August 8, 2013 by Heidi
Welcome to Pennsylvania! Home of chocolaty goodness and Punxsutawney Phil. And I suppose a few other tid-bits of historical import, but it’s really all Hershey’s and groundhogs for me.
Personal favorite? The Wicked Lovely series by Melissa Marr.
What’s your favorite Pennsylvania book?
Title: Second Chance Summer [Goodreads]
Author: Morgan Matson [Website|Twitter|Facebook]
Standing: Stand alone.
Genre: Young Adult; Contemporary
Published: May 18th, 2012 by Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing
Format: Hardcover; 468 pages
Source: Borrowed from my local library.
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.
When it came time to choose a Pennsylvania read, there was one clear stand-out winner in my mind: Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson. Many of my contemporary-loving friends loved this book, and many more were fans of the author’s previous book, Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour. This one called to me as the perfect summer read. It boasted a balance of the relaxed and fun with the more serious undertones to give it some depth, and even though I usually swear off cancer books, I decided to give it a go. Unfortunately, if I had to use three words to describe my reading experience with Second Chance Summer, they would be these: Hallmark movie special.
Now, Hallmark movie specials aren’t inherently bad–and they’re a heck of a lot better than Lifetime movies–but I really have to be in a particular sort of mood to be able to gulp down that level of saccharine sweetness without feeling distinctly nauseated thereafter. This mood usually only descends upon me near Christmas time, at which point I fill up my DVR with Hallmark movie specials and devour them in droves, not caring that I cry at every one despite the incredibly predictable plots and too-good-to-be-true endings. Alas, we are in the midst of the dog days of summer, and Second Chance Summer struck the wrong chord.
I fell into the pages of Morgan Matson’s sophomore novel easily enough, and the fact that I finished this 468 pager attests to the fact that it is a book readers will breeze through. I breathed in the summer setting of the Poconos, longing desperately for my own summer lake house (and feeling the strong urge to put What About Bob? on TV). There’s just something about those warm summer nights, the sound of screen doors slamming, and the permanent flip-flop tan lines embedded in the tops of your feet that brings you directly into Taylor’s life.
Taylor is a character dealing with the looming death of her father, as well as the fact that she’s now in a position to face up to a mistake she made when she was twelve. Now, I hate to be that adult that looks down on kids and mocks their problems, because I so keenly remember the magnitude of little things, but Taylor? This girl needs to deal. I felt as if this whole story was building up to this monumental act of betrayal she’d committed five years previously, and when I found out what it was I felt incredibly cheated. That’s it? THAT’S what you’ve been angsting about this entire book?! Taylor’s emotional inability to deal with anything difficult is something I believe a lot of us readers can recognize. We’ve all chosen to run away from problems in our lives, but I’m afraid Taylor’s journey to self actualization was a bit too frying-pan for me. I saw how too many of the threads would be wound together down the road, and instead of finding her developments with friends and family to be touching, I found them to be cheesy. Likely, this says something about my own lack of emotional insight, but largely I believe it just reflects why contemporary is one of my least favorite genres.
Overall, I did find Second Chance Summer to be a book that really brought me back to my own childhood summers. It’s relatable, and it certainly gave me some feels, but those feels felt washed out or watered down in comparison to others’ reactions. I didn’t really care if Taylor reignited her old friendships, found love, or bonded with her family before it fell apart. I really don’t think this was a fault on Matson’s part, this just clearly wasn’t the right book for me. I’d recommend Second Chance Summer to actual teenaged readers, or big fans of the genre, but for those of us who only venture into contemporary for those rare unicorns that shine through our general distaste, it was a poor choice.