Review: Since You’ve Been Gone

since you've been goneAuthor: Morgan Matson

Age: YA

Genre: Contemporary; Friendship-based; Contemporary Romance

Released: May 6, 2014

Click here to read summary

Friendship. Summer. Cute guys. Do I need to continue? I mean, don’t you already want to read this book?

Emily’s best friend Sloane disappears without a trace, leaving behind only a list of crazy things for Emily to do. Things like: Steal something, pick an apple at night, and… go skinny dipping. Thing is, Emily isn’t all that outgoing, and now she’s having to figure out who she is without Sloane by her side to encourage her to do these things. But if completing the list is the only way to find Sloane, Emily will muster up every ounce of courage she has.

Since You’ve Been Gone is a super adorable book and I love that it focuses on friendship. In some ways, Sloane reminds me of Jules—super confident in herself, fun style, master thrifter, and she sometimes disappears. But seriously, I can’t keep up with where Jules is most of the time. Texas? New York? London? Africa? All of those are possible answers. I can also see Jules breaking into her own house like Sloane. (In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s done it before.) So I immediately loved Sloane because of some of her similarities to my own best friend.

I also love Emily because I can relate to her. Not in the fact that she likes running (which I hate), but I understand what it’s like to feel uncomfortable being by myself when I’m used to having someone by my side. I’m a total introvert, so making myself talk to people is hard. However, if I have my husband or my best friend next to me, it boosts my confidence level and I can totally conquer the world (or at least the people in front of me). And that’s how Emily is. She’s gotten so used to Sloane taking charge and being there that she doesn’t really know how to be just Emily. Through the challenges that Sloane has given her, Emily learns who she is and meets new people along the way that help her realize she’s fun to be around, even if Sloane isn’t there.

“There were two types of people—they type who could talk to anyone and make friends with them, and they type who spent parties hiding and sitting against trees.”

There are lots of different types of relationships in this book: friendship, maybe a little more than friendship, siblings, marriages. Some good, some bad. Some being worked on, some failing miserably. It’s really real. Emily makes new friends, not necessarily forgetting Sloane, but making room in her heart for more people. She befriends a really cute boy. *insert smiley face* And he doesn’t like running. (I can totally relate!)

The details in Since You’ve Been Gone are always spot-on. I love the little things like how the sunroof in Emily’s car is missing, or the description of the sign at the apple orchard. I love how her little brother is basically a monkey who climbs everything, that her parents are eccentric playwriters. I love that Sloane always carries a disposable camera and the spot where she hides her special treasures. I love the flashbacks to Sloane and Emily’s friendship. These small things and small moments create an altogether beautiful book and story, sure to be enjoyed by anyone who loves a good friendship book.

“She was my heart, she was half of me, and nothing… was ever going to change that.”

Four out of five stars!

Content Advisory:

Language: 2 I counted one use of d and one of h

Sexual: 3 Some guy tries to feel her up; skinny dipping, and there are boys (nothing is described and no touchy-feely or anything); sleeping in a tent with a boy to “share a pillow” (nothing happens except for sleeping and eye-rolling) (the eye-rolling is mine)

Other:  drinking (at parties; she gets tipsy; she and Sloane drink wine at Sloane’s house and her parents don’t care)


morgan matson books







Second Chance Summer

Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour


Young Adult summer reads

The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West

So Not Happening by Jenny B. Jones

Fool Me Twice by Mandy Hubbard

Forgive My Fins by Tera Lynn Childs

*Our reviews do contain affiliate links, meaning we could make a very small commission should you buy something using one of those links.


Oh fathers, where art thou?

whos_your_daddy darth vader

(This doesn’t have a whole lot to do with the article, but… Star Wars!)

MC = main character

Direct quotes are credited in-text.

