Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson | Book Review (Errr A Letter To Morgan Matson)

Second Chance Summer Morgan MatsonBook Title/Author: Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson
Publisher/Year
: Simon & Schuster 2012
Genre: Contemporary YA
Series: No
Other Books From Author: Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour

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I received this from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way swayed my opinion. Pinky swear!

 

 

 

 

 

Taylor and her family are heading up to their summer house in the mountains for their last summer together as a family. Her dad has been diagnosed with cancer and only has months to live. Taylor doesn’t want to confront this reality nor does she want to go back and confront the mess she left here at the lake house 5 years ago – including her former best friend, Lucy, and Henry, her first love. She spends the summer confronting her past, her new reality and trying to make up for the moments lost and not pass up those second chances.

 

 

This isn’t going to be my typical review. I tried to write a review for this but I couldn’t so I’m going to instead write a letter to Morgan Matson. It’s not spoilery but I hope it will give you some insight into just how special this book is. Honestly, it’s incredible. I will give my “Final Thought” at the end still so you can get a general idea of what I thought.

Dear Morgan,

You know I’m a big fan of Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour but Second Chance Summer is undoubtedly one of the most special books I’ve had the pleasure of reading. Sometimes you read a book that hits so close to home and it’s SO hard but worth it. Even if I had not gone through what I had gone through I know, without a doubt, I’d still be raving about this book and telling everyone how special it is. Second Chance Summer is just such a complete book — it’s about so much more than a girl watching her father die. So often books that touch on this toe the line of just screaming HEY THIS CANCER IS A PLOT DEVICE. Second Chance Summer did not do that. It felt like a genuine piece of someone’s life – a really, really tough time in ones life but not at all the whole story. It’s about honest to goodness life. Ups and downs in all its glory.

I’ve never cried so hard while reading a book and really it was the last chunk of the book that did me in. I teared up a few times throughout but that last chunk felt like I was reliving my own life. My story? My mom was diagnosed with brain cancer in December 2004 when I was a senior in college and passed away in July 2006. Those years of watching her slowly lose the fight KILLED me to watch and I’ll never get some of these images out of my head.

Most of the books I’ve read with teens who lose parents is the “After” where the grief is really dealt with but this was the most beautiful, perfect story of the “finding out” you parent has cancer and the process of losing them. Of watching them die, to put it bluntly, which draws that grieving process out. It’s in the details where this book was so perfect. It was perfect, beautiful and painted one of the truest pictures of what this really looks like. The story may be different for everyone but that bare bones experience is so similar. What I liked about it that it was so representative of life. The whole summer was not all about the cancer because real life is not like that. I’d have days where my mom’s cancer didn’t loom so low over my head, days that felt almost normal. I’d deal with normal teen problems, that I knew were trivial in light of things, but these were still my days…my life.  Then there were days that were hard – the days where significant change happened or moments when my mom had to give a little more freedom over. I appreciated this.

Second Chance Summer really got those details almost down to the T from the protective dog that wouldn’t leave my mom’s side, to the day when work told her she couldn’t work anymore (she was MUCH like Taylor’s dad in her workaholic ways), to the days when all she would do is sleep, to the arrival of our grandmother to hold and take care of her daughter in her final weeks or to the moment you walk in the room and see your parent lying there with no more breaths left to breathe.  The tears that litter the pages of my book are a testament to the heart and soul you created within these pages; as well as a reminder of what I’ve gone through. It gives me refuge in some ways. I AM NOT ALONE. I HAVE GOTTEN THROUGH THIS. I CAN GET THROUGH OTHER THINGS I’M GOING THROUGH.

I really want to THANK you for Second Chance Summer. For a character I could relate to. I felt a lot of guilt for living my life while my mom got worse and worse just like Taylor did. I closed myself off a lot. I RAN and still RUN from things a lot. I know I shouldn’t but I do. I want to do great things every day. Like Taylor, I never thought there would be that moment when my mom would never be there. I reflected on this in my Mother’s Day post. Most of all, I love how STRONG Taylor truly was. So often the strong heroines are the ones fighting dragons and bad guys but, after going through this, I view strength in a whole different way — the strength to get through something like this, the strength of family and the strength of the person who is looking cancer (or any adversity) right in its ugly face.

