Best friends Rachel, Mariel and Jenny have daughters only a few months apart. Not long after the youngest was born, one of them proposed a vow - if anything happened to any of them, the other two would look out for her girl as though she was their own. Although Rachel, Mariel and Jenny were okay, tragedy strikes not long after, and Rachel runs from London to the childhood home of her mother - the Greek island of Santorini. Although she can't face seeing the girls who are almost daughters to her, or her best friends, Rachel remembers her promise and, over the next decade, watches out for Cat and Daisy.
Very different from Candlish's previously reviewed novel The Double Live of Anna Day, Since I Don't Have You is darker and edgier in tone. Rachel is a complex character and the novel, told wholly from her perspective, is reflective and introspective. Though the topic at the heart of the book is tragic, and the character is wholly devastated, the tone is for the most part dispassionate, which is an interesting contrast. I did feel like shaking Rachel, who allows the (admittedly devastating) event to shape her entire life, on occasion but this was an integral part of the character and plot structure.
An error fan fic writers often make is incorporating lyrics into their novels - designed to add depth and mood, this technique falls flat if the reader doesn't know the song. The title of the book comes from a 1950's do-wop hit by a group called The Skyliners, and it's referenced occasionally in the text. I hadn't heard of it, and kept getting lines hearing "If I can't have you/I don't want nobody, baby/if I can't have you/oh oh ooo", which was very distracting.
That, and Rachel's self absorption aside, this is a worthwhile read that's a step above most light fiction. - Alex