Warning: This post is a little longer and more “thinking intensive” than our usual 🙂

In light of recent Father’s Day we wanted to spotlight father characters.  However, after a little thought, we realized that there are very few books that highlight the father figure.  It seems all too common that the parents, although they play an important part in the character’s history and development, don’t usually play a large role in the “meat” of the story, or get much “page time”.  Not to mention they usually get a bad rap.  Being the curious mind that I am, I wanted to know more; Why do parents get so left out? Where are the awesome parents? Why do they get stereotyped? How important are the roles of the parents? Now, I am no scholar but I do have some thoughts.  So I did some searching, article reading, mental reviewing of books I’ve read, and discussing with other readers.  The articles I am pulling from are all well written and well sourced. After I read them I almost felt like not writing this, just quoting them and pointing over there and saying “Hey! Go read these!”  But then I thought, “No, I should do this.  I could use the practice in constructing my thoughts and building a cohesive puddle of ideas…” So here I go! 🙂

The focus of YA books are, of course, the young characters (the ones the intended readers can relate to) and their journey to manhood, true love, a better place, self-finding, or what have you.  This is the opportunity for the MC to learn great things. Unfortunately, achieving this seems to require putting the parents, and for the most part adults in general, in the back seat, in a bad light, or even fully out of the picture.  This issue is as old as the YA genre itself, which may be older than you think.

Novels for the young folks started becoming a “thing” in the mid 60s and into the 70’s. This coincides with the emergence of the famous/infamous “hippie” movement, which encouraged the independence of youth and the idea of rejecting expectations and creating your own identity and future.  Never mind that it turned into a giant bandwagon of lost, broke, hapless, non-individual individuals seeing life through rose-colored glasses, both literal and metaphorical.  From this era we get the still-popular The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, as well as Robert Lipsyte’s Contender.  These first books stemmed from classic narratives of the orphan triumphant, as seen in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885) and countless fairytales, but with a new flavor of raw survival. The MC is not tied to a past, and is responsible for, and answers to, no one but himself.  Conflict lies not with adults and not really with the status quo, but rather with his peers, the other teens. (Just)

Following the conquering orphan came the sub-genre of “problem novels”.  In the late 70s, early 80s the inept, falling apart, greatly flawed, and irresponsible parents had their YA debut.   Similar to the way that the recent sub-genre of “sick lit” deals with the journey and challenges related to illness, in problem novels the “dramatic conflict occurs not in a vacant lot but in the home, around the dining table”, such as divorce, abuse, and neglect(Just). Mothers often take the fall for home issues, especially leaving, as the females can be pinned with the “emotionally unstable” tag.  Contributing to the stigma is the black cloud of “the evil stepmother” from tales of old.  However, fathers also have been colored a very dark shade of sad.  Tucked into many a page is a father bleary-eyed and hung over, stumbling and yelling and drunk, cold and oppressive, out of sight and out of touch, or simply missing in action.

Julie Just makes a great comparison in her article for The New York Times.

“However toned down, the hapless fictional parents of today aren’t necessarily more believable than the slightly scary figures of the classic problem novel. What they are is less consequential. In the transition from Ma in “A Place Apart” (Paula Fox, 1980) to the father in “Once Was Lost”(Sara Zarr, 2011), deferring to his exasperated 15-year-old daughter in the supermarket aisle, there’s a loss of stature and a lowering of stakes. Ma, a widow, is openly grieving and visibly poorer after the sale of the family home; she’s emotionally unreachable at times and unapologetic about it. By contrast, the father in “Once Was Lost” becomes somehow peripheral, his problems more muted and less interesting than his teenage daughter’s.”

Having a bit of history of parents if YA helps put some things into perspective, but it doesn’t really answer the question of why?  The easy answer: Parents are plot tools.  To have a good story every character must earn their page presence, be it by comic relief, confidant to the MC, foil to the protaganist…   So very often parents get pinned with the job of setting up the MC for a great story, and then are quietly tucked away until needed to bump the story along.  (Obviously, and thankfully!, there are exceptions.)

Parents, real and fictional, are a springboard for their children, who, in YA books, are the focus, and in the real world, are the MCs of their own story. There are two sides to this coin, parents helping the MC to achieve great things by supporting them and rallying behind them, and inversely, giving them a lower starting point and a harder journey by being abusive, absent, or even the active antagonist.  Undeniably, main characters with a troubled or complicated past offer opportunity for a highly interesting journey for the reader.  On the flipside, well constructed, positive parental figures, that don’t even have to be active in the story, can also shape great MCs who might still face great challenges and undergo trials and need to deal with big things and little things and make a great story!

