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Reviewed by Alysha Allen for Readers' Favorite
Angered by the oil spill in her hometown on Santa Barbara's coast in 1969 and being sent to Catholic school, fifteen-year-old Jolie absconds from her family with her twenty-four-year-old activist boyfriend, Will. Hoping she would now be free from her parents' control, she is instead kept under Will's dictatorial command and prevented from contacting her family. With Jolie forced to lie about her name, age, and identity, Will moves them around the country, bent on evading private detectives and his arrest. Meanwhile, as Will's Socialist Reform Movement grows, he increasingly begins to demean any facet of Jolie's life outside of his own. Unbreakable, however, with the help of Buddhism and her supportive friends, she finds the wisdom to become attuned to her heart and discover the independence she has long been searching for in Joye Emmens' debut novel, She's Gone.
Joye Emmens deftly explores the political landscape of 1960s America, weaving the war-weary nation with its sundry insurgent groups, from hippy urbanites leaving the city to live off the land in isolated communes to zealous anti-capitalist socialists and the ever-growing Women's Liberation Movement. It is this turbulent country she aptly portrays to reflect Jolie's personal troubles and make us feel for her situation with striking empathy. Often, I found myself enthralled in the affairs of Jolie's life and after each page wished she was closer to harnessing her inner strength in order to leave her controlling boyfriend. Additionally, Emmens' descriptions of the historical topography of the places Jolie lives in greatly elevates the story's engaging veracity. She's Gone, besides being an entertaining exposition into the counterculture that reigned in America's mid-twentieth century, is a captivating tale of a girl's adventuresome transition into womanhood.