Character Development

‘Character Development’ is a phrase that we throw around a lot at Heart Full Of Books, because the phrase ‘good character development’ (or something along the same lines but with a far more exited tone) is the accolade of all accolades in a review!

Everyone has an idea on what character development is, but when we talk about it in our reviews we don’t mean the act of creating a character, we mean the process of putting a character through situations that change the way the character thinks or feels. Character development can sometimes be pinpointed to an exact moment, other times it’s a series of events that the protagonist reacts to in small ways, but by the end of the novel their outlook may have changed, resulting in a happy ending.

Truthfully, it’s a hard thing to define, and sometimes it can be a hard thing to notice. The more you read the easier it is to assess characters against one another. As readers we create our own scales of character development that relate to characters we know have had some pretty excellent CD. Personally, I look at Morgan Matson’s novels. Emily from Since You’ve Been Gone, being a perfect example, when I read a contemporary I think, “did this character change as much as Emily did?” but I should probably clarify that even if characters don’t change in the same ways, doesn’t mean there wasn’t a change! I can’t compare Emily to Yelena from Poison Study because they’re in different worlds and genres. What’s character development from Emily’s caterpillar to butterfly metamorphosis in regards to confidence, isn’t the same as Yelena’s fight against the patriarchy and her coming to terms with her magical abilities. But most importantly both character went though a palpable change! Character development is simply overcoming flaws and weaknesses – or at least coming to terms with them *cough* self acceptance *cough*

In our opinion, what makes character development go from ‘good’ to ‘excellent’ is if the character’s CD makes the reader think about themselves. If a novel makes me think about who I am as a ‘character’ and if I change as a result of the protagonist’s CD then that’s even better! I love being able to come away from a story and apply what the character has learned to my own life, it’s pretty excellent.

We like to mention and comment on character development as much as we can in our reviews, and hope to emulate our favourite authors ways of including CD in our own writing. Let’s just say if we say ‘excellent’ and character development in the same sentence that book has made it to the favourite list.

Review: Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson

Since You’ve18189606 Been Gone by Morgan Matson
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Adventure
Published by: Simon & Schuster
Pages: 449
Format: Paperback
Rating: ★★★★★
Where to Find: Goodreads | Amazon

If you are a frequent watcher of mine and Maddie’s videos, then you may already know that Morgan Matson is probably my favourite standalone author. Although, I would not complain if Amy and Roger got a sequel. In fact, it might be my greatest wish. Therefore, I was extremely happy when Amy and ‘her boyfriend’ – pause for cuteness overload – got a small mention. (Apparently Amy and her boyfriend are backpacking around Europe! So I would like Amy and Roger’s Epic Hike to be a thing. Please.) However, the fact that my OTP got a mention in Since You’ve Been Gone was not the only thing I likes, and it certainly wasn’t the only reason why this book was awarded five stars and made it to my favourites shelf.

Once again, Matson delivered on character development. I went from sighing at the beginning of the novel thinking ‘oh no. It’s going to be another one of those stories.’ You know the ones. The ones where our protagonist is super weak and can’t do anything on her own and so seeks out a dark, moody and protective boyfriend. I could not have been more wrong. Okay, so Emily is very weak at the beginning, but thanks to some extremely high quality character development and planning she ends up as this super awesome girl who can do anything she sets her mind to. Although, this revelation is helped by her beautifully charming love interest, it is not – I repeat, it is not – as a result of him. It’s partly to do with her, but partly to do with Sloane, who I will talk about more later.

I loved the premise of Since You’ve Been Gone, the mystery is so engaging, and the chapters with elusive titles mean you won’t be able to put this book down. If you are unaware of the premise for Since You’ve Been Gone, then I will sum it up by saying girl’s best friend abandons her leaving only a list of things that she has to complete over the summer. Some of these things are easy, some extremely difficult, and some illegal. Every chapter is dedicated to one of these things, which is quirky, but also means that you know what’s going to happen OR DO YOU? There were some items on the list such as ‘ride a dang horse, ya cowpoke’ and multiple times throughout the book Emily tries to do this but I was thinking ‘Em, ride a horse isn’t the name of the chapter, you’re not doing it yet.’ Some of the items were deliciously woven in, because they were figurative rather than literal, which I will admit led to some happy exclamations on my part when everything clicked.

There was no way that I would be able to get through this review without talking about Frank. Frank, Frank, Frank. He was wonderful, extremely nice, and extremely wonderful – twice for emphasis. Emily picks up a few friends along the go to help her with the quest, Frank being one of them. Frank is someone that Emily’s seen around school, and thinks she knows, but like most people, he is completely different outside the school environment. Emily is the sort of girl who is invisible at school and is known solely as ‘Sloane’s friend’ but would you believe it, Frank knows her name! Their relationship develops slowly, but surely, at just the right pace for a novel of its size. There was no insta-love, and their ending is as ambiguous as Amy and Roger’s, which although I really don’t like as soon as I finish the book, I love in hindsight, because you can come up with your own happy ending. Sometimes it’s nice not to have everything spelled out for you, I like to piece these things together myself.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t slightly worried, and maybe even a little bit unnerved, by Sloane and Emily’s friendship. At first I thought that Sloane was a bad influence, and that she was just using Emily. I think it’s hard, even with best friends, to know if that person likes you and depends on you as much as you like and depend on them. That was my favourite relationship that was explored in Since You’ve Been Gone, because it showed a realistic friendship dynamic.

Although there were certain plot points that made me want to give the characters a stern talking to, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The ups and the downs, the slow and the fast paced bits; when Emily was on her own, when Emily was with Frank, when Emily was with her family and when Emily was with Frank, Collins, and Dawn. I liked the flashback elements, which was where we got to find out more about Sloane before she left, even though I’m not really partial to that kind of layout. In Since You’ve Been Gone, it worked well, and helped the flow of the story, and didn’t interrupt the pacing, every flashback was relevant.

Overall, I loved every second of it and would highly recommend Since You’ve Been Gone. I just can’t wait to see what Morgan Matson does next!