Lorraine Franqui for Girls in Capes addresses the issue of YA fathers, specifically, becoming plot devices who typically fall into one of three categories: fallen hero, absentee enabler, and manipulative villain.  Example after example shows the father’s anger, or fears, or regrets, or absence, or death, setting the protagonist on their journey to whatever fueled by contempt, respect, or revenge.  While this isn’t totally a bad thing, it isn’t great either.  The father is bumped from his job of being an active and involved parent with a mature voice, to a building block of the back story, the whys and wherefores of the MC.

I feel that Franqui really puts a finger on the meat of the issue.

 “There are many types of fathers in the real world: great ones, mediocre ones and even bad ones. It’s not like there’s no variety in the representation of fathers in YA or that there’s a massive lack of really great ones, but the types are neatly defined categories and the representations aren’t always the most favorable. Not all fathers stay heroes in their children’s eyes, but YA should acknowledge fatherhood is a complex universe in itself and that parenting doesn’t come in a neatly defined and predetermined quantity of flavors. …[T]hey have a more central role in their teenaged children’s life than just inconvenient obstacles or occasional, highly limited motivators…”

The YA world isn’t just lacking good fathers, it’s lacking real fathers. Now, I know not all real fathers are good fathers, too many aren’t, but readers could benefit from seeing the MCs have relationships with their parents that is actually part of the story.  A relationship they can relate to their own lives.  Unfortunately, when you write ‘normal’ adults you toe the line of  “the dreaded territory of the boring adult concerns like paying bills, going to work, buying healthy groceries, getting enough exercise and do the laundry”, notes Lucy Silag from Book Country.  But is it possible to find a happy medium? Can someone write parents, married or single, who are sane, responsible, quirky, moody, people with decent fashion sense, but really bad jokes, that always get lost, are concerned with keeping a budget and scared of change, that are firm believers in ordering pizza on Fridays and encourage adventure and self-discovery, who are likable and relatable but can also enable the MC to face their challenges knowing they are not alone?

Some stories we read because all we want is to escape reality for a little while.  But some stories are read because we need the characters, and we need to see their struggles and how they survive, to see *that* they survive.  We read to see ourselves in these characters, and know that we can survive.

Do you have any books to recommend with great, or well written parents?

Want to share your thoughts?

From The New York Times, Sunday Book Review

The Parent Problem in Young Adult Lit

By Julie Just, July 2010

From the Book Country blog put out by Penguin Press

Young Adult Contemporary Guidepost #4: Parents in YA Fiction

By Lucy Silag, August 2013

From Girls in Capes blog

The Father Formula in Young Adult Literature

By  Lorraine Alcevedo Franqui, June 2013

Behind The Blog: Rachel Update

Once again it seems Rachel (that’s me) has fallen off the blogosphere. Hopefully not for much longer. Here is a brief update:


Brody moved to LOUISIANA!

I finished my first semester as a teacher!




I became an assistant Librarian!

Currently VBS is going on (which I’m partially in charge of) and I’m applying to get my Masters in Library Science (fingers crossed!)


Working at the Library is a lot of fun! I’m helping with the YA programs and my favorite part is finding books for the kids and teens that come in the Library. I’ve already recommended Gallagher Girl and TLC series to two different girls – they loved them! I’m excited about this Gallagher Girl Readathon!

Gallagher Girl Readathon Schedule hosted by

I completed reading Courage for Beginners and I’m currently reading Miss Mayhem. Hopefully, Ill have reviews for those soon! Happy Reading,

Science Ch. 4 Week 2 copy

Gallagher Girl Readathon!

Hello y’all! How’s your summer been so far? Lots of reading? Swimming? Sleeping? So far we’ve hardly stopped since summer started, but that’s just how we like it!

We’re extremely excited to share with y’all an idea we’ve been working on to make the summer even more fun—a Gallagher Girl readathon!

Gallagher Girl readathon logo hosted by

It’s been far too long since we graduated from the Gallagher Academy, and it’s time for a trip down memory lane. So this summer, we’ll be rereading the entire series!

