2015
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
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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.
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.