From the Flying Start author of Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour, a powerful novel about hope in the face of heartbreak.
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 guess all good things must come to an end, much like my streak of well-loved books by Morgan Matson. It started with the utterly delectable Since You’ve Been Gone, which I thoroughly enjoyed, and continued with the stupendous The Unexpected Everything, which gave me an out-of-body experience because of how amazing it was. But my experience with Second Chance Summer did not have the same results as the former two; this time, I was quite annoyed, frustrated, and frowning while reading this story. I guess this shouldn’t be a surprise, considering that’s my usual response when reading contemporaries in general, but I really didn’t expect it from a book by this author – especially since many people adored this one just as much as the others.
The root of my problems stem from my frustration with the main character, whose name is so forgettable that I can’t even recall the first letter. I’m also too lazy to search it up while typing this review, and no doubt will keep it like this even after editing it before scheduling it because I honestly don’t care. Okay okay, I admit that she does go through some nice character development. I love the friendship she had with Lucy. I also adored the relationship she had with her dad, and her eccentric family. I did not like her. A problem with me for contemporaries is that if I do not like the main character and narrator, I find myself looking for faults. Things that affect this are if I can empathize with their situation, and if I think we could be good friends. (Yes I’m very subjective when reading/rating contemporaries. Do I care much? No.) So the main character and I wouldn’t be the best of friends. She doesn’t really have a stable friend circle, and is a bit shy. She’s a runner – she likes to run from her problems. We see her doing it all throughout the book. Erm, I guess she was a bit caring but it didn’t really matter because she still tried to run away from her problems. Did I mention she’s a runner? Not like, professionally. But in an attempt to escape emotional backlash. Definitely likes to run away.
So you can probably tell I am not a big fan of this main character (still can’t recall her name). I found myself rather apathetic to her character development simply because she never endeared herself to me. Sometimes I wanted to reach into the book and smack her and go like, “Dude I’m not sure how you got this far in life if you’ve been running away from everything.” But whatever. Maybe she’s like that because she’s the supposedly “unskilled middle child,” in between a talented younger sister and genius older brother. I found her family very fun to read about, and their antics absolutely adorable. They’re not the most touchy-feely emotional fam, but they do grow closer in this summer at Lake Phoenix. Something happens in the beginning of the book that called for them to go to their summer house after several years of neglect. The book is titled Second Chance Summer because of all the second chances the main character gets – with her family and friends. (Omg! Her name is literally on the tip of my tongue. Is it bad that I recall every other character’s names except hers?)
There’s this big fallout that happened the last time she was there, which caused a rift between her best friend Lucy and first boyfriend Henry. Henry is – surprise, surprise – super cute now and she keeps bumping into him for some reason. She also ends up working with Lucy at a summer job. It took maybe a bit more than half the book for them to make up. A SIMPLE APOLOGY. And it took the same length for the readers to figure out what happened that caused the whole break-up. This reader was having none of it. Way to emphasize your first world problems, main character.
I can’t argue that there isn’t a perfect blend of friendship, family relationship, and self-discovery in this book, but I just didn’t like the characters well enough to really care. There is a bit of a bittersweet ending in regards to the family matter that did touch my heart a bit, but it was really quite fleeting. (Which makes me sound heartless but yo I got to sort out my fictional literature priorities, and the events in this book certainly isn’t one.) Lucy was a real supportive, awesome friend. I really liked how their friendship developed after getting over that silly summer when they were 12 years old. Honestly, I would have loved more scenes with her rather than Henry. If I created a Twitter account for a YA Contemporary Hero (like the Dystopian Hero one. Or is it Brooding YA Hero?), Henry would epitomize it. He has cute looks (not sure what he really looks like except for having freckles and brown hair, but super cute), a charming personality, is a bit nerdy (because wildlife!!), and understanding. So are a dozen other love interests out there. Not gonna lie, while reading his interactions with the main character, I started imagining him as a life-sized white cardboard cutout of a vaguely human shape. Which, in fact, perfectly reflects my thoughts about his character.
Aw man, but the main character’s dad was really the star of a show. I’m a total sucker for dad-daughter relationships (it’s a close thing to my heart), so reading about theirs was really nice. Those were the times that I almost – justttt almostt – started liking the main character. Alas, there weren’t too many of those scenes because next thing you know, BOOM Henry’s just around the corner, looking as cute as ever with his broad shoulders.
And on the topic of writing: jeez, the dialogue in the beginning made me want to slip into the book (again) and either smack the character or continue the conversation for them. It was very stilted. Kind of… Like, if I typed. Like this. Sorta. Sentences were short. And I recall in a previous English class that people find shorter sentences more realistic, but not when they’re like, four lines of dialogue! One encounter between two characters will be five paragraphs of thinking from the main character, and two lines from each character. (Which may be an exaggeration, but certainly felt like it!) I actually tried acting the scene out in my head without all those thought processes and HELLO, meet most awkward conversation ever. Again, it’s totally a me thing though. Maybe I just like to talk and couldn’t handle the short responses. (Since I like to squeeze answers out of other people too).
In my review of The Unexpected Everything, I likened it to sherbet ice cream on a sunny day. Continuing on with that comparison, Second Chance Summer is like the vanilla ice cream all the way in the back of the fridge that’s probably expired, but no one really knows because we really don’t touch it and it probably has legit ice in it because it’s been there, in the freezer, for so long. Half-eaten. And in the wrong brand, too. (Be glad it’s not as bad as oyster ice cream guys, which was my first choice). It had all the components of a great contemporary, but my personal problems with the main character (it’s honestly not that hard to just open the book and glimpse her name but again, my apathy knows no bounds) and the plot made it lackluster for me. Maybe next time.
My thought process while trying to recall the main character’s name:
I’m pretty sure it starts with a T. Tori? Tobie? Dude, that’s a guy’s name. Well, maybe it could be unisexual. *inserts Tori in dialogue* No… Okay so there’s Gelsey and Warren (her siblings), so it would be a rather unique name. Morgan! Amy? No, that was the other book omg. Mercy. Mary. Not even close. Lexi??? I still think it starts with a T.
I JUST CHECKED AND IT WAS TAYLOR RIP.