She’s Gone by Joye Emmens
In She’s Gone, Joye Emmens creates a novel filled with characters, love, confusion, discovery, and remorse, all rolled into one. In the novel, we follow Jolie, a high school teenager living in 1969 during the age of the Vietnam War, politics, protests, and drugs galore. As the story opens, Jolie finds herself protesting the drilling of oil in the oceans, which only opens up her love of protests and fighting for what is right. At rallies and protests, Jolie has fallen for an older guy named Will. Fresh from college and enraged by the war, Will involves himself in politics, writes manifestos, wishing to create a revolution and a movement that will create equality throughout the United States. Trouble arises, however, when Jolie’s father discovers that she has been present at these rallies and protesting the very things that he works and fights for. Ruining her last chances at freedom, Jolie is punished to attend a Catholic school in order to reform her rebellious ways – but this plan does not sit with Jolie. Will and Jolie devise a plan to extract her from her home on the morning of her first day at her new school, and they begin a journey throughout the U.S., aiming for freedom and justice. Throughout the novel, we accompany the two as they remain on the run, keeping their identities secret. Readers discover with Jolie and Will the lives of hippies as they bounce from commune to commune, living with others and learning to share all that they own. In a time of a cultural and political revolution, Jolie lives through these rough situations by building relationships, establishing herself as an independent woman, and through her own self-discovery.
Joye Emmens creates a thorough world within She’s Gone, establishing characters with clear backgrounds, motivations, and relatable worries and desires. With so much involvement in the characters, it is easy for readers to be sucked in to the story, grabbing the attention from the earliest chapters. Throughout the novel, readers experience with Jolie her concerns with her situation, her doubts about Will as an older, admirable (yet sometimes unstable) leader, and her relationships with those she encounters along the way. In this way, Jolie is well-developed and readers are able to back her decisions and her thoughts. The emotions that are felt by Jolie and echoed in the readers as the novel continues – for instance, when Jolie is surprised by the sudden appearance of police in a subway station, demanding her age and whereabouts of Jolie, we are instantly worried that she will be discovered and that her plans for escape will be foiled. The relationships are also well-developed throughout the novel. Each relationship that Jolie maintains is distinct from one another, just as relationships are in our own lives. A voice that is distinct, let alone relationships that are unique from one another, is an accomplishment that not every author is able to achieve. The only lacking element of the novel is one of a clear plotline. Though the novel progresses seamlessly, there is a difficulty in keeping the end of the novel in sight. Throughout the story, readers are able to see what the current situations and issues are and that the current plotline involves solving these issues; however, it is difficult to see where the story will be able to continue once these situations are resolved, as there is no clear goal to the storyline. Other than Jolie’s imminent return home, there are few other lights at the end of the tunnel. Overall, the story that was created was one that was rich in character development, in language, and in depth, and one that is recommended for all readers.
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