We know how much fun it is to read with friends, so we’re asking YOU to join our readathon! Whether you’ve read the books once, a million times, only read a few of them, or are a newbie to the Gallagher Academy, we’d love for you to join us. We’ll be reading one book per week (see schedule below), and we’ll be chatting and reflecting about each one, so be sure to join in and leave your thoughts and fangirling in the comments!

The reading schedule is posted below, but don’t worry if you’d rather read faster or slower. These are just the weeks we’ll be talking about the books here on the blog and other social media, so if you don’t want spoilers for a specific book, you might want to stay away that week! (But come back once you’ve finished!)

Gallagher Girl Readathon Schedule hosted by

What would you like to see happen during the readathon? Contests? Outfits? Reading sprints? Twitter chats? Prizes? Vlogs? Let us know! We want this to be fun for everyone!

Are you interested in joining The Gallagher Readathon? Let us know in the comments if you plan to participate and what we can do to make it more fun!

Interview with L.S. Murphy

author L.S. MurphyHey y’all! Today we’re excited to share with you our interview with author L.S. Murphy! Her newest book, Pixelated, is releasing on June 30. Keep reading for more information about it!

What inspires you to write and how do you push beyond writer’s block? I don’t really believe in writer’s block. If I hit a wall, that usually means the story isn’t working. I just move on to a different project until I figure out what went wrong. Then I go back and fix it.

Where is your favorite place to write? Anywhere there isn’t an internet connection. 🙂

Are your characters ever inspired by someone you know in real life? No, but the setting for Pixelated is loosely based on my hometown.

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever researched for a book? I’ve done so much weird research. That’s really hard to answer.

What did you read growing up? Sweet Valley High until one of my English teachers turned me onto Vonnegut. Did that influence your current style or subjects? Actually no. I took a course in college called Adolescent Lit and that opened my eyes to writing YA.

What fictional character do you wish you knew in real life? Hermione! Who wouldn’t want to be that brilliant? And a witch? I love Hermione.

Your newest book, Pixelated, comes out soon. Can you give us a one-sentence summary and tell us what inspired it? Pixelated is about a city girl who is forced to move to the middle of nowhere and falls for the golden boy harboring a secret.

Remember that English teacher I mentioned earlier? During a spring creative writing class, we were walking back from the town square (it was two blocks away) when he yelled, “Stop!” Which of course all of us stopped. He pointed to a line of tractors in the parking lot and said, “If that’s not inspiration, I don’t know what is. Now write.”

I thought he was crazy. Obviously he was right. 🙂 You’ll see that in the book… somwhere. 🙂

What’s your favorite character from Pixelated and why will we love him/her? Piper is my favorite. She’s a little … not nice and snobby at times, but she’s got a good heart. And I think that’s the way a lot of us can be. We don’t always come across in the best light, but we’re really good people. Besides, she’s got this great internal struggle that I LOVE. 🙂

Okay, a fun one: if you were a dessert, what would you be? I’m not going to answer that because the answer is in the book. 🙂

We know you’ve read the Gallagher Girls, so which Gallagher Girl would you say you’re most like and why? Liz. Totally Liz. I would rather be behind the scenes with a brilliant answer than in the line of fire. But Liz is far braver than she lets anyone see. That’s what I love the most about her.


Thank you so much for taking the time to do an interview! We can’t wait for Pixelated! Make sure to add it to your Goodreads!

Pixelated by L.S. MurphySenior Year.
Middle of nowhere.
What’s the new girl to do?

For Piper Marks, the answer is simple. She’s determined to have her photography rock the cover of National Geographic someday, and moving to Clarkton, Iowa for her last year of high school is not going to stop her. Even if her usual subjects have changed from bright lights and skyscrapers to fields, cows…and more fields.

But when photographer at the local paper quits in a huff, she steps into his spot. Her new job keeps Piper busy capturing tackles, and zooming in on first downs and end zone dances, not to mention putting her directly in the path of varsity football star Les Williams IV. Her new friends warn her off, but she can’t resist the pull she feels toward this mysterious country boy. But this small town is keeping a secret, and it’s one that could destroy any chance they have to be together.

It’s up to Piper to decide what to do with the distorted truth. Can she risk exposing her heart? It might be worth it, ’cause Les is about to change her world from black and white to fully saturated color.

