Author: Morgan Matson
Genre: Contemporary YA
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children’s
Release date: May 8, 2012
Challenge: Completely Contemporary Challenge
Summary: Taylor’s family might not be the closest-knit – everyone is a little too busy and overscheduled – but for the most part, they get along fine. Then they get news that changes everything: Her father has pancreatic cancer, and it’s stage four – meaning that there is basically nothing to be done. Her parents decide that the family will spend his last months together at their old summerhouse 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 summer best friend is suddenly around, as is her first boyfriend. . . and he’s much cuter at seventeen than he was at twelve.
As the summer progresses, the Edwards become more of a family, and closer than they’ve ever been before. But all of them very aware 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.
So quick story: Before I started reading SECOND CHANCE SUMMER by Morgan Matson, I saw that the uber-fabulous Tara from Hobbitses had read and reviewed it already. OF COURSE, because her reviews are wonderful, I checked it out. I can’t say I didn’t shout at my web browser, thinking that something was wrong with the Internet. Because guys, her review of SECOND CHANCE SUMMER is four words long. I was worried, I was anxious, and I was EXCITED to get reading. And now that I’ve finished reading it myself, I totally get it. I totally understand how you have all these feelings that don’t really have words, and that this book leaves you so emotional that you can’t think of how you might go about gathering your thoughts. (OBVIOUSLY, since I keep talking, I’m not having this problem to the extreme that I first believed.) SECOND CHANCE SUMMER is not really about the romance, not in the way Morgan Matson‘s debut, AMY & ROGER’S EPIC DETOUR was, although the relationship between Taylor and Henry is sweet and solid and I LOVED IT. No, this is a book about a daughter, first and foremost, and how she comes to appreciate and understand how much she loves her father . GUYS, I WELLED UP JUST WRITING THAT SENTENCE.
SECOND CHANCE SUMMER is already one of my favorite books of the year. BOOM. Truth bomb. Morgan Matson‘s sophomore book is basically amazing. AMY & ROGER’S EPIC DETOUR is one of my FAVORITE contemporary YAs, and if you’ve been around the blog before, the chances that you’ve seen me bring it up are high. I’ve loved Morgan Matson since, and knew without question that I would be anticipating SECOND CHANCE SUMMER. What I didn’t know, didn’t realize, is how different in tone the two books would be. I didn’t cry when I read about Amy and Roger and their KILLER road trip romance. But I found myself welling up all over the place while I was reading SECOND CHANCE SUMMER. There was such a sense of bittersweetness about it that just touched me.
See, Taylor’s dad is sick, you guys. Very, very sick. Everyone in Taylor’s family knows that their time together is dwindling, which is why they all go to the Poconos for the summer, one last time together. They haven’t been back there in five years, thankfully for Taylor because she basically left a huge, dramatic pile of you-know-what there before she bolted liked a startled pony from the dramz. So the resolution of those issues hangs over the story in SECOND CHANCE SUMMER as well. But as well done as that all was (and it WAS AWESOME), it wasn’t what resonated with me the most. It wasn’t what made me cry. It wasn’t the part that I’m still–a week later–having a hard time thinking about without having FEELINGS. Because basically, Taylor and her family are slowly watching their father and husband die. And Morgan Matson makes that both sad and special at the same time.
Because as incredibly well-drawn all of the characters are in SECOND CHANCE SUMMER, I had a particular soft spot for Taylor’s dad, Rob. Somehow, in my mind, he reminded me of my own dad, and I saw some similarities between our relationship and it just KILLED ME, y’all. It was just so…sad. But SECOND CHANCE SUMMER also had its share of sweet things, too. Sweet, special moments between Taylor and her dad, just the two of them, that REALLY got to me. So even when things take exactly the turn that I knew they would, I was both devastated and a little glad for Taylor, because she had those moments.
I know that I said this book wasn’t so much about the romance, but don’t get all frowny-face on me. It’s there. (THANKFULLY. I can’t even DEAL with how heartbroken I would have been without a little rekindled childhood romance to lighten things up a bit.) Henry is adorable and quiet and supportive and also WORKS IN A BAKERY and BRINGS TAYLOR BAKED GOODS. I mean, honestly. There was one scene where Taylor–who was great, by the way. Maybe a little standoffish, even as a character, but VERY empathetic, I thought–is helping him frost cupcakes (ALAS, not a euphemism) and she keeps sneaking little tastes. I was like, “PSH. I’d have that WHOLE THING polished off ASAP.” But their relationship takes time and hard work and is not the focus of SECOND CHANCE SUMMER. Which was actually pretty nice. It was perfect that way, to me. Because it let the spotlight shine on Taylor and her dad, and Henry was left to be an ACE boyfriend, a job he did well.
Guys, I’ve been welling up a little bit while writing this review, so before I LOSE IT, let me wrap things up. SECOND CHANCE SUMMER by Morgan Matson was amazing. It was heartfelt and lovely and sad. I couldn’t put it down, and I didn’t want it to end, because I knew what would be coming when it did. I wanted the summer to just keep going forever so that Taylor and her family could always have this time together. BAH! THE SADZ! Morgan Matson was officially on my “must read” list BEFORE I read SECOND CHANCE SUMMER, and she’s only solidified her spot with this one, guys. If you don’t read many contemporaries, please check this one out (and AMY & ROGER’S EPIC DETOUR, too, while you’re at it). It’s wonderful.