I want to thank you for a beautiful story about watching someone you love die because it was one of the hardest most defining moments in my life. I wish I would have had this years ago to read. I want to thank you for doing it with care. I don’t know YOUR story but what I do know is I felt like you saw what I went through. I want to thank you for not just making this a story about a girl who is losing her dad but about life and love and family and friendship that still happens during that process. I genuinely loved Taylor and her family. I loved Henry and Lucy. And Murphy. And really all of the characters to be honest. Everyone seemed real and important.

So thank you. Thanks for writing amazing books. Thanks for writing characters I can truly relate to. Thank you for making me smile, for swooning, for making reflect and for making me remember to keep living. Thank you for not simplifying it but keeping the story and the dynamics of a sick parent as complex as they really are. Thank you for showing great strength in a way that isn’t of the ass kicking variety. Thank you for not having a romance be the only thing to get Taylor through this and showing the importance of family and friends. Thank you for one of my favorite father/daughter stories ever. I truly loved watching their relationship grow. I called my dad immediately upon finishing. Thank you. This book was perfect in every way.

Love,

Jamie

 

Second Chance Summer is one of the best books I’ve read. Period. It’s hard for me to keep my emotions out of my recommendation but I promise you that you will become absolutely absorbed in Taylor’s story. I PROMISE you this story is not all sad, despite my very emotional letter above. It’s a beautiful and moving story, set at at a summer lake house, that’s about love, friendship, family and second chances — not just about a girl whose dad is sick. Matson simplifies nothing.  It’s equal bits sweet, funny and heartbreaking but this story just felt so COMPLETE. It’s perfect and balanced and JUST READ IT PLEASE. Morgan Matson solidified herself as an auto-buy author for me and she is the cream of the crop when it comes to well written, relatable contemporary YA books with lovely romances and complex, moving stories.

 

Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson book review

You May Also Like: The Book of Broken Hearts by Sarah Ockler, The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han

Let’s Talk: Have you read this one? Heard of it? What did you think? Did anyone else bawl there eyes out??

Save The Date For: When You Were Here by Daisy Whitney

To learn more about why I started doing this Save The Date feature and how it differs from my reviews — go here!


when-you-were-here-daisy-whitney

* Release date according to Amazon

When You Were Here by Daisy Whitney

Pre-Order It | Add to Goodreads

What When You Where Here Is  About: Three weeks before Danny’s graduation, his mom loses her battle with cancer and Danny becomes an orphan.  Amidst his grief and hopelessness, a directionless Danny has to try to make it through his graduation and deliver a hopeful Valedictorian speech while trying to make adult decisions about what to do with their home and his mother’s things. On top of it all, the girl who broke his heart by just shutting him out of her life suddenly reappears in his life. When the manager of his family’s apartment in Japan, where Danny’s mom had spending some of her final months for treatment, sends a letter that reveals to him that maybe he didn’t know all about his mother’s final months and why she seemed so happy in them. With nagging questions and sense of purposelessness that has made him numb, Danny takes a trip around the world to Japan to if he can find the answers and reconnect with his mother through these memories.

Why You Should Be Saving  The Date:

1. This book is BEAUTIFUL though it will steamroll right through your heart. It was an intensely emotional book in so many ways. I knew going into it I would connect with it on a personal level having lost my mother to cancer  but there were whole other levels that I found myself connecting to it and I certainly don’t think you need to have experienced a loss like this for this book to shake you up. So don’t be frightened and think it’s just another “grief” story. It’s much more than that though obviously the profound loss is a big part. Luckily Daisy Whitney has this ability to so subtly make sure, upon finishing, that your heart is in tact; stitched back up by Danny’s story of loss and love and how it takes strength and courage to get through both.

2. Danny’s time in Japan stirred up the travel bug in me. I loved that part of his very emotional journey was also a physical one set in Tokyo. As he looks for answers and tries to feel the spirit of his mom in a city they loved so much, Daisy Whitney makes you feel like you are at the fish market, or ambling along the twisted streets or smelling the cherry blossoms. I loved exploring the city through Danny’s eyes and especially with Kana. She was such a bright and spunky character that just added this whole lightness to the dark that Danny was feeling.

3. Daisy Whitney’s writing is flawless. Whether it was the dialogue or the descriptions of Tokyo or passages showing Danny’s grief — it was just so flawless and natural and I just floated right through the story. I just really love the way she writes!

Who Should Save The  Date: Fans of contemporary YA, Fans of stories that seriously give you ALL OF THE FEELS — not just make you cry but make you feel hopeful or in love or intense mourning alongside the character.

