Morgan Matson is one of my favorite young adult authors. I love her realistic writing style that makes one instantly empathize with her characters and how she incorporates a variety of emotions into her novels. I also love how she effortlessly weaves together family and friends in most of her novels, giving both topics equal weight instead of merely focusing on one or the other. Her novels have a flowy, upbeat rhythm to them and are the perfect length – never too short or too long, for the most part. I’ve also fallen in love with the fictional town she has created as the setting for a couple of her novels: Stanwich, Connecticut. Stanwich is the perfect town for a high school – it’s alive, bustling with activity and friendly, caring, and supportive people, but also has a laid-back feel to it. So far, I’ve read three of the four novels Matson has published, and I’d rank them as followed:
- Since You’ve Been Gone (rating: 5/5)
This book is nearly flawless, except for how the ending felt a bit rushed. Other than that, I loved Since You’ve Been Gone, my first and favorite read by Morgan Matson. The plot is delicious, filled with a list of activities for Emily Hughes to complete upon the disappearance of her best friend, Sloane Williams. These activities lead to magical moments that help Emily discover herself, develop self-confidence, and make new friends, including Frank Porter. Frank is my favorite character in the novel; he is kind, funny, polite, and charming, fitting his role of a stereotypical class President well. This 5-star read will definitely stick with me for a long time.
- The Unexpected Everything (rating: 4/5)
I suggest reading Since You’ve Been Gone before The Unexpected Everything because it contains references to Since You’ve Been Gone, and it’s more enjoyable if you understand these references; however, it is definitely not a necessity to follow the novel! The story describes Andie’s journey as she goes from being a reputable politician’s daughter who always has a plan to a downtrodden dog walker after her Congressman father is caught in the midst of a political scandal. Although Andie’s problems feel quite superficial, I felt sympathetic towards her plight, which I credit to Matson’s superb characterization. The best friend relationship between Emily and Sloane is somewhat paralleled in the friendship between Bri and Toby, and Emily and Frank themselves appear in the novel for a few brief moments. Overall, I liked The Unexpected Everything, and how Andie learned to embrace spontaneity and live in the moment. The only aspect I struggled with was its length. At 519 pages, The Unexpected Everything is definitely on the longer side for a contemporary YA novel, and at several points the story seemed to drag.
- Second Chance Summer (rating: 3.5/5)
This book is very emotional, as Taylor’s father battles pancreatic cancer throughout the novel. I can’t quite pinpoint why this book is my least favorite out of the three (although I still really liked it), but I think mainly it’s because of how depressing it is at times, despite ending on a positive note. It was also quite predictable, with the story leading up to a few major events I knew were bound to happen. However, Second Chance Summer is still a good read, and its message about hope was inspiring and beautiful. Overall, this novel by Morgan Matson is a sweet, heart-breaking tale about first love and family.
I’ve wanted to read Matson’s first novel, Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour, for some time now, and I hope to get to it soon (my TBR list keeps getting longer and longer!). If you haven’t read Matson yet, I definitely recommend her 🙂