May 23, 2012

Review: Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson

for a Second Chance Summer playlist go here
“You are the child of my heart, and I know you’ll make me proud. You already have, every day, just by being yourself.”
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.

I heart this book so bad. Seriously. I want to hug it. I want to hug Morgan Matson for writing it and I want to hug all the characters in this wonderful story. The book is Second Chance Summer by the aforementioned Ms. Matson, her sophomore novel after her lovely lovely Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour, a fun book with so much heart about a road trip and finding yourself during the journey. Second Chance Summer is fun in a lot of ways also, what’s not fun about spending the summer in the Poconos? Even the name of the places sounds fun, Poconos - Poke a nose...*boop!* Anyway, the story follows the summer of the Edwards family who hadn’t spent an entire summer together in 5 years, when they were last at their summer home together. Taylor is the middle child in a family of three kids, her older brother, Warren is college-bound in the fall, her younger sister, Gelsey is a 12 year old ballerina in training and then there’s 17 year old Taylor who likes to run away when things get hard. And talk about having a hard summer, she returns to the Poconos after an incident five years ago that traumatized her and left a trail of dust behind her summer romance and her best friend, who had not heard from Taylor all this time. But at the forefront of the story is the reason the Edwards family is spending the summer together, this is Taylor’s dad’s last summer. Having just been recently diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer, the doctors gave Rob Edwards only a few months to live.

So we follow Taylor and her family to their vacation home where they not only learn to deal with their emotional journey with Rob as he slowly deteriorates from the wrath of this disease but Taylor has to deal with the fallout of events that took place five years ago that left the two people closest to her none too happy to see her return.

It’s a summer read, for sure, but is it a kissing book? Well, there IS kissing in it, I’ll tell you that much. And what’s a summer read without a bit of romance thrown in? Although the romance isn’t the point of this book, it sure is a nice distraction from the emotional toll this story takes you on. Taylor is a conflicted young lady who, at the beginning of the novel, has NO IDEA how to deal with anything remotely difficult. You get the sense she runs away from a lot of her problems and even though you kind of figure out she will learn how to deal by the end of the book, you understand that the destination is not the important thing here, it’s the journey. Some of my favorite scenes are with Taylor and her dad, Rob. The times they had breakfast at the diner, the moments where he delivers a particularly groan-worthy pun, those are the moments that really sets this book apart from other YA novels that attempt to tell a heartfelt, funny, yet tragic tale. Morgan Matson nails it in Second Chance Summer. Filled with characters that are well crafted and human, we see a part of ourselves in each one. Our dorkiness in Warren as he prepares for a date, our girly giddiness in finding a new best friend as Gelsey has in Nora, our rebellious nature in Lucy and our kindness and sincerity in Henry.

I will admit, I cried a lot while reading this book. I know that’s really not a surprise seeing as I am just coming off a 6 month hiatus from having a baby (i.e. I’m already an emotional live wire), but more than that, is the way Morgan tells us the story. It’s not really a new story she tells, it’s the WAY she chose to tell us. From Taylor’s point of view and amidst all her other issues she transforms herself from a girl who is unsure about everything to someone who is confident in her future all while losing a beloved parent. Yes, it’s important to know that Taylor made mistakes along the way, some big ones at that, but we also learned the importance of forgiveness and redemption. Taylor’s final moments with her dad were some of the most touching scenes I have ever read and there was hardly any dialog involved. The knowing looks and the small touches were enough to convey more than any words exchanged between two characters could possibly accomplish.

But I promised you fun, remember? It’s a summer read after all! While reading this book, I simultaneously devoured 4 bags of Skittles (I only separated the colors in one bag, though) and probably drank my weight in Diet Cokes. It was great fun to see Amy Curry have a small cameo (along with a certain hunky University of Colorado student) and to see my beloved In-N-Out Burger represented. (Note to Morgan: ALWAYS try to work  IN-N-OUT BURGER into your books- I LOVE THIS) There are also some fun happenings with a cute dog and Warren trying to get a date is hilariously good fun! And there’s kissing and each kissing scene is super swoony and sweet, so there’s your fun in the middle of the death and dying. You’re welcome.

So throw this one in with your summer reading list and be prepared to be emotional. In a really good way.

Morgan Matson has written and published just one other book, the amazingly funny and heartbreakingly good road trip novel, Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour.  If you never listen to any of my advice on books again, you will do good for yourself by reading EVERYTHING Morgan Matson writes. Of this, I am sure of, even after only two novels.

Until the next amazing book I read,
Happy Reading!



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