posted at Wednesday, March 29th, 2017 at 8:00 AM | Reviews, Young Adult
Published by Simon & Schuster BFYR on May 7, 2013
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
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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.
Another book marked off of my personal little Author Backlist Challenge. I’d actually been dreading Second Chance Summer a little bit, because this one’s so very much most people’s least favorite Matson novel. Also, it’s sad. I started with Since You’ve Been Gone and The Unexpected Everything, which are glorious and generally fluffy, so I wasn’t exactly stoked to open up Second Chance Summer and see the epigraph was Death Cab for Cutie’s lyric “Love is watching someone die.” Second Chance Summer is every bit as sad as everyone said it was (or more), but it does have the strong character relationships that make Matson’s fictions such treasures.
Though I did end up loving Second Chance Summer, it’s the book of Matson’s that I’ll be rereading the least, and it’s getting a 4.5 only because of the intense feels. That’s the same rating as The Unexpected Everything, but I loved that one way more; the ratings are made up and the points don’t matter.
I consistently enjoyed Second Chance Summer, and it was always a well-written book with a nice voice, but I didn’t get sucked into the story until about the halfway point. Taylor doesn’t have the most engaging voice in the world, though as I said I still like it, and she’s a bit boring left to her own devices. In some ways, I feel like I know a lot more about the supporting case than I do about the main character. Taylor defines herself by all the things she’s not good at and doesn’t do, comparing herself negatively to the people around her, so I’m left not really sure what Taylor actually does like to do. Certainly there are pluses to that, because a lot of teens (and, um, adults) are searching for what makes them special and could relate to Taylor’s feelings of disconnection and un-specialness (yes, this is a word, shut up), but she’ll never be my favorite heroine.
The slow pace of the book has a lot to do with the fact that Taylor spends that part of the book mostly alone, whether or not other people are around her. Taylor’s biggest bit of character development is that she runs away from anything painful if she can, as she’s doing assiduously this summer and she did five summers before. Because of this, Taylor’s not really talking to anyone in her family because she’ trying to ignore the truth and she doesn’t seem to have any real friends at home to talk to and she’s estranged from her lake friends. Once Taylor begins to open up and interact, the story takes off, because the strongest elements are the relationships between the characters.
Shortly before the book opens, Taylor’s dad was diagnosed with cancer, already too far progressed for any sort of treatment, and given just three months to live. Taylor’s family travels to their lake house in the Poconos for one last summer, their dad’s last summer. Taylor doesn’t want to have to face her former friends at the lake or her dad’s impending demise, and Second Chance Summer is obviously all about Taylor finding the strength to do those things.
Structurally, my one quibble with Second Chance Summer is that the drama between Taylor, Lucy, and Henry is held back as a mystery of sorts, and it really didn’t add any tension to the story. More than anything, I was annoyed at having that held back when so obviously that mystery wasn’t actually a part of the larger plot. However, this part of the book is otherwise really solid. Taylor and Lucy rebuilding a friendship is sweet, and, once they talk, they fall back into it naturally without a big scene because they were twelve. I also love how little it’s about Henry.
Henry’s an adorable nerd boy, and I perked up every single time he showed up in the book. I feel a bit bad for him, because Taylor treats him sort of predictably like shit, but the book’s about her working through her shit, and he did know what he’d signed on for. Taylor’s one of those characters who begins to shine when she’s around funny, bantery people, so whenever Henry’s in a scene, everything gets much lighter. They have an adorable summer romance, and I am very pro this ship.
Obviously center stage is Taylor’s relationship with her Dad and the rest of the family. It’s by turns funny and sweet and fucking heart-wrenching. Taylor really gets to know her dad in a way she never had before, because he’d always been so busy with his law career. Rob’s such a great dad, and I love all of his puns and how he’s sharing all of his favorite things with them before he goes and the story about how he would add legal asides to fairy tales when he read to the kids when they were young. I tried really hard not to cry, but I failed to a massive degree, ending up ugly sobbing at 8 am before I had to go to work. The whole thing is beautifully done, but it’s just awful and sad and how could you Morgan honestly.
I’m stopping here without too much detail because I’m about to start weeping again. Second Chance Summer is the perfect choice if you ever feel like crying so much that you will literally cry your face off and be faceless forever more. (But there are also three cute romances if you brave the pain.) No, seriously, bye bc I’m about to weep.
“The thing is that people only get hurt—really hurt—when they’re trying to play it safe. That’s when people get injured, when they pull back at the last second because they’re scared. They hurt themselves and other people.”
Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy: