Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson- Review

Posted July 19, 2014 by Cristina (Girl in the Pages) in Books, Reviews / 2 Comments

Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson- ReviewSecond Chance Summer by Morgan Matson
Also by this author: Amy & Roger's Epic Detour, Save the Date, The Unexpected Everything
Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers on May 7, 2013
Genres: Contemporary, Family, Young Adult
Pages: 468 •Format: PaperbackSource: Purchased

Taylor Edwards’ family might not be the closest-knit—everyone is a little too busy and overscheduled—but for the most part, they get along just fine. Then Taylor’s dad gets devastating news, and her parents decide that the family will spend one last summer all together at their old lake house in the Pocono Mountains.

Crammed into a place much smaller and more rustic than they are used to, they begin to get to know each other again. And Taylor discovers that the people she thought she had left behind haven’t actually gone anywhere. Her former best friend is still around, as is her first boyfriend…and he’s much cuter at seventeen than he was at twelve.

As the summer progresses and the Edwards become more of a family, they’re more aware than ever that they’re battling a ticking clock. Sometimes, though, there is just enough time to get a second chance—with family, with friends, and with love.

If Sarah Dessen is the Queen of the Contemporary Summer YA Novel, the Matson is hard at work becoming her successor. This is the second novel by Matson I’ve read and her ability to create an immersive summer experience for her characters seems to be her trademark. I read this on the beach while I was at Aulani, and it was the perfect beach read- a light surface story with heavier feelings cloaked beneath the surface.

The plot of Second Chance Summer is two-pronged: Taylor’s dad is terminally ill and her family is spending the summer bonding and coming to terms with that fact, and meanwhile, Taylor is attempting to come to terms with and resolve a falling out she had with her two best friends five years ago. I like how the two story lines ran parallel to each other, as it kept me from being tired or overwhelmed by one of them. I also found this story interesting as it documents the decline of her father’s condition. Matson does a good job of pulling the reader through all the small hurts of watching a relative’s condition deteriorate over time rather than hitting you over the head with tragedy. This style of writing prepared me for the inevitable sorrow at the ending, and like Taylor, I felt I received closure from the book rather than being consumed by sadness.

Matson also does a good job at balancing tragedy with normal teenage life and drama, and I don’t fault Taylor for being wrapped up in her own drama despite her own family issues, because at seventeen everyone’s en-wrapped in the everyday triumphs and tragedies of their own lives. While I was annoyed that it took more than half of the book to discover what had transpired between Taylor, Lucy, and Henry five summers ago that left them all estranged, the drama was believable for twelve year olds (how many of us didn’t loose friends in middle school over occurrences that seem so minor now). I felt that the interactions between the three of them as young adults hanging onto the bitterness and shame of their pre-teen years was believable, and I applaud Matson by writing such well-rounded secondary characters. Everyone from Henry to Lucy to Taylor’s siblings, Warren and Gelsey, felt incredibly real to me, as did the small lake town they were all sequestered in during the summer. Unfortunately, Taylor was the character I found the least likeable, as she seemed so plain and just a sounding board for all of the characters to develop off of based on their problems with her.

The small moments of this book are what stuck with me, as it has the irresistible summer charm: the bakery that Henry worked at, the movie nights on the beach that Taylor ran at the snack shack, the small, hard moments of watching her father grow sicker. It was charming and moving in a lot of subtle ways, but the book as a whole didn’t grab me, and it slowed in some points as I grew tired of Taylor’s vague references to what happened that summer so many years ago.

What I Liked:

  • The summer setting
  • The fleshed-out cast of characters
  • Reading a book that shows the gradual effects of cancer

What I Didn’t Care For:

  • It takes a long time for the plot to gain momentum
  • I didn’t really care for the main character, as she was pretty boring
  • The book has a lot of charm but not a lot of WOW factor

Overall: It was a great beach read and it has some sadder undertones, but I preferred the pace and entertainment of Matson’s first book, Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour (read my review here). It’s worth the read if you’re looking for something easy in the summer, but I prefer Sarah Dessen’s writing for this sort of narrative. I’m glad I picked it up for such a good price, but I doubt I’ll reread it.

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