Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels
- Age: 12 to 15
- Grade: 7 to 10
- Reading age: 12 to 15
CCBC’s Best Books for Kids & Teens (Fall 2015) - Commended
Fifteen-year-old Edie Fraser searches for her mother, who has gone missing shortly after the two moved to London, England, to escape Edie’s abusive father.
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.
About the author
- Commended, CCBC's Best Books for Kids & Teens (Fall 2015), 2015
Mary Jennifer Payne’s writing has been published in journals, anthologies, and magazines in Canada and abroad. She is the author of several YA graphic novels. Since You’ve Been Gone is her first YA novel. She teaches with the Toronto District School Board and lives in Toronto.
Excerpt: Since You've Been Gone (by (author) Mary Jennifer Payne)
Today I punched Ranice James in the face. My fist connected with her cheekbone and she dropped to the asbestos-filled tiles of our gymnasium floor like a bag of marbles. Now I’m officially suspended. I might even be expelled. According to our principal, Mr. White, Safe Schools will be involved for sure, and maybe even the police. The police. Just the thought of the police being involved in any way makes me want to dry heave all over my bed.
Mom is going to be so disappointed. She won’t “kill me,” which is what other kids say when they make a major life mistake like having a party while their parents are away for the weekend, or smoking weed, or getting caught shoplifting. My mom doesn’t get angry. Ever. She won’t even raise her voice at me. Anger is something she avoids like a bad dentist; I guess she figures we’ve dealt with enough of it in this lifetime. But I think it’s natural. Anger, I mean. It’s a natural emotion. And it would be so much easier to deal with her getting angry like normal parents. Instead, she’ll be disappointed…and worried. More than anything, my suspension is going to make her super anxious because there will be follow-up meetings about it at school. And at these meetings there will be questions. Questions about our situation at home and what might be making me so angry. I wonder if Ranice’s mom will want to press assault charges. I doubt it. Most people in our neighbourhood have a pretty uneasy relationship with the police.
I walk over to the window, lean my hands against the windowsill and let my forehead rest against the cold glass. The streetlamp in front of our townhouse is already on; its yellow light illuminating the spider web shaped cracks in the windshield of the abandoned car at the curb and the dirty snow banks left over from last week’s blizzard.
I look at my watch. It’s nearly six o’clock. Mom should be home by now.
We have this pact, this unspoken rule, that if one of us is going to be late, no matter what the reason, we have call. And we can’t just leave a message; we need to speak to the other person. That way we can be sure we’re both safe.
I try to push down the nervous, sick feeling that starts to spread in my stomach.
She’s fine. She’ll be home any minute.
Sensing a chance to get petted, my cat Peaches jumps up beside me and stretches out along the windowsill. Her throaty purr vibrates against the palm of my hand.
The ringing of my phone startles both of us. Peaches leaps off the windowsill as I run over to my bed to grab it. I glance at the screen and smile. It’s Mom.
“Hey,” I say. “Where are you?”
“Edie. You need to pack. I’ll be home within fifteen.”
I feel like I’m in an elevator that’s plummeting thirty stories to the ground.
I don’t know why I’m asking; we’ve been through this so many times.
My mother’s breathing is heavy, frantic.
“Just two suitcases and not too heavy. Janice will be with me. Look for her car. It’s the grey Toyota.”
“I know what she drives,” I snap.
Mom ignores that. “And Edie, don’t open the door for anyone. No matter what.”
As if I’m that stupid, I think. Anger is rising in me like hot lava. It’s not her fault. I know that. Mom didn’t ask for this any more than I did. But I’m angry anyway.
“What about Peaches’ carrier? Is it still in the basement?”
There’s a pause.
“I’m so sorry, Edie.” Her voice is strangled with emotion. “But we can’t take her this time.”
The blood drains from my body. Peaches meows softly from the bed where she’s curled up, anxiously watching me. It’s like she understands what we’re talking about.
“What do you mean?” I shout. “You can’t do this. Why can’t we take her?”
“We’ll talk when I get there,” she says. “I need to go. We don’t have much time.”
Then there’s the familiar click of our call ending and I am left staring for the last time at my bedroom, at Peaches, at the bed I’ll never sleep in again. And suddenly my suspension doesn’t matter at all.
“Since You’ve Been Gone is fast-paced and compelling … [the book] will appeal to anyone who likes realistic contemporary stories about youth facing difficult circumstances.”
“This is a splendid book, full of mystery, adventure, and love.”
“This Canadian import makes for a quick, exciting read.”
Booklist (Chicago, IL)
“…the unflinching portrayal of Edie’s experience (and well-earned anger) is what makes her story so believable. The author manages to create a feeling of adventure while still respecting the pain and stress [Edie] is undergoing…this is fresh, tough writing that meets young readers where they live.”
Quill & Quire (starred review)