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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

YA Book Club Chat: Second Chance Summer

There’s a reason I kept avoiding Morgan Matson’s Second Chance Summer: Cancer. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not opposed to cancer books. I believe my love for The Fault in Our Stars proves that. But guys, I am a crier. No, that’s not right. When it comes to books, I’m a CRIER. It deserves caps.

I knew this book would be sad, regardless of what happened to her dad in the end. The act of reconciling with a dying parent is SAD. (Also requiring all caps.) But I’m so glad two of you begged for this as our August book because I absolutely loved it.

Yeah, it’s sad. Yeah, it made me cry.

But what I loved so much about the book was this sense of hopefulness I felt. Taylor spends her summer reconnecting with the people in her life: her dying father, the brother and sister she was never close to, the mother she felt never loved her enough, the friend and first boyfriend who hate her. This is a book about family and friendships and the ways those relationships linger even when you think they’re gone. Even when you imagine they don’t exist.

I’m a sucker for romance, and the idea of Taylor rekindling love she experienced at 12 was one of the things I most looked forward to before I began reading. The romance was slow building and sweet and every bit as perfect as it should have been. (There’s a scene with a torrential downpour and a tree house that gave me a giant grin.) Surprisingly, though, romance wasn’t my favorite aspect of the book.

What I most loved were those little moments Taylor shared with the people in her life—the breakfasts with her dad, the dockside moments with Henry, the kids’ sleepover with Lucy. All of these little bits made my heart ache and swell at the same time, and if you don’t know what I mean by that then you really ought to read this book.

(Oh there I go again, tearing up. Do not think about the Q&A breakfasts. Do not remember the afternoon listening to music. And dear Lord, don’t you think about stargazing!)

The plot is engaging, but Second Chance Summer is really about the characters, and I loved each and every one of them. Also, if you’ve read Amy and Rodger’s Epic Detour you know how adept Matson is at world-building. I feel as if I’ve taken a trip to a lakeside house in the Poconos, and at the same time I feel like I just revisited memories of my family’s summer vacations on Cape Cod: the traditions, the unloading of goods into a rental home, the ice cream shops, and the feeling of freedom even when you’re cooped up in a small house with the rest of your family.

It was the perfect bittersweet book to end summer, leaving behind a trace of nostalgia.

Check back Thursday for a fun Q&A with Morgan Matson, when she dishes about her writing methods, Second Chance Summer, and her favorite summertime reads!

UPDATE: Check out my Q&A with Second Chance Summer author Morgan Matson!

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