Have you read this one? Are you excited for it?? Putting it on your TBR list? Have you read Daisy Whitney’s previous works? I have them on my shelf but haven’t yet read them! Be on the lookout for my FULL review coming closer to the release date.

Review of Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler

Book Title/Author: Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler
Publisher/Year: : Little Brown Books For Young Readers
Genre: Contemporary Young Adult
Series: No – standalone!
Other Books From AuthorFixing Delilah, Bittersweet & out in May 2013 — The Book of Broken Hearts

Amazon| Goodreads | Sarah Ockler’s Website

Every girl dreams of their first real romance. When Anna finally experiences this she is dying to tell her best friend Frankie. Only problem is that her new boyfriend is Frankie’s brother. A tragedy occurs before Anna and Matt can tell Frankie the truth and Anna keeps the truth hidden from everyone — especially Frankie. A year later, Anna is still holding on to her lost romance with Matt and Frankie decides that Anna is in need of a summer romance. Whilst on their summer vacation together at Zanzibar Bay, Frankie plots that for every day they are there (20) they will have a competition to see who can snag a new guy each day. Under the weight of her secret, Anna halfheartedly agrees to go along with the plan though conflicted with being true to her love for Matt.

I got interested in this book back when the whole Scroggins-was-a-douche-and-tried-to-ban-this-book-without-reading it drama llama happened. I procured a copy and so it has sat on my shelf like a lot of other books I really want to read. So this summer, as part of  my Read Backlisted Books Plan, I decided to read it. So take that Scroggins, your stupid little tirade made a lot more people interested in this book. SUCKER.

Seeing as though it was part of a banning debacle, I kept WAITING for something “bad”  or “edgy”. I was waiting. And I just didn’t really understand why this was being challenged at all. Ok, so teens drink sometimes (a pretty minimal part in this book)?? Shocking. And they sometimes have sex (SAFE SEX with a condom in this novel) and think they want to lose their V card? Really? And this is different from what teens are experiencing for real in their high schools? Different from things they are seeing on tv and the movies?  I don’t know. I’m not seeing why it’s so dirty and filthy.

I thought Twenty Boy Summer was so powerful — no light, fluffy beach reading here. That grief just gnaws at your heart throughout the book — just as you see it doing to Anna (and Frankie too obviously). The general grief and pain, Anna’s secret, the what could have beens, etc. just are written in such a way that you can’t help but feel an immense amount of sorrow. I felt the complete and utter devastation of love lost. You can feel Matt’s presence in her heart. Sarah Ockler doesn’t lose him in the novel. He’s not easily forgotten. I felt it to be very realistic portrayal of grieving and coping and trying to put back those pieces. This book was one of those where I could feel my eyes and nose starting to sting because the tears were a comin’ and I was trying to hold them back so much. It annihilated my heart. More quietly and over time than say If I Stay where I was in full out SOBBING mode. But still. Shredded. Minced. Diced. What have you. Sarah Ockler didn’t hold back on my heart. I’ll say I felt hopeful and a little bit of peace at the end but there is no reversal to this type of slaying. Certain books leave their mark like that on me.

Sarah Ockler’s writing was just perfect for me — right from the beginning as she hooked me with such a sweet, playful & innocent romance. My heart. She also nailed the setting for me. I had to look down at my pasty white skin to remind myself I was not actually enjoying their summer fun on the beach. I really connected with Anna right away and I could tell that behind the messy exterior of Frankie there was a really great character that I’d grow to love. You could just tell. She grieved her brother like my sister grieved my mom. A little more attention seeking and rebellious…and attention turned to boys. I also thought some of Frankie’s family interactions were written were just brilliant to be honest; though I was quite disappointed that they seemed SUPER oblivious to what was going on all summer. Grief is just this big ol’ elephant in the room and sometimes it decides to show itself in the strangest of ways, places and times. I could relate to it.  And the way the secret came out – HEARTWRENCHING.

 

Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler is just one of those books that you easily get sucked into (the pain evoked experiencing a sweet love lost, the jump-off-the-pages variety of characters, the gorgeous setting, etc.) and find yourself come tumbling out of the pages hours later; bruised, tattered & with a heavy sense of something in your heart. Sarah doesn’t totally pulverize your heart as you see the beauty of friendship & family, hope,  and a new found appreciation for every day. It’s a good mix of heavy & uplifting. I do not understand AT ALL why this book was challenged. I expected something way more scandalous and promiscuous based on the title and then on the whole Wesley Scroggins thing. I will say that I’d be more likely to hand this to older teens as there is a little bit of drinking and sexual situations involved.

