Second Chance Summer

Book review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Second Chance Summer Book Poster Image
Popular with kids
Teen faces dad's death, former crush in beautiful story.

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 10 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Readers learn about the progression and stages of pancreatic cancer and how it affects the body. Oncological and other medical terms are explained as Taylor and her siblings learn to cope with their father's advanced-stage cancer. Observant teens will also learn a bit about music and movie history as Mr. Edwards shares his favorites with his family.

Positive Messages

Readers learn a bit about what it's like to have a loved one dying of cancer and the importance of talking about their feelings with their parents and getting to know them as individuals instead of as members of a different, unapproachable generation. Taylor also teaches the importance of staying and facing difficulties instead of running away from your problems.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Taylor overcomes her instinct to run away every time something unthinkably difficult confronts her, and she repairs long-strained relationships. By allowing Henry back in her life (and her heart), she opens herself up to love, even though going through grief with someone is hard. Mr. Edwards doesn't take the last months of his life for granted and makes each moment count -- with his children, his wife, and his father. He surrounds himself with his favorite things and most beloved people. Henry is a pretty amazing guy: devoted and protective brother, selfless son, and sensitive and kind boyfriend who never takes things farther than Taylor wants.


It isn't violent, but it could be disturbing (particularly for teens who've experienced the loss of a parent) to read about Mr. Edwards' sickness and death. Taylor describes how his pancreatic cancer progresses. She also falls and injures her hand.


Taylor reminisces a lot about her summer crush on Henry when they were 12; they shared their first kiss and early make-out sessions. Taylor and Henry reunite with considerably more passion at 17 than they had at 12. Taylor reveals that her desire for Henry surpasses what she's felt for any other guy she's dated/kissed. They can't keep their hands off each other, but there aren't any graphic scenes, and the making out never leads to sex. Other characters go on dates, kiss, and flirt.


Like many teenagers, Taylor and her friends say "f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," "bitch," and more when they're together.


Occasional mention of Mr. Edwards' favorite movies and music (Casablanca, Jackson Browne, etc.), which he begins to surround himself with toward the end of his life.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Grown-ups drink at a party; one high schooler drinks at a party.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Second Chance Summer is a tender coming-of-age novel that follows a 17-year-old's final summer with her father, who's dying of cancer. The story has some heavy, emotionally charged themes, from the deteriorating dad whose behavior changes as his disease worsens to repairing fractured relationships (including the usually distant dynamic between the protagonist and her siblings) and allowing yourself to fall deepy in love. There's some teen language ("s--t," "f--k," "ass," "bitch"), and a few passionate kisses and make-out sessions, but ultimately this is a novel about life, love, and family.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 8, 11, and 13-year-old Written byCherry_Blossoms June 1, 2013

Amazing book good for mature tweens

Let me say something before I start the review:
The book is amazing.
The first paragraph makes you want to read the book, not even, the COVER makes you want to... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bydonald_duck December 11, 2016
Teen, 14 years old Written byseermist1397 May 24, 2016

Sweet and Simple

It has romance in it but it isn't graphic. It swore some, but not a lot. It is about a teen returning to her summer cabin for one last summer with her dad... Continue reading

What's the story?

Taylor Edwards isn't ready for the summer between her junior and senior years in high school. Her father, a successful attorney, has just been diagnosed with incurable pancreatic cancer, so her parents have decided to take the three kids to their summer house in the Pocono Mountains for the first time in five years. On top of her dread about her father's advancing disease, Taylor can't come to terms with the thought of facing the two people she left behind the summer she was 12: Henry, her first boyfriend, and Lucy, her former best friend. The summer starts off as awkward and sad, but even as she faces the grief of losing her father, Taylor learns to open herself up to rekindling old relationships and experiencing unconditional love.

Is it any good?

Matson's debut novel, Amy and Roger's Epic Detour, was one of the best young adult books of 2010, so expectations were high for her sophomore release, and she doesn't disappoint. This is a beautifully written exploration of how one fateful summer changes so much in a 17-year-old girl's life. Matson manages to keep Taylor's emotions running high -- how could they not when she's about to lose a parent? -- while also sprinkling the sadness of anticipatory grief with moments of genuine humor and even romance.

Matson creates a protagonist who's achingly real. Taylor is occasionally insecure (a classic middle child, she has a genius older brother and a ballet prodigy younger sister) and slightly clueless about how to handle her initial spark of attraction to Henry. While the romance is intense (Henry is quite the swoon-worthy love interest), it's not all about stolen kisses in the rain. This is a story about the love between fathers and daughters, brothers and sisters, and lifelong friends. The plot will resonate deeply with any reader who has lost a parent. Kids, you should get to know -- really know -- your parents, the author is saying, because you carry them with you always, whether you know it or not.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how teen books depict death and grieving. How does the Edwards family deal with Mr. Edwards' cancer? Teens: Does Second Chance Summer inspire you to get to know your parents better?

  • How is Taylor's connection to Henry stronger than her attchment to previous boyfriends? Is it realistic that high schoolers would be be so dedicated to each other through a tragedy?

  • What does Taylor she learn about herself and her family? What are some other books about life-changing summers?

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