|Tracey Neithercott's awesome idea!|
August's YA Book Club pick was one I've been wanting to read for ages, but still hadn't gotten to: Second Chance Summer by the incredibly talented Morgan Matson. If you've read Amy & Roger's Epic Detour, then you know why I was so eager to read this book.
(In the interest of saving space, here's a LINK to the synopsis.)
I've said this before and I'll say it again: Stories featuring characters with cancer are not usually ones I tend to pick up very often. As someone who has experienced this in my own family, it's not something I like to revisit if I can help it. But after reading Matson's other novel, I felt confident in her ability to handle the topic carefully and with grace. While it was every bit as tough to read as I was anticipating, I wasn't disappointed. Here's what I loved about Second Chance Summer :
Broken friendships from five years prior, the strained interactions with her siblings and her mother, or best of all, the closeness between Taylor and her father. Given the circumstances in the story (coming together for a final summer with a dying parent), it would have been so easy to bring everyone back together again quickly and unrealistically, but the mending of these strained and/or broken relationships takes its time. It unfolds in a way that feels both natural and true and the story is so much better for it. I especially loved the one-on-one moments with Taylor and her father, though that did make the inevitable tearjerker conclusion that much harder to power through. Despite that, it was worth it.
THE LOW-KEY SWOON
I like my books with romance, but to swoon up this particular book too much would have felt wrong somehow. Taylor's rekindled romance with Henry was sweet, the right dose of swoon, and exactly what this book needed to counter the heaviness of watching a much loved parent slowly slip away. I really, really liked these two together. Henry was the perfect love interest for this story.
THE POCONOS SETTING
I've never been to the Poconos, but Matson made the fictional Phoenix Lake setting leap off the page. I felt like I could picture it perfectly and loved all of the small-town details from the shops with quirky names to the beach to the heavily wooded areas.
TRUTHFUL HANDLING OF DISEASE
I think saying I "loved" this aspect of the book would be all wrong. Rather, I appreciated how cancer was handled. I was the same age as Gelsey, Taylor's younger sister, when my father was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, so this really hit home. While my dad survived, I could personally relate to how it felt watching a parent waste away from cancer. This moment stood out:
"But these changes didn't hit home until I saw the proof, like in a picture, or saw the way that other people looked at him. My father was attracting attention now, in a way that made me feel simultaneously embarrassed, angry, and protective." (p. 368)I was struck by how much this mirrored how I felt in the same type of situation. And this was only one of several similarities.
I think Matson's use of the Dickens quote from A Tale of Two Cities perfectly sums up Taylor's story in Second Chance Summer :
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..."
All in all, despite the seriously sad but inevitable ending, Second Chance Summer was every bit as wonderful a novel as I was expecting it to be. The story is beautifully told, laced with tidbits and unique details that make it feel as though we're stealing a glimpse of a real family. This is one of those reads that sticks with you long after you've turned the final page. Highly recommend!
HAVE YOU READ SECOND CHANCE SUMMER YET?
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