YA Book Club :: SECOND CHANCE SUMMER


{YA Book Club is the brainchild of writer/blogger Tracey Neithercott.
For guidelines and additional info, click the image above.}

August’s YA Book Club selection is
Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson

From Goodreads – Taylor Edwards’ family might not be the closest-knit, 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.

Okay, okay… I admit it. With the help of fellow book-clubber Jaime Morrow, I pressured and harassed and threatened YA Book Club organizer Tracey Neithercott until she folded and agreed to invoke Supreme Overlord status where this month’s selection was concerned. I’ve been wanting to read Second Chance Summer for ages (just look at that pretty cover!), and it felt like the perfect end-of-summer novel to discuss with some of my favorite book-loving friends. Thanks for making such a fantastic choice, Trace! 😉

(A few light spoilers to follow, though not much more than what’s revealed in the story’s synopsis.)

As I mentioned in a recent What’s Up Wednesday post, Second Chance Summer was a tough story to get through. The inevitableness of a tragic event is made clear early on — main character Taylor’s father, who she’s close to, is diagnosed with cancer and given only a few months to live — and the entire book is a journey to a heartbreaking conclusion. As a reader, you’re not really given the opportunity to create false expectations, and neither is Taylor. Her father is going to die, soon, and the emotions that come with that knowledge are intense. Like Taylor, I felt panicky and helpless and sorrowful. My heart hurt for her each and every time she had an interaction with her quickly-deteriorating father. As much as the Edwards family tried to put on a brave and positive front, their grief was evident in every conversation, and in every shared memory.

Yet, I think there’s an undeniable undertone of hopefulness in Second Chance Summer, which keeps the story from becoming unbearably sad. That hopefulness comes in part from Taylor’s ever-transforming relationships with her siblings, Warren and Gelsey (there’s a reason for her weird name). I loved watching Taylor learn to appreciate her odd and exceptionally intelligent brother and coddled ballerina-in-training sister. It was fascinating to see how all three siblings dealt with the impending loss of their father in different ways, and how they learned to lean on each other (and their mother) when times were particularly tough. It was interesting, too, to see how Warren, Taylor, and Gelsey each fostered a unique bond with their dad, and came to cope with the idea of a future without him in their own individual ways.

As well as prompting her to develop her sibling relationships, Taylor’s father’s illness also motivates her to assess the friendships that are important to her, which is where longtime Pocono companions Lucy (sassy and bold) and Henry (sensitive and adorable) come into play. From early on, I was rooting for Taylor to take advantage of her “second chance” to make things right with the friends she unwittingly wronged years before. Lucy and Henry are two of my favorite characters, but the entire supporting cast of this novel is fantastic, and plays a huge role in Taylor’s growth. I found all of them to be incredibly well-drawn.

Speaking of Taylor, she is a main character I had no problem relating to. She’s the self-described unremarkable middle child, and she has a habit of bottling up her emotions and taking off when things get hard. She’s pretty terrible when it comes to conflict, and she has moments of selfishness and uncertainty and awkwardness that feel very authentic to her age and circumstances. That said, she’s stronger and more empathetic than she gives herself credit for. She goes out of her way to do considerate things for others — setting Warren up on a date, helping Gelsey improve her sleepover, buying licorice for her dad (*sniffle*) — that show her compassionate side, and make her a truly likable character. For me, it was Taylor’s relatability that made it especially difficult to watch her experience loss.

Overall, I think Second Chance Summer is a moving and genuine story about about family and friendship, and taking advantage of every moment you have with those you love. Morgan Matson writes beautifully, with rich descriptions and evocatively described emotions, but without a lot of fluff. I found her style similar to Sarah Dessen’s, so if you’re a fan of the Queen of Contemporary YA, definitely give Morgan Matson’s books a go. And, if you’re looking to fit in a fabulous summer-set read before autumn arrives in full, I encourage you to pick up Second Chance Summer.

What did you think of this month’s YA Book Club selection?
Any summery YA reads to recommend?
(Book Clubbers: Don’t forget to drop by Tracey’s blog to add your link!)

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20 responses to “YA Book Club :: SECOND CHANCE SUMMER

  1. Yes – to all of this. And the one thing I neglected to write into my way too long review is the feeling of hopefulness that runs through the story. It is remarkably sad – what happens to their father – but also an incredible story about hope in the midst of tragedy. And this: “Overall, I think Second Chance Summer is a moving and genuine story about about family and friendship, and taking advantage of every moment you have with those you love.” AGREED.

    Beautiful review, Katy! I LOVED this book!

