{YA Book Club is the brainchild of writer/blogger Tracey Neithercott.
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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!)