Friday, June 22

Review: Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson

A few years back, Ames read Amy & Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson and loved it so much that I had to pick up this book :) It turns out that I really enjoyed it too and I can confidently say it's one of the best YA contemporary I've read. Ever since then, we've both been really looking forward to Ms Matson's next release... and it finally came out in May of this year! Yay! So here are our thoughts on Second Chance Summer :)

Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson
published by Simon & Schuster in May 2012
Taylor Edwards’ family might not be the closest-knit—everyone is a little too busy and overscheduled—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.
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Series: None

Ames: I was really looking forward to Morgan’s sophomore effort. A lot. Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour was epic and I usually try to go into books without any expectations but I couldn’t help it this time. I really wish I hadn’t had any expectations because Second Chance Summer was a bit of a disappointment for me.

Nath: Well I think it had to do with the subject matter that Ms Maston decided to explore... I think she tried to make it a balanced book, but in my opinion, it was always going to be about Taylor’s father and the journey the family was about to undertake. As a result, it really overshadowed whatever development there could be of Taylor.

Ames: I think if there had been more about the family and less about the drama surrounding her past summers, I would not have been disappointed. The family stuff was meaty enough. But I felt like all the teenage angst and drama detracted from the story. Taylor, to me, did not come across as a good character in that part of the story. She was stuck as a 12 year old (it felt like) and I wanted to tell her to get over it already, grow a pair. So I was less interested in her friendships and love life and definitely more invested in her father’s health.

Nath: I agree with you, Ames. I was not interested in the teenage angst and drama... especially since it happened to 12 year old kids and well, everything seems so much bigger, more dramatic at that age. I know you were very frustrated with Taylor’s character and as a heroine, I too do feel she did not shine. Seriously, nobody likes a heroine who’s a coward and runs from her problems ^_^;

What I thought was interesting though is that Ms Matson chose to feature such a character as a heroine. I think it took guts and overall, it did work with the story. In this case, no matter where Taylor wanted to run, she did not have a choice than to confront the truth... even though she wanted to avoid it. And so she learns and I think it will make her much stronger. It was nice to see a different kind of heroine and probably one that is more realistic...

Also, Second Chance Summer shows that no matter how wrong things are, real life still continues and still has drama. I liked that their lives did not stop, did not get suspend... Taylor reconnected with her friends, Gelsey made a new friend and Warren fell in love. I think this is a good message that Ms Matson is trying to convey. Obviously, Second Chance Summer was a very sad book, but it’s not all bleak and depressing. There is light at the end :)

While I did like that real life continued, I didn’t care much when Taylor broke up with Henry. I know she had a lot on her plate and from that standpoint, it can make sense... but I wanted to shake her so badly. There you have the guy whom you’ve pined for for years and he’s perfect! And instead of having his support, you drive him away. She’s lucky that Henry was so understanding ^_^;

Ames: That’s a good point about how life goes on. It does go on. And part of it that rung true for me was the guilt that Taylor felt over the good things happening to her (Henry basically) while her father got worse and worse.

I hated that Taylor broke up with Henry. I honestly almost stopped reading it right there. I cannot get past how much she frustrated me. And for Henry to just be like “Hey, it’s ok, I understand” when she realizes she was a dumb ass? GRRRRR. I mean, it shows he’s a nice guy, but she’s going to walk all over him and he’s going to take her back everytime. I felt like the growth in her character came too little too late. Would she have thought about going back to Henry if her father hadn’t told her to?

Also, I know 12 year olds make stupid mistakes, but the whole set up between Taylor, her best friend Lucy and Henry from that summer just did not make ANY sense. If Taylor told Lucy how she felt towards Henry, Lucy probably would have backed off. Taylor should have stood up for herself, she wanted to avoid losing her friend but that’s what happened anyway. And I hated how the whole thing was teased about until we’re finally told what happened halfway through the book. I mean, I could see that scenario coming a mile away, very predictable.

And that’s my overall problem with Second Chance Summer. It was predictable.

Nath: Well the thing is, from the start, Second Chance Summer was never going to be an unpredictable book. Not with the storyline Ms Matson went for. Taylor’s father having pancreatic cancer, that’s unfortunately a death sentence T_T There was was never going to be any miracle cure to change the outcome. And that’s not fiction, it’s real life. I recently had a talk about pancreatic cancer and when you look at the prognostic and survival rates, it’s abysmal! :( So to me, the fact that Taylor’s storyline with Lucy and Henry was also predictable, well that didn’t bother me that much... because I think Ms Matson took the right decision to focus on the emotional journey.

It’s true what you said about what happened between Taylor and Lucy. Had Taylor stood up for herself and told Lucy, none of this would have happened. But when you’re 12 years old, things aren’t as obvious. The way Taylor acted was very immature, but from a 12 years old kid? I guess I can let it go. I do wish there’s been more groveling from Taylor, but she did apologize... and after 5 years, I guess there’s a bit of water under the bridge.

I’m actually not as convinced as you that Henry will take her back if Taylor screws up again. I guess it depends on how she screws up. In this case, it was obvious why she pushed him away and being a mature guy, Henry got it. If you look at the beginning of the book, he was still angry with Taylor. It does seem he let go of his anger easily though... and once again, I feel it has to do with her father’s situation. In the end, I wish Taylor had come back to the lakehouse under different circumstances. I think that would have made this aspect of the book more interesting... but really, that’s wishful thinking ^_^;

What made the book for me and the reason I could overlook all the other flaws was the whole emotional journey involving Taylor’s father. You know how parents are often absent in YA books, well obviously, it wasn’t the case in Second Chance Summer. I enjoyed every scene with her father, but also her family in it... Not only because the writing was good, but because it felt so very real. Every character’s emotions and the dynamics of the Edward family rang true. It wasn’t idealized or made worse for the sake of the story... The parts where the kids were in the father’s way in the first few days, afraid to let him out of their sight and him being exasperated with it. The moment when Taylor asked him if he was afraid... and her father just nodded, but didn’t elaborate. The way they tried to act normally, the moments they realized this might be his “last”... All those scenes were precious and bittersweet.

