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since you've been gone book coverReviewed by Sarah McCubbin

For the past five years, fifteen year old Edie Fraser and her mother Sydney have been living on the run. Living each day with an anxious tension has become their normal. Edie’s abusive father has a knack for tracking them down, so the two of them move from place to place trying to hide and stay safe.

When they finally move from Canada to London, they both hope the distance will provide an extra cushion of safety for them to start over. Edie starts yet another new school and her mother finds a position cleaning in a office building during the night shift. But after her mother, Sydney, doesn’t come home after her shift, Edie is immediately suspicious…has he found them? Being new in town, Edie doesn’t know who to trust or how to find her mother. As she goes about her daily life at school, she plans how she will find her mother while going through the academic motions. When she steals some money to buy food, Edie finds an unlikely ally willing to set aside hard feelings to help her in her quest.

In her novel, Since You’ve Been Gone, Mary Jennifer Payne weaves a story of life on the run. The tension is thick as Edie is bullied in school, put on the spot by teachers and as she finally finds her mother missing. It begins to feel like one long chase with the characters never being still and always moving. In a sense, it captures their reality well. But on the other hand, it creates a rather detached read. Because there is so much running, searching and hiding, it does not have a concrete feel to it.

The first half of the book sets up their story and the second half is Edie and her friend searching. When they discover that tragedy has indeed struck, Edie was readily able to “move on” and live with an aunt in Ireland. I understand that people process grief differently but it seemed anticlimactic after all the running for her to be content with her loss and be happy to just start over. That said, the themes of bullying and a difficult family life will resonate with many teens. But even more so, the underlying story of friendship in the midst of tragedy shines hope into an otherwise bleak situation.

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Sarah McCubbin is a homeschooling and foster mom in NE Ohio where she resides with her husband and 7 children. In addition to reading great books, she enjoys gardening, traveling and blogging at Living Unboxed.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Dundurn. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.