    • Thanks, Alison! It seems like the general Book Club consensus is that this story’s a definite Must Read. I really enjoyed it — even though it made my heart hurt!

  2. “Genuine” is the perfect word to describe this book. I loved how relatable the characters were, and how realistic their arcs were. I was worried that this book would make me terribly sad, but it was a hopeful read. Thank you so much for working to make it the book-club read!

    • My pleasure! It seems like most of the Book Clubbers who read this one really enjoyed it, which makes me happy! And yes, this story’s characters were my favorite aspect of it. Everyone felt so real and relatable, which is what I look for in a great read.

  3. “For me, it was Taylor’s relatability that made it especially difficult to watch her experience loss.” I so agree! This is a fantastic review, Katy. You’ve summed up so eloquently how I felt about the book. Both you and Tracey touched on the thread of hopefulness, which I (like Alison) forgot to mention. So, so true. This was a tough read for me, but so beautiful and so worth it. I’m glad we successfully twisted Tracey’s arm on this one. 🙂

    • Me too, Jaime!

      I think this story’s hopefulness was one of its most impressive aspects, and one that kept me flipping pages late into the night. I don’t think I’d be able to read or appreciate a book with themes of grief and loss unless there was something heartening about it, too. SECOND CHANCE SUMMER combined sadness and joy so well.

  4. I find it interesting that you found Taylor’s relatability the aspect of the story that drew you in the most. I had the opposite experience. I loved the dad and the sibiling dimamics and I liked Henry, Lucy and the other town characters. But I found Taylor’s instinct to constantly flee and lie so unrelatable that I had a hard time fully connecting with what should have been a fabulous story. I still liked it, but I didn’t love it, and Taylor is the reason. I guess that just goes to show how different all readers are.

    • That is interesting, Kate… I think I was able to relate to Taylor because we share some of the same flaws. I, too, am terrible with conflict and strong emotions, and have the instinct to flee anytime I’m in what feels like an uncomfortable situation. Seeing those personality imperfections reflected in Taylor really helped me to connect with her. That said, I did love the sibling/father/friend dynamics too. For me, this story was all about the fantastic characters. 🙂

  5. Taylor buying her dad licorice really got to me, and so did Henry baking him treats. They were such small gestures, but they really showed the helpless feeling of everyone who cared about him.

    “I loved watching Taylor learn to appreciate her odd and exceptionally intelligent brother…”

    Me too! A lot of his personality reminded me of my own wonderfully odd and crazy smart older brother.

    • I ended up really liking Warren, though at the beginning of the story, I thought he’d annoy me. I think that speaks to how wonderfully Morgan Matson crafted her characters; even those with quirky personalities and annoying habits were inherently likeable.

      The licorice and the bakery goods… *sniffle*

  6. I loved everything about this book and agree with many of the things you mentioned. I could relate to Taylor and her family. I also loved the characters and seeing how their relationships developed. Even though it was sad, I really enjoyed it. I’m glad you pushed for it to be chosen this month! I have held off on reading it for awhile because I knew it would be sad. I also thought of Sarah Dessen’s books when I was reading it. I never had a fun summer spent at the beach, so it’s fun for me to read about them.

    • It is fun to read about summers spent on the beach! Have you read NANTUCKET BLUE yet, Zanne? That’s a great summery beach read with a slightly Sarah Dessen vibe. Check it out if you haven’t already!

  7. This sounds so sad but hopeful. Totally up my alley. I’m not sure why this isn’t on my TBR list, but it will be now. What a fantastic review, Katy. I’m pretty sure I’d read any book you recommended.

  8. I agree with everything you said. There is so much to love in this book. And I too thought the overall feeling was hopeful, which is a remarkable thing considering the plot. I also loved the sibling dynamics. Each had such distinct personalities and arcs—especially her brother—and the way they build relationships out of almost nothing was one of my favorite things.

    • You’re right, Trace. The sibling relationships really did grow out of nothing. Warren, Taylor, and Gelsey were essentially strangers at the beginning of the story. It’s so impressive that Morgan Matson created relationships of such believable depth in such a short span of time.

  9. This story is sad and powerful and the relationships between the characters are genuine and true.I agree with you too on the underlying hopefulness despite the grief. And I´m so glad Taylor took the leap and used her second chance.

  10. Such a great review, Katy, of a great book. I definitely related to Taylor and her tendency to keep everything bottled up, and I loved the way she grew over the course of the book. Definitely a summer favourite for years to come 🙂

    • Thanks, Rebecca! I loved Taylor’s growth as well. I think that’s where a lot of this story’s hopefulness comes from — even in the face of loss and grief, the main character manages to become a better, more complete person. Awesome.