Ames: Ok, I need to clarify what I meant by predictable - I was referring to Taylor’s relationship drama. In no way am I trying to take away from what happened with her father. I love that aspect of SCS. But the stuff going on with Taylor’s relationships with Lucy and Henry was too much for me and it really detracted from my liking of the book. It took focus away from the emotional stuff going on with her dad.

And yes, it’s understandable that a 12 year old would react immaturely. But I’m saying going back to the lake as a 17 year old, Taylor was still acting 12. That was annoying. I just can’t give Taylor a pass the way you have. LOL

I think the big thing why I don’t like Taylor so much is the way she treated that stray dog. I mean, yeah I can see her chasing it off a first time, but the second time? That’s when you do something...not after the fourth or fifth time. Poor baby. At least her brother, her dad and Henry’s little brother took care of it.

Nath: Ahhhh. LOL, knowing that you were going to read this book, I immediately thought of you when I saw Taylor chasing the dog ^_^; It’s kind of weird because for readers, it was pretty obvious why Murphy kept going back to the door... and I wished the lightbulb would have gone on earlier in Taylor’s mind. Poor doggie indeed, but in the end, he got a good home :)

And I’ll give it to you, at times, Taylor was indeed still acting as a 12 years old. I guess that event really marked her life, she didn’t seem to get beyond that. I’m just happy that in the end, everything was resolved and Taylor and Lucy were friends again.

By the way, I realized we haven’t touched on one big subject of this book: the family. What did you think of it? I really liked that Taylor’s father’s illness brought the family together. I actually liked both Taylor’s siblings a lot and to see them come together, it means something. This closeness, being there for each other at this particular moment, it strengthens their bonds and I’m sure they will have each other’s back in the future. However, I liked that Ms Matson didn’t overdo it. Like they don’t act chummy like friends, but like siblings :)

Ames: I liked that aspect of the book too. Her sister acted age appropriate and I like how her brother was a nerd that sprouted out random facts. Ok, one thing I think that maybe should have been pointed out to Taylor was the thing she was good at. Like her sister was the prima ballerina, her brother was the super smart guy. Taylor’s strength, oddly enough, was human connection. She got her brother to see people in a different way and she acted as a role model for her sister to open up as well. Despite what Taylor did to her friends, she was good for her family that way.

Nath: It’s true, I wished that Taylor hadn’t felt like she was the “medium” one among the three siblings. At the same time, I don’t think Taylor’s strength was obvious nor conscious. I mean, if you read between the lines, it doesn’t seem like Taylor had any good friends at school. Also, I guess they didn’t hang out with Taylor enough to know that side of her. I mean, it’s not as obvious as being a nerd or a good at dancing. Anyway, I just want to add that I liked Taylor’s siblings. They were good secondary characters with surprisingly good depth, but without stealing the show :)

One thing that I found weird though is that they didn’t include Taylor’s grandfather - her father’s father - earlier on this trip. Don’t you think he’d like to spend more time with his son before he died? Which actually bring me to the scene that touched me most in Second Chance Summer... When Taylor’s father takes a turn for the worst and they call the grandfather. That moment where he sees his son sick for the first time - the shock and the sadness, Taylor commenting that her grandfather appeared to age in front of her. It’s so cruel for a parent to see his/her child sick, no matter the age. Just thinking about that scene brings tears to my eyes T_T

What about you, Ames? Is there a scene that really touched you?

Ames: The scenes with Taylor’s dad when they’d go for breakfast. I really liked those. But my ultimate favorite was the part when he told her that he watched her sleep as a baby. That was really touching and the reason why, it choked me up a little bit!

Nath: Nod nod,those were great moments as well and good memories for Taylor :)

I know Second Chance Summer was flawed, but even now, this book simply echoes so much for me. I loved the writing, loved the interactions of the characters and the story. It’s very sad, but at the end of it, I think there’s hope and future... And because Second Chance Summer made me feel so much, I’m going to overlook all the flaws we discussed and give this book an A-.

Ames: I didn’t feel sad either afterwards! I thought it was a good book that dealt with death in a very respectful way that didn’t totally drag you down. Unfortunately, I am docking points for Taylor. LOL Overall, I’m giving Second Chance Summer a B.


Rowena said...

Awww, you didn't like it as much as I did, Ames but that's okay. Taylor was a bit of a douche throughout some of the book but I really enjoyed it anyway. I really liked Henry and I liked seeing Taylor come into her own.

My favorite character (after Henry) was her Dad. Loved him!

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry you guys didn't like it as much :P

And yeah, I can see how the teenage drama can get in the way of the rest of the story. I still want to give it a try :)

nath said...

Rowena - The dad was a great character and definitively what you need in this book Wena! And it was definitively a good book to see Taylor's growth!

Can't wait for Ms Matson's next book. I just hope we won't have to wait too long for it...

Alex - I did Alex!! LOL, A-, doesn't get that much better than this.

Second Chance Summer is definitively worth a go. If you can overlook some flaws,it'll be a winner. Even then, Ames gave it a B which is not bad at all :P

Leslie said...

I'm planning to read this simply because I enjoyed Amy & Roger's so much!

nath said...

Leslie - You won't regret it, Les! It's a great book :P Just have a box of tissues next to you!

Anonymous said...

nice posting.. thanks for sharing.