Morgan Matson, Second Chance Summer
Seventeen-year-old Taylor is used to running away from her problems; after all, she’s been doing it for as long as she can remember, storming out of the house whenever she got into an argument with a parent or sibling. But when she learns that her father is dying of pancreatic cancer, she knows that this is a problem she can’t escape by running away. Instead, she and her family decide to spend one last summer at their lake house in the Poconos, where they used to spend every summer vacation when Taylor was little. At first Taylor dreads the trip, but eventually she begins to come to terms with her father’s illness. She also mends fences with her ex-best friend, her first love (who’s all grown up and cuter than ever), and her parents and siblings, learning that it’s still not too late to give or receive a second chance.
I really liked Matson’s previous novel, Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour, so I was happy to find a copy of this one at the public library. While this book is just as well-written as Amy & Roger, it deals with the tough subject of a parent’s death in a much more direct way; while Amy’s father was already dead at the beginning of Amy & Roger, in this novel we experience Taylor’s dad’s illness right alongside the characters. For this reason, the romance, while it does exist, is not really central to the book. Rather, the main focus is Taylor’s relationship with her parents and her brother and sister, which I personally loved. Taylor’s family is reasonably close — at least, they all get along most of the time — but the tragedy of her father’s sickness makes them realize how much they’ve been taking each other for granted. They grow closer to each other as a result of their shared fear and grief. This is a very sad book in some places — I cried copiously, as per usual — but ultimately it has an uplifting message. I’d definitely recommend this book to fans of YA.