 

Young Adult Contemporary Novel Twenty Boy Summer

 

Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson, books from Jennifer Echols, Moonglass & In Honor by Jessi Kirby, books from Sarah Dessen

 

Did any of you read this book? Did you agree with Scroggins assessment of it? Tell me what you thought!

The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy NelsonBook Title/Author: The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
Publisher/Year:  Dial 2010
Genre: Contemporary Young Adult Fiction
Series: No
Other Books From Author: None

Amazon| Goodreads | Jandy Nelson’s website

Seventeen year old Lennie has her world rocked when her older sister Bailey (who is also her best friend & partner in crime) tragically dies. Still trying to deal with the aftermath, Lennie tries to continue on with life like everything is normal — like she’s still the same shy, bookworm-y, band geek she always was with little to no experience with boys — but she soon discovers that everything is different. In her grief, she finds herself having feelings for two guys. One is her sister’s boyfriend, Toby, who she shares a connection with that nobody else understands. The other is the new guy in school who always seems to show up where Lennie is. Lennie tries to wade through her romantic feelings while dealing with her immense grief and the huge hole of emptiness she feels with Bailey not around.
This book wrecked me! I’m a glutton for punishment and know that I’m going to feel a lot of things reading any books that deal with grief. When done right, I’m a mess and feel like I’m reliving it all over again.  The Sky Is Everywhere is probably the most poignant,  SPOT ON story of grief that I’ve ever read. It pierced my heart and made me feel sorrow but it was balanced by the beauty of Nelson’s words and the journey of healing and of love Lennie also endures. And the thing is, it’s not all doom and gloom like I thought it was going to be but it was quite hilarious at points in times. Some of the things Lennie said, thought and did made me giggle. Case in point:

Joe smiles an embarrassed half smile at Gram and Big, leans against the counter, his trumpet case strategically held over his crotch.  Thank  God I don’ have one of  those. Who’d want a lust-o-meter sticking out the middle  of  their body?

The Sky is Everywhere is probably one of those most lyrical and poetic books I’ve read recently. If you love savoring beautiful passages that make you take pause before you can move on, you’ll love this one.  I will be honest..I don’t often dog-ear books but there were SO MANY passages that I needed to remember that I just HAD TO. They were either just gorgeous and beautiful passages or those types of passages that really put into words some of my own grief. 

“My sister will die over and over again for the rest of my life. Grief is forever. It doesn’t go away; it becomes a part of you, step for step, breath for breath. I will never stop grieving Bailey because I will never stop loving her. That’s just how it is. Grief and love are conjoined, you don’t get one without the other. All I can do is love her, and love the world, emulate her by living with daring and spirit and joy.”

 

or
“According to all the experts, it’s time for me to talk about what I’m going through… I can’t. I’d need a new alphabet, one made of falling, of tectonic plates shifting, of the deep devouring dark.”


There were so many fabulous characters in this book and I really, more than the romance aspect of this book, really loved the relationship between that of Lennie, her uncle Big and Gram. They were just some remarkable and memorable characters and I loved some of the really tender moments Lennie shares with them towards the end of the book. I DID like both Toby and Joe Fontaine and her best friend but I really loved Big and Gram.

I’ll be honest, at first, I was really confused by this really quick romance between Lennie and Joe. Not so much on Lennie’s part — grief seems to do some crazy things in terms of emotions as I myself experienced — but I didn’t really get nor believe that Joe saw anything that spectacular in Lennie or really knew anything of her….at least from what we knew of the interactions. Later on towards the book it made a little more sense to me but I was kind of suspect of it initially. I did end up really finding him quite swoonworthy because he seemed so genuine but it took a little while for me to get there. There love was the sort of aww inducing, stand-up-and-cheer-loudly romances that I love watching! Poor Toby. Poor confused Toby. I didn’t hate him at all. I felt sorry for him — he was carrying some mighty heavy things and both he and Lennie just really misinterpreted the feelings of sorrow and loneliness they had for something else. It was sad to me.