Review: There You’ll Find Me

Review of There You'll Find Me by Jenny B. Jones from; Christian YA book reviewAuthor: Jenny B. Jones

Age: Young Adult

Genre: Christian Romance, Contemporary Romance

Released: October 4, 2011

Click here to read summary.

There You’ll Find Me is a super sweet Christian YA book in which Finley goes to Ireland hoping to find a connection to her brother who was killed in Afghanistan. Finley is such a real character, struggling in not only her relationship with God but also in her relationships with those around her. She tries to find God in the same way her brother did, but eventually comes to terms with the fact that she will have to find Him in her own way.

Here’s the thing: I don’t like a lot of Christian books. I feel like so many of them are really blah with flat characters and religion is pushed like crazy. This book didn’t feel like that. The characters are awesome (I’ll expand further below), Finley has an interesting voice and is easy to connect to, and her relationship with God seems realistic. Finley feels like God abandoned her after her brother was killed in Afghanistan, so she takes her brother’s old journal and traces his steps to Ireland. That’s where he found God, so she hopes she will find Him again there as well. I feel like most of us have been at a point when we wonder where God is and why He’s not stepping in, stopping the horrible things that are happening to us, but that doesn’t mean we give up on Him completely. That’s what I love about Finley—she continues searching for Him and trusting that He is there, even if she can’t see Him and her world feels like it’s crashing down all around her.

As for the other, non-Finley characters: There is a really adorable famous Irish actor and I just really love him. He has his own problems to deal with, but keeps finding himself hanging around Finley, who wants nothing to do with him. (Don’t you just love that I-hate-you tension in a fictional relationship?) The two of them set out to explore the Ireland that Finley’s brother fell in love with.

I also want to give a shout-out to the secondary characters. Most of them are pretty awesome. I love the family that Finley stays with in Ireland, and also the old lady (I can’t remember her name at the moment, sorry) that she is assigned to spend time with as part of a community service project for school. It’s beautiful to see how all the characters’ stories are interwoven, and how they are all able to learn from those around them. Every single character makes their own mistakes, and some of them learn from them, while others don’t.

This book is about many things. Forgiveness. Love. Trust. There are a lot of deep, serious issues addressed while the overall tone of the book is pretty fun and adorable. I absolutely love the end, and I totally needed tissues for it.

Four out of five stars!

Content Advisory:

None! This book gets a star in our review archive for passing our content advisory guidelines!


Christian books by Jenny B. Jones

In Between (A Katie Parker Production, Book 1) (Currently free for Kindle!)

So Not Happening (The Charmed Life, Book 1)

Save the Date

*Our reviews do contain affiliate links, meaning we could make a very small commission should you buy something using one of those links.

Review: The Princetta

Author: Ann-Laure BondouxThe Princetta

Age: Advanced MG and YA

Genre: Epic Adventure

Released: January 2004

Click here to read summary from Goodreads.

>> This book was later released as The Princess and the Captain (but this cover is way better)<<

These are the days of the dystopian tales, the “coming of age” stories, the contemporary first loves, and the uprising of the once-deads and the never-dies (zombies and vampires).  But there are other lovely things to be had!  Such as this incredible book!

I found The Princetta at the annual Friends of the Library book sale our local system has every year.  It’s held in the basement so it took some ‘down the dark stairwell, follow the tunnel’ navigating to get there but then I was welcomed into the glowing cavern of retiring books and loving new owners perusing around for some treasures to take home.  With great fervor I joined their ranks and soon had a stack of books to my chin.

When I first picked it up I was very excited by the cover, it practically screams adventure, right?!? and then I read the flap and I knew it was coming home with me.  Unfortunately the whole son-of-a-pirate thing didn’t mean there would be any actual piracy…  However, there was no shortage of equally, and possible more so, thrilling adventures!

This is, as far as I’m concerned, a great historical epic that can be enjoyed by guys and girls that is stocked full of all the requisite epic-ness ingredients…  loyal friends, hard times, mythical creatures, a little bit of love, tests of self-discovery in mystical places where you might not live and winged beasts come to carry you away, invisible people, fights with swords and horses, axes and pots ’n pans!  And let’s not forget the heartbreak, betrayal, and massive lava dog!

