Author: Morgan Matson
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing
Publish Date: May 8th, 2012
Genres: Romance, Young Adult
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.
I intentionally saved Second Chance Summer until the week before school started, hoping it would allow me to hang on to some shreds of summer in the face of the steadily approaching school year. While I wouldn’t peg it as entirely disappointing, it certainly fell below my expectations, featuring quite a few clichés and a frustrating plot…and sounding very much like a Sarah Dessen novel. It certainly didn’t leave much of a lasting impression.
One of my main gripes with respect to the plot was that I struggled to understand Taylor’s driving concern about her relationship with Henry when she was twelve. Twelve. She incessantly fawned over her preteen crush, completely overlooking her dying father in favor of her own selfish concerns and “hardships.” As a story that was intended to address familial relationships, particularly in light of her father’s illness, there were almost zero family interactions, which seemed rather contradictory. There was no real family bonding until the final week of the summer, at which point there were 20 pages remaining in the book.
There was minimal character development throughout the novel. The protagonist, Taylor, started as a wishy-washy, anxious mess, and at the conclusion of the novel, she was an equally wishy-washy, anxious mess, if not even more so. She has a tendency to run away from her problems rather than facing them head on, and she continues to gripe about this personality fault for the majority of the novel without addressing how she can alter her behavior. But suddenly, entirely out of the blue, Taylor is magically able to plant her feet and stop running in the opposite direction without the merest hint of an internal struggle, which seemed so out-of-place that I found it challenging to accept. Moreover, Taylor came across as a whiny toddler for the majority of the book, complaining about this and that, but waiting for someone else to do something about it, particularly when it came to reconnecting with her childhood friends. All I have to say is “Grow up.”
For a book that came across as a constant stream of romance and fluffy love scenes based upon its summary, it was severely lacking in that department. Any romantic interactions came across as forced and awkward, almost as if the characters were a decade younger and “playing” boyfriend and girlfriend during kindergarten recess – even holding hands was a cause for embarrassment (insert dramatic eye roll). Just wait until we get to making eye contact or hugging – very scandalous, I know.
Second Chance Summer was a quick read, and although the plot tended to drag and the characters were less than desirable, it had a cute premise – I just wish it had been further developed. It had quite a bit of promise, but it seemed to fall pretty short. There were pages and pages that recounted absolutely nothing that was relevant to the plot, and I tended to quickly skim these sections. There was no true inciting action or climax, so I felt like I was watching a very dull soap opera while reading, which isn’t the best of feelings to be left with. On the other hand, the ending was likely the most memorable and my personal favorite part of the book (though you may want some tissues nearby before you tackle it!), and it served to tie up many, if not all, of the loose ends. After all, who doesn’t like a nice decisive ending?