Book Review: Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson

Posted June 15, 2015 by Stormy in Books / 2 Comments

Second Chance Summer

by Morgan Matson

Second Chance Summer

Original Publication Date: May 8, 2012
Length: 468 pages
Obtained Via: Bought
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

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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.

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I dunno. Second Chance Summer has gotten so much love and there’s definitely some emotion to explore there, but. . . it’s like Matson and I aren’t speaking the same language when it comes to emotion. I appreciate the essence of her books, or at least I want to, but something just continually gets lost in translation. That’s how I felt about Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour, and I felt the same way with Second Chance Summer.

Here’s the thing: Second Chance Summer should have been intensely emotional for me because I had a personal connection with the story. I lost a parent to the *exact* same type of cancer that Taylor’s dad is diagnosed with. I had a lot of parallel experiences, really. There’s this one scene where Taylor reflects about how her dad was diagnosed on her birthday and how it ruined the day, and I had almost the exact same day on my sixteenth birthday. I know what that feels like for sure, and Matson’s portrayal felt authentic in terms of logistic but not in terms of emotional resonance. There was just something missing from that whole scene and indeed the whole storyline for me.

Before I get too far in my review, I will say I enjoyed Second Chance Summer while reading. It didn’t strike a chord with me, but I flew through this book in a surprisingly short amount of time considering it’s rather long for a contemporary. One thing Matson excels at is painting a location and there was definitely a sense of summer-ness that permeated the whole book. It’s a hard sense to describe, but it reminded me of how I always felt about summers when I was growing up, like they were just rife with potential to be something extraordinary.

However, I felt the characters were mostly flat. There were cute moments, like when Taylor and her dad started making a ritual of having coffee together at a diner, but for the most part I just didn’t care about the characters or what they did. I’ve used the term “book-by-the-numbers” before–like when I feel a book has just been done like a paint-by-the-numbers activity–and that’s exactly how I felt about Second Chance Summer. On the outside it looks good, but there’s not enough depth to it. I know that might seem odd when discussing a book that deals with emotional issues, but there was just this huge disconnect there. I felt it both the family relationships and the romantic ones.

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I enjoyed Second Chance Summer while reading, but I think it missed the emotional core it was going for. There were some good and touching moments throughout, but on the whole the book didn’t touch me. In the end I’m glad I read it, but I didn’t find it memorable. 3/5 cupcakes.

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3 Stars

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2 responses to “Book Review: Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson

  1. I’m impressed that you’re able to read books like this, considering your own experiences. (Even I avoid cancer books like the plague, though my close relatives have all survived so far.) *all the hugs*

    I’m curious to know if someone who hasn’t gone through this would find the book very emotional and consider it an authentic representation, of if other people would have the same criticisms.

    • Stormy

      Oh, I do avoid many, many cancer books. But if they’re well-received, I’m more likely to give them a try. And sometimes it works out. A Monster Calls is one of my all-time favorite books because it deals with it all SO WELL(even if it made me tear up in the public library–still not over that, book.)

      I’d be curious! I think grief is one of those things that’s so personal that even though it registered as inauthentic to me, someone else might feel the portrayal is spot-on.

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