My Final Thought: I really enjoyed The Sky is Everywhere! I’d highly recommend it to lovers of contemporary YA who love lyrical and poetic prose that makes you feel ALL OF THE THINGS and then some. You’ll find yourself just stopping every now and then to savor it. I’ve read a lot of books dealing with grief but this one was honestly one of those most true and genuine stories that just pierced my heart and made me experience the same gut wrenching, inner turmoil that Lennie does. I cried a lot during this book, for a lot of personal reasons, but also because I came to care so deeply for these characters and their pain, their mistakes, their sorrow, their bright speckle of hope become my own.

You Might Also Enjoy: If I Stay and Where She Went by Gayle Forman, The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen, Please Ignore Vera Dietz by AS King

Book Review On A Post It:

The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

If I StayTitle/Author: If I Stay by Gayle Forman

Publisher/Year: Speak (imprint of Penguin) 2009
Where I Got It: Borders–with the 40% off coupon!
Why I read it: It had been on my TBR list but after hanging out with Melanie and having her highly recommend it, I decided to bump it up.
Rating: 5 stars. I read it in 4 hours because I couldn’t will myself to put it down. Enough said.

Live can change in a moment–a single moment and everything that you once knew as your life has vanished and is replaced by a new reality. Mia, a high school senior and talented cellist, finds herself in one these moments and faces an impossible choice between leaving it all behind or forging a new life out of the pieces that are left behind. It’s either life or death. Literally.

WOW. I finished this book feeling a myriad of emotions. My boyfriend looked over to ask me how it was as he heard me close the book, in the signature way I do upon finishing a book, and saw me sitting there with tears streaming down my face. He started to ask about it and I just started mumbling incoherent things and slammed the book on the table and kept saying, “Wow. Just wow” and “I’m never going to freaking be able to wait until April to get my hands on the next book.” This book was pretty powerful for me.

I need to first point out that if you see the paperback copy of this book and notice that there is a blurb by USA Today saying “Will appeal to fans of Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight”—make sure you ignore this. Apparently the person who wrote the blurb and I disagree immensely. Just saying. Yes, there is a romantic element to this book, but I did not see any sparkly vampires or Taylor Lautner-esque werewolves roaming the pages of this book. Aside from the romantic aspect, which is a part of many books, I could not really grasp that correlation. So please, I beg you to listen to ME and not USA Today. While we are on the topic of the romantic element, it is a sweet romance that isn’t annoying or over the top. I loved their relationship. It makes you love “love” and appreciate it in the rawest of moments.

If I Stay is emotionally gripping and will genuinely move you. I think that it is realistic nature of the tragedy that gets to you because we’ve all either experienced something similar or have seen it on the news. It’s one of those truly tragic stories that you know could happen to you–and that is frightening. I’m such a worrier and think about death too much anyways because of grief that I have experienced in my own life so this one hit me hard. Nobody wants to start thinking about losing loved ones but this book certainly elicits strong enough emotions to carry over into that kind of thinking. It felt authentic and real rather than contrived like the author was playing puppeteer to your heartstrings.

Gayle Forman wasted NO time in delivering the blow. It took me off guard like any tragedy does in real life–one moment life is just rolling on and BAM. When everything happened I said, outloud, “Well, SHIT.” I don’t know if I said it to my boyfriend or just to myself outloud but I couldn’t keep it in but from that moment until I finished this book four hours later, I felt completely invested in the life of Mia and her family. I felt like I was a part of this tragedy and being in Mia’s head was no easier. I kept asking myself what I would do. I couldn’t come up with a clear answer even having dealt with situations were I had to keep on trucking through life without someone.

I thought Forman did an excellent job balancing the present with memories from the past and learning more about her family, friends and Adam made it all the harder. I felt the weight and the importance of Mia’s decision. I love when an author makes me feel so connected to characters! This isn’t a book where things are happening over a span of time. It’s kind of slow-moving but this makes sense and I never found myself bored at all despite the fact that the present takes place in a span of 24 hours. I won’t say much about the ending but I’m going to cry, scream and kick to get my hands on an ARC of the next book so I don’t have to wait until April 2011. There is just no way I can do that.

My final thought: Gayle Forman has created an emotionally stirring novel that will leave you contemplating life, love and those moments that matter. There is much beauty alongside the sadness of loss and the complexity of grief; the glimmer of hope and beauty is what keeps you from having a complete mental breakdown while reading this book. It’s that real. If you are an emotional person like myself or have experienced loss, you’ll need to break out the box of tissues. Make sure it’s the extra soft kind.

Discussion: For those of you who have read it, what would you choose?

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