Series: StandaloneDon't judge, but I'm going to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth in this review.
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Children's Publishing
Source: Purchased for Kindle
From the Flying Start author of Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour, a powerful novel about hope in the face of heartbreak.
Taylor Edwards’ family might not be the closest-knit—everyone is a little too busy and overscheduled—but for the most part, they get along just fine. Then Taylor’s dad gets devastating news, and her parents decide that the family will spend one last summer all together at their old lake house in the Pocono Mountains.
Crammed into a place much smaller and more rustic than they are used to, they begin to get to know each other again. And Taylor discovers that the people she thought she had left behind haven’t actually gone anywhere. Her former best friend is still around, as is her first boyfriend…and he’s much cuter at seventeen than he was at twelve.
As the summer progresses and the Edwards become more of a family, they’re more aware than ever that they’re battling a ticking clock. Sometimes, though, there is just enough time to get a second chance—with family, with friends, and with love.
...I rate cancer books (or coma/insert-terminal-or-near-death illness here) according to its weepy factor.
'What's the weepy factor?' You may ask. And that, my fellow book-loving minions, is an excellent question.
See, the thing is that I don't read Cancer Books for the literary value. I read them because I want a good cry; because I want to read about how awesome my life is, particularly in comparison to a dying teenager's. They make me feel good about myself--they make me appreciate what I have. They help me put the suck in my life into perspective.
And although Second Chance Summer did that in some parts, I felt as though the author was lightening it too much by adding all the sweet stuff about guys and best friends and Gesley and summer jobs. When readers know exactly what's going to happen at the end (from the first chapter onwards, it's obvious and inevitable that Taylor's father is going to die, so that's not exactly a spoiler), it's important that the author replaces what would have been anticipation and climax in a normal novel with powerful, emotional descriptions, because you need to make up for the lost tension as your story reaches its conclusion.
I don't think Second Chance Summer quite managed that.
In terms of weepy factor, I didn't come remotely close to crying, unlike in The Fault in our Stars, when I sobbed my heart out, or Before I Die, which ended with me sitting on the bed, hot tears rolling down my cheeks, soaking through the pages of the already-tattered library copy. I gave both of these books five stars.
In contrast, however, My Sister's Keeper made me continuously headdesk, and Kate was such an emotionally void character that I never felt anything towards her anyway. The ending was such a copout that I actually groaned out loud and shoved the paperback at the back of my bookshelf, where it remained, untouched, until my grandma decided to borrow it. (I might add that my grandma cried after reading it, which was awkward for me to hear. So I might have been missing out on something, but I hated that book.)
Second Chance Summer fits somewhere in between. While degrading it to Jodi Picoult standard would be downright insulting for the author whose writing I admire and whose characters were quite well-constructed and thoughtful, I don't think the 'cancer' issue was handled well enough for the significant role it played in this book (although I get that this novel was also about mending relationships), and it would've been better if we'd understood Taylor's father better, as all I got was separate quirks that didn't quite make up a whole person. Case in point:
- He likes bad puns, and he's always cracking them. Taylor's the only one who plays along.
- He doesn't like oatmeal raisin cookies, but he loves licorice, particularly the black type.
- He's a workaholic who gets all sorts of stuff FedEx'ed to him while on holiday.
- The only way Taylor describes his pain and gradual deterioration is by abusing the adjective 'winced', sometimes more than four times in the same chapter. *winces*
And the love interest, Henry? The one who was supposed to be all hot and exciting? The one who readers were supposed to swoon over, along with Taylor?
I didn't even like him. The romance happened so fast it felt forced and match-made, and reading about him kissing Taylor every five seconds was just, quite frankly, annoying and boring. It never felt real. For a newlywed couple, maybe this frantic love would've worked. But for two teenagers who were young and slightly awkward, who hadn't seen each other in years, who didn't really have SPARKS flying out of them?
It just didn't feel right.
I have to say, however, that the author handles the many plotlines in this story remarkably well as a whole, and despite the ending and the relationships at the end of the story being fairly predictable, I really enjoyed the ride. There aren't many YA books where the main character can balance having a best friend and a boyfriend at the same time, but Taylor can, and I loved how she was such a caring and sympathetic person.
At the end of the day, Second Chance Summer wasn't anything groundbreaking, and it didn't make me very weepy. I thought the father-daughter relationship should've been far stronger, and the author failed to make me connect to the love interest, who was an essential part of the story. While it was a nice contemporary read that really brought me back to the midst of summer (right now, Australia is cold) and I really did enjoy it, it's not a book to immediately whizz up to the top of your TBR pile. Four stars--it was sweet and cute, and good for you Americans who are probably soaking up the summer sun (no, those definitely aren't jealousy vibes you're getting from this beach-loving girl).