Edie Fraser used to have a perfect life – or so it seemed. Behind the scenes, everything was falling apart, and over the past five years she and her mother have been on the run from Edie’s abusive father. Though she’s attended 13 different schools during that time, Edie has made the best of things: she had her mom, her best friend, and her cat. But even that life is lost when Edie’s mother tells her they’re moving again – farther than ever before. They’re leaving Canada for England, and they have to go right away.
After arriving in London, Edie hasn’t even had a chance to get her bearings when her mother fails to come home from work. Afraid of being sent back to her father if she contacts the police, Edie is forced to search for her mom in one of the biggest, busiest cities in the world.
Since You’ve Been Gone takes place over just a few days, and the tight timeline whisks readers along. The subject matter is undeniably dark: beyond the domestic violence in the main plotline, Edie’s life is also touched by racism, anger issues, poverty, bullying, and a deep-seated mistrust of authority. But because Payne resists the urge to preach; these heavy issues never weigh down the narrative. Rather, 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 the girl is undergoing.
Payne has a flair for gut-punch similes, and her descriptions of London are spot on. She also teases out several good subplots featuring Edie’s new British classmates without sacrificing the momentum of the main story. But it’s Edie who makes the book – she’s tough and scared, fierce and protective, awkward and genuine. Payne doesn’t offer an easy ending, but readers will follow Edie through the fire. This is fresh, tough writing that meets young readers where they live.