Book Review: Second Chance Summer

Second Chance Summer
Published By: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: May 8, 2012
Page Count: 468
Audience: Young Adult - Contemporary
Source: Purchased by Reviewer

I loved Morgan Matson's debut novel, Amy & Roger's Epic Detour, so I was so excited when this novel was released. I bought it for my Kindle on its publication date, but it kept getting bumped down my TBR list as I worked my way through books for publishers and authors. I can't believe I waited so long. Matson has delivered another compelling, thought provoking read. Second Chance Summer effected me deeply. As I write this review, it's hard to see through the shimmer of tears that I can't seem to control. I knew this book was going to be a difficult one for me, but I couldn't have predicted how deeply I would feel about these characters and the memories it would conjure. I found myself contemplating the best way to live every day to the fullest and what sorts of second chances I needed to seek.

This novel focuses on Taylor Edwards, a teen girl who is constantly running away from her problems. She isn't very good at handling things that are scary or potentially embarrassing so she just chooses to avoid the issues completely. This type of behavior leaves Taylor with a lot of regrets, but when her father is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, she begins to realize that life is too short to live bogged down with regrets. As her family packs up to head to their lake house in the Poconos Mountains in Pennsylvania, Taylor is less than thrilled with the prospect of confronting those she's run away from in the past. Throughout the course of the story, Taylor finds the strength to make things right again and finds herself forming a stronger bond with her father.

This novel ripped me apart and then slowly sewed back together the fragile pieces. Pancreatic cancer has a bleak forecast so it's no surprise that Taylor's father's health will fail rapidly. This is a type of cancer that is almost always fatal. Even knowing these things - I couldn't help but hope for a miracle. Watching the family struggle with impending death was not an easy thing for me. I've always been a sensitive soul so I felt the same emotions they characters experienced. The last eight chapters or so kept me in tears.

For me, this was also a difficult read because I have lost family members to cancer. I can remember watching a beloved uncle wither from the disease. As a kid, I didn't understand everything that was happening, but I do remember the vast changes in his appearance, appetite, and presence of mind. His illness left a lasting mark upon me and reading about Robin's illness dredged up those memories. This wasn't all unpleasant - I was also able to remember the good moments.

In spite of its emotional nature, this novel is also laced with moments of romance, friendship, and hope. It was nice to have those elements to balance out the depressing moments. I grew to care about these characters; leaving them behind was difficult. I can only hope I will catch glimpses of Taylor in future books since there was a brief cameo of Amy and Roger at the beginning of this one. 

Morgan Matson certainly has a gift for creating complex characters and tugging at the tear ducts. After two  books that I have adored, I would read anything she chose to write. I know picking up a book by her will be well worth my time and effort.

One Last Gripe: Taylor's need to push people away bothered me, but I could understand why she did it.

My Favorite Thing About This Book: The characters

First Sentence: I eased open my bedroom door to check that the hallway was empty.

Favorite Character: Henry

Least Favorite Character: I didn't have one

From the Flying Start author of Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour, a powerful novel about hope in the face of heartbreak. 

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.