I decided to take Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson on my honeymoon because I loved its predecessor, Amy and Roger's Epic Detour; plus from the title and adorable cover it seemed like the perfect beach read. I was wrong. For me, a beach read needs to be easy and fun - and while this was an easy read, and fun at times, it was also quite harrowing. Crying into my cocktail was not exactly what I had planned for my honeymoon.
It's my own fault, really. I should have stopped reading as soon as I saw "three months left to live" in the first chapter. That right there is a big road sign saying, "Warning! You are in for tears." Still, I continued, reassured by the cute animals, bike rides and ice cream that the illustration on the cover promised me. For awhile, things were going well. As Taylor and her family struggle to deal with her father's declining health, they spend time at their lake house reconnecting in what are some truly heartwarming scenes. Even lighter moments are provided through Taylor's interactions with Henry, her childhood sweetheart, and Lucy, her former best friend, both of whom she's betrayed in an unnamed way, making for plenty of awkward moments. But I don't think it's spoiling anything to say this book veers into seriously sad territory. It's done well and is quite powerful, but like I said, not really what you want to read as a honeymooner lying on the beach.
Surroundings aside, I was also frustrated with the resolution of the "mystery" around what Taylor did to Lucy and Henry. Throughout the book, it's built up as this monumental betrayal, something so bad that she still feels guilty, five years later. The perceived seriousness of her actions is reinforced by the fact that nobody wants to talk to her and Henry and Lucy seem to hate her. But when the big reveal finally happens, all I could think was, "Is that it?!" I was surprised at how slight the betrayal was; the harshness of Henry and Lucy's treatment of Taylor, all these years later, certainly didn't match her crime. Which didn't exactly make me warm to either character. Henry left me feeling tepid when he should have been hot, hot, hot; while Lucy came across as a selfish biatch who wasn't worth being friends with anyway.
The characters I did love were those in Taylor's family. I wish more time had been spent with them, and less time on the romance/friendship angle. Their situation is heartbreaking, and hits close to home on what I imagine is many people's greatest fear (and certainly one of mine!). I loved the moments of bonding between Taylor and her father, especially the times they shared breakfast and discussed his life and loves. It provided a touching reminder to really get to know the people in your life, and appreciate them while you can.
Let's just say it's best to pick up Second Chance Summer when you feel like having a good cry.
Because of her name, I couldn't get the image Taylor Swift out of my head when it came to the main character. My mind wouldn't listen to the fact she's supposed to have straight hair. Oh, and I pictured Josh Hutcherson as Henry.
Genre: Young Adult
Published: June 2012, Simon & Schuster
Get it: Book Depository