Monday, 11 June 2012

Second Chance Summer, by Morgan Matson

I dream of summers like this. Of the summer house with wooden floors, the porch to sit on and watch sunsets, of sand and water, of best friends and boyfriends. It’s like my youth - or an ideal version of how I wish my youth had been - wrapped up in a book. I don’t recall ever having summers that were actually like this, but I still hope that one day it’ll happen. Second Chance Summer may be, like its narrator Taylor says, the best of times and the worst of times, but its essence just encapsulates what a great summer should be.

Taylor is the difficult middle child. Her older brother is the smart one, her little sister the talented one. All she seems to be any good at is running away when things get tough. That’s exactly what she did five years ago, and it’s exactly what she wants to do right now. Her dad is sick and wants to spend one last summer all together as a family at their summer lakehouse. It’s been five years since they last went and five years since Taylor threw away the most important friendships of her life. How is she going to face Lucy and Henry again, and how is she going to face her dad’s illness?

I really enjoyed this book. I found it to be a really calm reading experience, yet I raced through it barely realising how much of the story I’d read. It has everything that I enjoy in a book of this ilk, evoking not only that summer setting I dream of, but also all the characters’ various emotions, and Taylor’s especially. I’m a big fan of Sarah Dessen and Second Chance Summer reminded me very much of her style and approach - a teenage novel with real people in real situations. Morgan Matson was actually shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize earlier this year for her first book, Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour, a book I haven’t yet read but have heard endless praise for - it is definitely going on my reading list now.

Ultimately, Taylor discovers she has a lot more to offer than she thought she did - she’s the one who keeps her family together, helping her shy little sister to make friends and her socially inept brother get a girlfriend. She is the heart. But when things start to get really tough can she stop her legs from twitching, can she stop herself from running away from all that makes things too difficult?

I’m itching to talk more about this, but can’t without giving the storyline away, so get out there and read it now!

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