Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson

Published May 7, 2012 by Simon & Schuster's Children Publishing
Paperback, 468 pages
Borrowed from library

When Taylor's father is diagnosed with cancer, her whole world turns upside down. With four months left to live, Taylor's dad decides that the family will go back to their old summer home in the Poconos and enjoy one last summer all together. 

After a string of disappointing novels recently, I'm glad for Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson. I was eager to get my hands on this after loving Matson's debut, Amy and Roger's Epic Detour and reading countless rave reviews. And now, having finished the book, I am happy to say that this book did not disappoint! 

One of the best parts about this book were the characters. I'm a very character-driven reader and to have good characters in a book really elevates the entire thing for me. And you know what? I loved EVERYONE in this book. Even the grandfather! I'm having a hard time pin-pointing why they worked so well for me because really, it was a multitude of factors that came together and blended into one wonderful concoction. The way Matson wrote in an almost intimate way really helped me to connect and gain a strong understanding of where each character stood and that was very impressive. Taylor's development was another key point in this book and I also thought it was splendidly done. 

To be honest though, there was a lot more romance in this book than I would have wanted. I am actually a huge fan of romance but I feel there's a time and place for it. And while I have no reservations against it being in this book - in fact, it was welcome because Henry was such a great love interest - sometimes, it just felt like the romance was the center of this book and not the family. It's obvious Taylor and Henry had a very strong chemistry and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing it bloom. I just wish that Matson would have integrated the romance more smoothly into the book and not at the expense of the family development. After all, that is what this book is supposed to be about, right? Instead, I found myself flipping page after page of sexual tension between Henry and Taylor and Taylor trying to sort out her feelings. While I can't deny that I squealed for the majority of those pages, in retrospect, less romance would have been better.

I also thought the whole debacle between Taylor and her ex-best friend, Lucy and ex-boyfriend, Henry was rather lame, I guess. I mean, Matson had been building up to this moment that would explain why Henry and Lucy were so hostile to Taylor when she returned to the Poconos and it seemed so dramatic and grand and shocking. When we found out what happened though, it was all quite anticlimatic - not nearly enough to explain why Henry and Lucy were holding a five-year grudge against Taylor. And the proof of that is in the story itself. For people who supposedly 'hated' Taylor, they certainly got over that fact rather quickly and for me, that in itself is indication at how juvenile the whole thing was. 

And though I hate to pick on such a tiny detail, it really bugged me that Lucy's presence in the Poconos was never explained. As Henry so kindly pointed out to us in the book, so many things can change in the span of five years. It makes sense that Lucy might leave the Poconos in five years and while it's totally acceptable that she had remained, the fact is that her appearance is rather out of nowhere. I do recall Taylor making a note of how the sign the Marinos, Lucy's family, put up on their front lawn was no longer there. As long as they were in that same house, I see no reason why they would take it down. So how exactly was Lucy at the Poconos? This lack of explanation really highlighted how very conveniently Lucy ended up working exactly where Taylor would and while I suppose it was necessary that Lucy and Taylor meet somehow, maybe it could have been less obviously. 

But I have to say that the ending blew me away and really increased the overall rating for this book. After so much dilly dallying with the romance between Henry and Taylor, I finally got what I wanted from this book and it was magnificent. Everything was written in heartbreaking detail and as someone who doesn't cry during books, I admit that the ending encouraged a few tears to drip from eyes. It really touched a very personal, very emotional place for me and my only criticism is that I wish the emotion wasn't all rushed in at the end. 

While I did expect more from Second Chance Summer, overall, I really enjoyed it. I zoomed through this book in two days. The writing is very fluid and the characters are great. Though I did want less of Henry and Taylor's romance, I have to say it was very well done. The ending was AMAZING and is the main reason why this book gets four stars. I only wish that the emotion had come through earlier in the book as well. And because comparison is inevitable, I have to mention that while Amy and Roger's Epic Detour was a more solid read, Second Chance Summer brought more emotion and depth. 

romance seekers and fans of Sarah Dessen. Also for people who enjoy (mostly) light and fast reads. If you're known to cry while reading books, you may want to avoid reading the ending in a public space without tissues.

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