Book Review: Since You’ve Been Gone by Mary Jennifer Payne

Posted January 12, 2015 by Stormi in Book Reviews / 2 Comments

Book Review: Since You’ve Been Gone by Mary Jennifer Payne

I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Since You've Been Gone by Mary Jennifer Payne
Genres: Fiction
Published by Dundurn Group on February 17, 2015
Pages: 224
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley


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 fictional story about fear, bullies, and taking a stand in this young adult-oriented tale.

My Take

This story started with such great promise. I was enthralled from the start. Payne pulled me in, dropping little teasers that kept me racing through the pages, reading from Edie’s first-person perspective.

The bullies everywhere: the teachers, the students, and Savitri’s parents! Although, her parents do have religion as an excuse to insist Savitri wear her hijab. But the rest? What is it with this need to bully? Teachers, counselors, and administrators need courses in recognizing and stopping it. They need to find the balls to combat it. They also need to learn the truth and spread that instead of hiding behind gossip and using that as truth.

Payne does well in taking us inside Edie’s mind, her thoughts, the fear of a young teen. There are also some good lessons and protective techniques in here for young adults. That bit about living in Regent Park and how she felt part of everyone was a beautiful feeling.

It’s about halfway into the story that Payne’s writing starts to fall apart. It doesn’t help that there’s a bit too much tell, which becomes very obvious with Edie realizing how attractive Jermaine is. I like that Edie can recognize a decent man. I wish that Payne had been less abrupt in telling us.

Payne falls into those stupid tropes: Edie’s famished, spends precious money on food, and then dismisses it. I realize that Edie is only fifteen and that she lacks a good bit of maturity. But then again, she and her mother have been on the run for the past five years. I’d’ve thought she’d have picked up some street smarts. She’s demonstrated some of that earlier, but then she falls apart. Granted, she is under stress and terrified. But she flits from one idea to the next. Doesn’t make any plans. Doesn’t try to get in touch with her aunt. She could call the cops from a pay phone and doesn’t. She could call hospitals and ask if they’ve admitted her mother or a Jane Smith. Instead she faffs about until she spills it all.

Yeah, poor thing. She’s been looking for a whole day. Can’t take the stress. For all the pages that Edie is going on about not going to the authorities, she caves pretty fast.

If Sydney is originally from London, um, hullo. Wouldn’t this be a natural place for her dad to look? As for Edie wanting to keep going back to her apartment when the community police have already been to it, her father’s chasing her down, um again, hullo. What is she thinking? Then what’s with the drowning scene? This was the fastest idea Payne had to force Edie into the open? Maybe she wanted Jermaine’s reputation rehabbed?

What was the point of the scene with the man from the phone booth? And what’s with Siobhan and Edie moving back to London if Siobhan thinks that it’s best for Edie to be out of England? I thought London was in England? I’m guessing that Payne was inferring that Siobhan wanted her out of the country for the after events, but why do they need to be back in England in the first place?

I liked Edie’s moment of reflection when she confronts her dad. A very real moment that could have been even stronger with some show. I also liked Edie sucking it up and confronting both Mr. Middleton and Imogen. Saying her piece. That said, the whole story could have been stronger if Payne had evoked more emotion in me. It was sad, and all the bullying angered me, but it was a surface emotion. I didn’t feel sucked in to the story.

The Story

Edie is so angry at all she’s had to leave behind. It’s bad enough being on the run and terrified all the time, but now Mom has dragged her to a foreign country! It may be Mom’s hometown, but London is still too different for Edie.

It gets worse when the bullies burst out, and it’s not just the students who like to torment her.

It gets still worse when Mom disappears.

The Characters

Edie Fraser is fifteen and angry over moving all the time. Mom is Sydney Fraser with two university degrees she can’t use. Siobhan is Mom’s half-sister who lives in Ireland. Her dad, Bryce Fraser, is a psychologist for the police.

In London
Imogen, a.k.a., Maggots, is the student who comes to Edie’s rescue. Savitri rescues Edie in the classroom and lunch room. Keisha is part of Savitri’s clique. Rodney is a wanker. Precious Samuel is the class mean girl; Shandel is part of her posse. Jermaine Lewis is the brunt of racism and bullying from everyone. His mother is sick with sickle cell anemia, and his brother died in a tragic accident. Billy is one of the boys who died.

Mr. Middleton is the headteacher. Ms. Bryans needs to retire and seek another line of work. Prison matron comes to mind. Mr. O’Connor is the math teacher. Ms. Thelwell is the first substitute teacher. Ms. Thompson is the phys ed teacher. Mr. Ravi is a teacher who prefers reading the paper to teaching.

One Simon is the passerby who chases the pervert off while the other is a barista who saw her mother. Cristina operates Cristina’s Cleaning Company and has employed Edie’s mom. Angel is her son. Sylvia is one of her long-term employees. Thomas works for the Camden film office. James is the bartender who helps Jermaine. Trevor Watson is the insensitive reporter from ITD evening news. Officer Murphy is the helpful cop. Jenny and Bill Gilmore are a local foster family. Bedlam is their friendly cat.

In Toronto
Rume is Edie’s best friend. Ranice James is the girl she punched out. Mr. White is the principal of the school. Mr. Chahil is the geography teacher for Grade 9. Peaches is the cat Edie has had for four years. Janice is the friend in the grey Toyota. Ms. Sherman was her Grade 4 teacher.

The Cover and Title

The cover is depressing, which is perfect for this story with a frantic teen terrified out of her mind and on the run. Huddled on the concrete, her arms wrapped around her jeans-clad legs and braced against an old brick wall, Edie is, surprisingly, not wearing a jacket even though the weather is so cold.

I suspect the title is Edie’s reaction to her mother’s disappearance, the things she’s been forced to do, to think, Since You’ve Been Gone.

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2 responses to “Book Review: Since You’ve Been Gone by Mary Jennifer Payne

  1. I thought this one was going to be good and I started last night. Unfortunately I had to DNF it at 4% when Peaches got left behind. That’s not a book I want to read and it looks like I made the right choice. I don’t think I would have liked it after all.

    • On the plus side, there is good news much later about Peaches. And yeah, I agree with you. I couldn’t believe her mom did that. Why not give the cat to her friend?

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