Morgan Matson’s Second Chance Summer (YA)

Every so often something comes along that really tugs at my heart, and Morgan Matson’s Second Chance Summer is one of those novels. Categorized as young adult fiction – perhaps because the protagonist is a teenager – the novel follows Taylor alternating narratives between the present day and events that happened five years in the past.

What would you do if a loved one was dying and you could do nothing to stop it? Would you run away from it, or would you have the strength to face it head-on? In Second Chance Summer, we see a family that appears normal on the surface, but underneath is struggling just to make it through each day.

On Taylor’s birthday, her parents sit her and her siblings down, and inform them that their father has just been diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer, with only four months left to live. The family decides to go back to their summer lake house in the Poconos – which they’ve rented out for the past five summers – to have one last summer together and bond as a family while they still can; something that none of them are used to doing, as they are all closed off and rarely speak about their emotions with one another. Taylor, in particular, has a habit of running away from things that frighten her, love, friendship, anything emotional. Five years ago, she ran away from the lake house and the two people that she was closest to in the world. Will Taylor be able to face her past and her father’s rapidly deteriorating health, or will she do the one thing that is most natural to her? Will she run away?

Second Chance Summer is about many things, but I think the most prominent theme is time and how it runs out. Without warning. You can’t run away from time any more than you can run away from pain or heartache or the possibility of falling in love. Time doesn’t wait until you’re ready, it keeps moving, ticking away the hours. In one way or another, we are all guilty of running away from something or someone, but, like Taylor realizes in the novel, there are some things that, no matter what you do, you just cannot run away from. You have to stand still. And, by choosing to face it, you will become stronger.

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Emily Liebert’s You Knew Me When

Once you’ve left, can you ever, really go home again? Emily Liebert attempts to answer these questions and others in her debut novel, You Knew Me When, a story about best friends, loves, and what happens when life gets in the way.

Katherine left home 12 years ago to pursue a career in the beauty industry. It had been a tough decision for her, leaving her best friend Laney and her boyfriend Grant behind, but it had been a once in a lifetime opportunity that she couldn’t pass up. All these years later, she is a top executive for one of the biggest cosmetic companies in the world, but she never heard from Laney or Grant again. Now, at the passing of an old friend and mother figure, Katherine is forced to go back to the ones she left behind and confront the issues of years past. Will their old bond be able to break through the wall that was built up between them, or is it simply just too late?

Are there some relationships that are strong enough to get passed years of hurt and regret? Can the bond of former best friends be tied back together once it’s been cut? They are questions that we’ve all wondered about at one point or another in our lives and ones that come up again and again in You Knew Me When. Our former best friends, people that we were once inseparable from, people that we now look back on with a mix of fondness and longing. Kind of like the one who got away but sans the romantic entanglement. What if you took a leap in a direction that your best friend couldn’t understand and ended up losing them in the process? Would you bury the longing in your heart and continue moving forward, or would you try everything in your power to get that friendship back?

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Inspiration From Your Adolescence

I don’t know what possessed me to do this, but recently, I paid homage to my youth by re-watching all six season of Dawson’s Creek. It was one of my favorite shows back in the day, and to be frank, still kind of is. One of the things that I really love about this show, is how profound it is. There will be scenes with all of this amazing dialogue that you can really take with you and use in your own life, dialogue that can change your whole way of thinking about a situation. I realize that this is also a reason why people criticized the show, that the dialogue is not how anyone speaks in real life and that it took away from the genuinity about it. In some ways, they are half true. The speech that is used, especially in the earlier seasons is a bit unrealistic, and I could see how that could confuse some people, or send others running for the dictionary, but why does that have to be a bad thing and take away the meaning of the show? If the words have the ability to change your life, I think that is a good thing.

I remember watching this show as a teenager and feeling comforted but not completely understanding why. Growing up, my home-life was not great, and I used the show as an escape, imagining myself being there, kind of like what I always did (and still do) with books. After re-watching the series, I realized that Dawson’s Creek was so much more than a get-a-way: if you let it, it actually has the power to enlighten and inspire you…as an adolescent and as an adult. It touches deep into your core, saying the things that you’re either too afraid to hear, or too afraid to say. And, although I couldn’t quite appreciate its greatness back then, I have no doubt in my mind that, on some level, I knew it was special. Dawson always said that he believed that you could find the answers to all of life’s questions in a movie. I’m not sure if that is really true, but, I think that this show succeeds in doing that in some ways.

As I was watching, I joked to Melissa that in some ways it felt like a therapy session; full of advice that (seemed) catered towards me. And, I think that, if given a chance, it can do the same thing for anyone regardless of your age. It’s one of those shows that can transcend the generation gap. The quote below is truly amazing.

“There are people in my life who are gone now. People I miss very much, and people who I am haunted by in different ways. But whether we’re separated by death or merely distance, I know that they’re still with me because I keep them in my heart. The truth is, in time, that’s all we’re going to be to each other anyway, this population of memories…some wonderful and endearing, some less so. But taken together, these memories help make us who we are and who we will be.”

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Lauren Graham’s Someday, Someday, Maybe

In Lauren Graham’s debut novel, Someday, Someday, Maybe, we follow Franny Banks, as she tries to make ends meet in this cute, coming of age story about deadlines, crushes and what it means to be a struggling actor. Franny has a self-imposed deadline that ends in six months, yet all she has to show for herself is one commercial, a waitressing job she can’t stand, and a depleting bank account. With an agent that won’t return her phone calls, will Franny be able to meet her deadline, or will she have to return home to her dad and figure out a plan B?

What’s great about this novel is that you don’t have to be interested in acting or in “the business” to relate to Franny, because the real issue that she is struggling with is growing up and learning about herself. We have all been there. We have all struggled (some more than others) to get the job we want, struggled to be noticed by that person we love, struggled with our identity, and in Someday, Someday, Maybe, Graham reminds us of this. But she also reminds us that if we keep persisting and don’t give up, we can achieve life changing opportunities. Anything is possible.

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Emily Giffin’s Something Blue

In honor of the recent release of Emily Giffin’s seventh novel, The One & Only, of which I am eager to delve into, I took a step back to the beginning of her writing career and reread her second novel, Something Blue, the sequel to Something Borrowed (will she ever bring back those characters again?), which brings back the beautiful, but self-centered Darcy as she travels to London to seek the comfort of her friend Ethan and start a new life away from New York, away from her ex-fiancé, away from her former best friend, and really, away from everyone who didn’t agree with the way she was choosing to live her life. With her impending motherhood, will Darcy be able to change her life for the better, or will she stay stuck in her ways?

What I love about Giffin is that not only is she great at getting the chick-lit story right, but she’s also a good writer which you don’t see a lot in that genre. Even though her stories have a light air to them, they also possess great strength and always make me take a step back and examine certain things about myself, decisions that I’ve made or haven’t made. All of her characters grow in one way or another. Take Darcy for instance. In the first novel we see her in she is extremely self-centered. She’s that way too in the beginning of Something Blue, but eventually learns that life can’t always be that way, and that if she were to stay on the path that she was going, she would never actually be happy. It’s a hard lesson for anyone to learn, but a valuable one. I leave you with a quote from the novel.

“Love and friendship. They are what make us who we are, and what can change us, if we let them.”

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