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Book Review: Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson

When Taylor’s dad gets really bad news, the family decides to spend one last summer at their family lake house in the Pocono Mountains.  This is hard for a lot of reasons: Taylor and her siblings aren’t exactly close-knit, and cramped quarters means increased interaction.  But Taylor’s also haunted by her past, and what happened at that lake house five years earlier.  It isn’t long before she’s confronted with the ghosts of her past and starts to learn that second chances are possible–and that love sometime shows up when you least expect it.

Morgan Matson’s heartfelt family drama is a quiet, contemplative read that will likely resonate with readers who like their stories with a healthy dose of character development.  This is a satisfying, emotionally resonant story, and it’s a great summer read for those looking at books with a little depth.

The main characters in the novel are particularly well developed.  The exploration of Taylor’s relationship with her father is extremely well done, and when the book reaches the inevitable conclusion of their story, it doesn’t feel overly manipulative because Matson has taken the time to create characters who are wholly human, fleshed out, and authentic.  This isn’t a cancer book so much as it’s a book about love, loss,and forgiveness, and Matson walks that line gracefully.

Unfortunately, it’s also overly long.  The book clocks in at over 450 pages (in hardcover), and it’s absolutely stuffed full of subplots and extra characters who are completely unnecessary.  While the stray dog story was clearly a metaphor, it was also a waste of time.  Valuable page space was given to Taylor’s younger sister Gelsey when it could have easily been excised.  Cuts could have been made to tighten up this story and bring it from good to great.

Even so, this one will work for lots of readers.  Recommended for fans of Sarah Dessen and Jenny Han (you’re going to see that in nearly every review, I’d wager).

Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson Simon & Schuster: 2012. Library copy. Read for 2012 Cybils YA Round 1 Panel.

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