22 September 2012

Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson

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.

What Morgan Matson brings to the table in terms of talent is astounding.  Inspiring even.  To the way she uses clever, subtle details to bring out a character's quirks, or creates a heartbreaking ending, reading her books makes me strive to be a better writer.  For her sophomore novel, Morgan Matson took a simple idea and turned it into an original story.  While the romance flopped a bit for me, especially in comparison to Amy and Roger's Epic Detour, I'm keeping my eyes peeled for Matson's next book.

Second Chance Summer continues with Morgan Matson's great writing style.  Her prose is easy to read and process, and elegant in its simplicity.  Plenty of abstract thoughts, but presented in a concise manner that didn't overwhelm me.  Instead, it did what abstract prose is supposed to do: create a profound atmosphere and added depth to the main character's narration.  Morgan Matson writes with authority.  She created a grounded reality, brought to life with tiny details that made it sound as if she truly knew what she was talking about -- like conditioning your feet to handle walking on a gravel driveway.

The main character, Taylor, didn't appeal as much to me as Amy did, from Matson's debut, Amy and Roger's Epic Detour, but that's not to say she was a bad character.  She struggled with things that a lot of us do as a teenager: like just trying to find something that you're good at, that makes you exceptional in your own standing, and facing some of life's inevitable things: like death.  These two things alone made me sympathetic towards her, but I lacked a connection with her, that spark that made me cheer her on 100%.  This didn't detract much from the book overall.

I had two issues with the plot, one good and one bad.  The good: I nearly cried at the end.  Matson created an ending that will pull at your heartstrings.  Artemis Fowl: The Last Guardian by Eoin Colfer is the only book to date that has made me actually cry, but I had a feeling that if someone hadn't been in the room with me while I finished Second Chance Summer, this might've been the second.  Now, the bad: the ending had a little bit too much cheese for my taste.  That is a forgivable trait, but it made enough of an impression to make it mentionable.  Where nearly the entire book had sounded like a masterpiece, the ending made it sound a bit cheap.

Another thing that stood out, for me, was the romance.  Whereas the romance was excellent in Amy and Roger's Epic Detour, it flopped in Second Chance Summer.  Nothing about it really meshed, from the way Taylor and Henry's history was portrayed, to the way they finally reconnected.  It didn't seem real to me, like their rekindled romance was inevitable and therefore, there's no need to create a dynamic relationship.  My continuous question was: why do they like each other?  I can understand lasting attraction, but love?  It didn't come off very convincingly.  Taylor's relationship with her family was fantastic, though.  I thoroughly enjoyed the way love and respect blossomed throughout the book.

Based on the premise alone, I probably wouldn't have picked up Second Chance Summer.  But because it was written by Morgan Matson, my curiosity got the best of me -- I had to see what she would do with something as benign as a summer at a lake house.  She has a talent, I'm starting to see, of taking things that have a commonplace feel, and displaying it in a way that hasn't quite been done before.  She covered a road trip in Amy and Roger's Epic Detour and made it memorable.  With Second Chance Summer, she took a shot at the summer lake house and put her own unique mark on it.  I'm waiting in breathless anticipation for whatever she does next.

I eased open my bedroom door to check that the hallway was empty.  When I was sure that it was, I shouldered my purse and closed the door behind me quietly, then took the stairs down to the kitchen two at a time.  It was nine a.m., we were leaving for the lake house in three hours, and I was running away. (p. 3)
Book Info

  • pages - hardcover, 468
  • published - May 2012
  • publisher - Simon & Schuster
  • genre - contemporary fiction
  • received via - library :)
  • rating - 4/5
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