Review Blog

Jun 05 2012

Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson

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Simon and Schuster, 2012.ISBN: 9781416990673.
(Age: 14+) Highly recommended. Second Chance Summer is Matson's second book. Her first, Amy and Roger's Epic Detour, dealt with serious issues in a mostly light-hearted way. This time she offers a much more serious look at a topic that seems to be trending in YA books this year: the cancer novel.
Much like John Green's lauded novel, The Fault in Our Stars, Second Chance Summer steers away from sentimentality and cliche, and the conclusion is devastating and confronting. However, instead of the teenagers being the victims, in this book it is a parent who is suffering.
The main character, Taylor's father, is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and given a poor prognosis. On the back of this news, the family relocate to their lake house for the summer, a place they have not visited for five years. Returning there is doubly traumatic for Taylor. Clearly she must accept her father's chances, and on top of that, the lake house is where she first fell in love. Henry Crosby of course is now her next door neighbour, and for various reasons it is awkward and confusing for both of them.
Matson doesn't rush this story. She doesn't skimp on details. While the family crisis is dealt with in the present, Taylor's personal dramas are provided through flashback as readers are slowly given the reasons for the awkwardness between her and Henry. While these are fairly predictable and minor, it is easy to understand why Taylor behaved as she did. And their journey back to each other is believable and enjoyable.
Dad's story, however, provides much of the heart of the novel. He wants this chance to reconnect with his children, and there are some very moving scenes as he tries to leave his family without too much sadness and trauma. These serious issues-based YA novels are always well received by mature readers, especially girls seeking something akin to the books of Jodie Piccoult. Themes include grief and loss, family relationships, death and dying, and friendship and romance.
Trish Buckley

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