The world building in this tale is exceptional.  Bondoux doesn’t describe everything into exhaustive detail, rather gives you a visual window of the scene and evokes emotions that make it real, allowing your imagination to see things how you want to se them.

It is rather difficult to attempt a full and proper review on this because both the book and story are just so big…it’s 430 pages long and with a tale that spans about a year.

The character collection is really swell.  There is a main cast, a really diverse group, and a secondary cast, who show up when needed and then killed or tucked away for later.   Leading the main cast are our two main characters, Malva, the Princetta, and Orpheus, the sea merchant/undercover pirate’s son.

The story is in two third person POVs, with the first part telling the independent tales of our two main characters (which we all know will converge, of course!).  There are very well constructed.  Rather than the uneven alternation, as one story gets more chapters than the other, I think I would have preferred getting her side all at once and then his, since they don’t have any interaction with each other and there aren’t any connections in their stories (aside from her leaving). Into the second part the alternating views are nice, they provides different interpretation of the same experiences and other characters, and allow us to “observe” the other main character when we aren’t in their head.

And I am happy to award this book a place on our list of Clean Reads!!!  It just goes to show you really can tell an incredible story without being vile or vulgar.

There are some disturbing images and instances of torture, but only described in passing.

Interested?  Find it here!

Content Advisory:

Language: 0 – NOTHING!!!

Sexual: .5 – She fall gently in love… awe

Other: .5 – General danger, but what’s an adventure without danger??

*Our reviews do contain affiliate links, meaning we could make a very small commission should you buy something using one of those links.

Top Ten Books We’d Love To See As Movies/TV Shows

Top Ten YA Books We'd Like to See as a Movie or TV show
I think the most amazing thing about books is that I can read words and they form a picture in my head. Every book I read is like a movie that I get to direct, and every detail is exactly how I want it. So when I say that I want for these books to be movies and/or TV shows, that’s what I mean. If it were a perfect world where movies and shows kept close to the books, these are the books I’d want to see on the big screen. (Click titles to go to our reviews!)

1) Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins | This book keeps appearing on top ten lists because it’s awesome. I want a real-life Harper and David!

2) Dear Killer by Katherine Ewell | I think this would make for an awesome TV show as long as they don’t try to add romance where there is no romance! (That’s my biggest fear if this book is made into a movie/show.)

3) The Gallagher Girls Series by Ally Carter | I mean, of course we want this to be a movie. Lots of movies. But the last time someone had the rights, they wanted to completely change everything. If I remember correctly, they wanted to make Joe Solomon the bad guy and make all the characters college-age. I’m so glad that didn’t happen! (See our Gallagher Girls dream cast here!)

4) Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg | This would be a super cute TV show, or even YouTube show? Important: getting the PERFECT actors to play Levi and Macallan. Major chemistry is a must!

5) The Naturals Series by Jennifer Lynn Barnes | I think I remember Jennifer mentioning something at NTTBF about a TV show in the works. I hope it happens!

6) The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer | Basically these books would make for some of the most epic movies ever. (See our Lunar Chronicles dream cast here!) (Read Rachel’s review and Brody’s review.)

7) The Selection Series by Kiera Cass | If you’re a big Selectioner, then you know about the… issues from the filmed pilot. Everything was changed. In a terrible way. No. No. No. No. No. Do this right, please!

8) The Ruby Red Trilogy by Kerstin Gier | I love this trilogy. I know that at least the first book was made into a German movie, but I haven’t gotten my hands on it yet. (I need it with subtitles, obviously.) (Okay, so I guess this one is more of an I-want-to-see-the-movie-if-I-can-somehow-get-ahold-of-it rather than a this-needs-to-be-a-movie.)

9) The Splintered Trilogy by A. G. Howard | It would be so cool to see this version of Wonderland come to life!

10) The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern | I’m pretty sure this movie is in the works. If done right, it could be amazing and beautiful. (Read Rachel’s review and my review.)

dotsWhat books would you want to see turned into movies or TV shows in a perfect world?

JB from, plaid skirt, pink rainboots