Sunday, 22 July 2012

Sunday Spotlight: Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson

My new Sunday Spotlight feature (which actually bears a striking similarity to my old Saturday Spotlight feature) will showcase some of my favourite recent books reviewed for the superb Bookbag site.

This is one of my very favourites so far this year, taking 2nd place in my 'Best YA Contemporary' category in the recent YA Yeah Yeah Mid Years.

Years ago, Taylor Edwards and her family would visit their old lake house by the beach for the summer. It was an idyllic setting, she had close friends there, and there was lots of fun to be had. Then she had a falling-out with best friend Lucy and an awkward moment with the boy she liked, Henry… and she hasn’t been back there in five years. This summer, she’s finally going back – because her dad is dying of cancer and wants to spend his last few months in a place he loves, surrounded by his family. Will she take the second chance to rebuild her relationships with the people around her?

In case the plot summary hasn’t given it away, this is a massive tearjerker – to the point where I was struggling to see for most of the last few chapters! It wasn’t quite as immediately gripping as Morgan Matson’s first novel, the wonderful Amy and Roger's Epic Detour, but by the time I was a quarter of the way through or so I was just as hooked as I had been when reading that book.

Matson’s characters are superb, and I love the way they develop through the course of the novel. Taylor, in particular, is a fabulous narrator – ever so slowly coming to terms with her tendency to avoid problems, while Henry, Lucy, and Taylor’s father are three of the best supporting characters I’ve read about recently.

The subject of cancer is never skirted round and watching the effect it has on Taylor’s father is absolutely heartbreaking, but the way in which she grows over the summer and the way in which her family and friends support each other as they prepare for the inevitable actually make this one surprisingly easy to read despite the difficult topic.

Absolutely huge recommendation and Matson has become my favourite contemporary author, having written two of the best teen novels in the genre of the last few years. I can’t wait for her next book!

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