A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
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.
- Parents say
- Kids say
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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