Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Published: May 7, 2013 (paperback)
Genre: young adult
Taylor Edwards has a tendency to run away when things get tough. But when her father is diagnosed with stage four cancer, Taylor knows this is one situation she can’t outrun.
To have one last summer together, Taylor’s parents decide to take the family back to their old lake house in the Poconos. Even though Taylor was twelve the last time she went to Lake Phoenix, the people she left behind are still there — like her former best friend Lucy, who’s still hurting from a long-ago betrayal, and her first crush Henry, who’s gotten five years cuter.
With nights full of fireflies and fireworks, the summer holds the possibility of forgiveness, and maybe even love. Taylor wants to hold on to the moment instead of walking away, but she knows the end of the summer is getting closer — and that time is running out to make the most of her second chance.
Taylor is good at running away. Her brother’s a genius and her sister’s a talented dancer, and even though Taylor feels like the forgotten middle child with no extraordinary abilities, she knows she’s good at running away when things become too difficult. But she can’t do that now, with her father diagnosed with terminal cancer. The Edwards decide to spend one last summer at their lake house, and while Taylor is nervous facing old friend and new coworker Lucy, and tongue-tied around old crush and new neighbor Henry, she will do anything to make her father happy and proud. Morning breakfasts and life questions, star-gazing, movies on the beach, ice cream runs and bike rides — these are the things that number the days as Taylor works hard on second chances.
The first slip I pulled from my TBR jar was this book, and I’m so glad it was!
I’ve heard wonderful things about Matson’s work. My first experience with Matson’s writing was actually through her other pen name, Katie Finn, and the premise of the two books seemed too familiar and I was beginning to worry (same pizza preference, weird situation with friends from several years ago, lake house, etc). But I shouldn’t have. This book is miles away from what I expected.
Second Chance Summer is about self-discovery, overcoming fears, facing reality even in the darkest times, and embracing the happy moments fully. Taylor grows from a scared, insecure teen into a determined young woman. Not only did she work extra hard to quit running away when facing the inevitable, she strived to make amends with Lucy and Henry — who, quite honestly, were very understanding and wonderful characters. Though Lucy and Taylor have changed a lot in the last five years apart, the root of their friendship was very tangible, making it easier to reconcile the past. Henry, too, was a reassuring presence for Taylor, the basis of their relationship built on those years of separation and growth. From shifts at the snack bar to fireworks on the docks, you watch Taylor slowly piece together who she is and what she wants to be.
But as great of a summer with friends can be, Taylor is never completely unaware of her father’s deterioration. With each passing week — and soon, each passing day — Taylor learns about the man behind the booming lawyer voice and silly puns, and tries to not notice his weight loss, his wincing, his skin. They share ice cream runs after picking up corn and black licorice from the grocery store; a stray dog, with Taylor’s help, becomes his constant companion; they swap placemat questions at a breakfast diner; they laugh at deadpan humor; they share music tastes and watch favorite movies. Every moment was laced with happiness, longing, and sorrow, and by the end there’s no point in wiping the tears from your face because they’ll keep coming anyway.
Second Chance Summer is deep and powerful in a very understated way. It’s a beautiful and light summer story mixed with the reality of the mortality and inevitability of life. Very few YA books can create such strong, conflicting emotions and weave them seamlessly throughout. For naysayers out there who claim YA is filled with garbage, hand them this book. Sometimes, YA is more than any adult fiction could be.
Last but not least: Murphy, adorkable love-struck Warren, the slumber party scene, and Casablanca.