Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Book Review: Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson

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.


Aching but beautiful, Second Chance Summer has a strong family component to it that shines, while still being heavily focused on Taylor and her story. Stunningly written, with an easy voice to fall into, but unafraid to pull punches and holding a high emotional intensity, this one has a rawness to it that will keep readers engaged. With a well rounded and close knit cast of characters, and a vivid setting that has a strong presence without being overbearing, Second Chance Summer is everything a contemporary read should be.

Taylor is a great character, one who has some big flaws that show early on, yet she also has an inner strength that pushes her forward. Though annoyed at her siblings at times, it’s clear how much she loves them, even if there is a constant distance between them. Having made a pretty big mistake in the past that put a rift not only between her and her former best friend, but also the first boy she ever kissed and cared for, now being back at the lake house where it happened puts a clear strain on her. Mixed in with her father’s newly diagnosed cancer and his poor prognosis, there is plenty of drama waiting to happen and yet, despite all that, everything is smoothly woven together it never feels like it’s too much or forced. With a stunningly captured character development, Taylor is the kind of girl who is easy to relate to, and one that readers will want to root for. Having a rocky emotional path to navigate, there is a poignant realism to Taylor that sets this story apart.

Lucy is a firecracker of a character, the kind of girl who goes quickly through boys and yet has a quiet vulnerability to her as well. Though she can certainly hold a grudge, she’s also the kind of girl that can get over things when it’s really important, and the ways she tests Taylor add to the story as well as their characters. Then there’s Henry, a boy who is holding a heaviness to his heart that will make readers ache, even as they sympathize with him over everything that’s happened. Incredibly caring, and a great listener, Henry is a boy that will make readers melt and capture their hearts right alongside Taylor’s. With a strong character arc of his own, and having a big part in some of the most emotional and painful scenes in the book, Henry is an easily memorable character.

Taylor’s parents have a strong and constant presence, and her family is stunning in its realism. Though they certainly have their battles and problems, her family has a strength that shines as well. Often not talking about what their facing in regards to the father, and having an emotional wall between them all, there is an undercurrent of electricity that builds steadily before finally exploding. While both parents clearly love their children, the vast differences in each child poses its own set of challenges, and Matson doesn’t shy away from portraying each. The relationship between Taylor and her father, already strong at the start of the book, grows even more, allowing for scenes both sweet and amusing.

Beautifully written, holding a hefty emotional atmosphere that still allows for plenty of humor and quiet jokes, Matson’s talent is perfectly showcased throughout the story. With a strong internal component to it, and plenty of pages passing with readers just inside Taylor’s head, yet never feeling dull or lagging, Second Chance Summer is arresting and potent. Smoothly paced and perfectly plotted, and with an ending that is fitting for the book and characters, Second Chance Summer cannot be more highly recommended.

Source: TLA 
Reading level: Ages 12 and up 
Hardcover: 480 pages 
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
Publication Date: May 8, 2012


  1. This sounds like a great! Can't wait to dig into it this summer! :)

  2. I've been waiting for this one for so, so long. I loved Amy & Roger's Epic Detour & cant wait to dive into SCS.