Novel: Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson | Goodreads
Release Date: May 8th, 2012
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children’s
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 am such a sucker for books about family. They automatically make any book a MILLION times better for me, and I think Second Chance Summer may take the cake on the portrayal of a family dynamic.
The story is all about Taylor’s family reconnecting during her father’s last months. They go to a lake house where they summered every year until Taylor was twelve, and at first, none of them are all that happy to be there. But once they begin to adjust, find friends, and reconnect, it becomes a beautiful summer. Scenes of Taylor talking with her older brother, having breakfast with her dad at a diner, and having dinner together as a family made me so, so happy. You rarely see moments like that in YA – especially little ones like dinners, heartfelt conversations, and witty banter. Usually, family dynamics in YA serve a purpose, but in Second Chance Summer Taylor’s family feels like a given. Of course they’d be so present in the story, and the story wouldn’t be the same without them in it. I loved the family dynamic that Matson created, and this is something I think all of her books truly excel at – family is always incredibly present in the story.
One of the other things I adored in the book was the focus on forgiveness. Taylor’s main issue with returning to Lake Phoenix was that her former best friend and first boyfriend would most likely still be there, and they aren’t exactly on good terms. Over the course of the story, Taylor has to forgive herself for her actions all those years ago, and also for the way she handles situations when she gets nervous or scared. She has to learn to stop running away, a theme that I and I think many other people deeply relate to.
And then they’re the heart-breaking reality of the cancer consuming Taylor’s father. For much of the book, his cancer doesn’t take a main role in the story. Instead, it’s there, in the background of the story, only brought up when moments remind Taylor of her father’s declining health. However, reading about Taylor watching her father slowly die in front of her just broke me in half. It’s such a raw and honest narration of that experience, and I think a different perspective than many of the “cancer books” in YA. In Second Chance Summer, the focus is on making those last moments hold meaning and purpose. On creating lasting memories and showing people how much they mean to us. I think those themes will be relatable to anyone, no matter if they’ve lost someone or not. The heartbreak of an impending loss of someone we love, I think, is universal.
My only complaint is that as much as I loved Henry and his and Taylor’s relationship, it felt a bit rushed. I didn’t quite ship them together as much as I wanted to, and I think that was because I didn’t know Henry very well. I wish I had seen more of him earlier in the book. However, I adored Taylor’s rekindled friendship with Lucy, because it reminded me of rekindled friendships I’ve had over the years, and how beautiful summer friends are.
Second Chance Summer is an emotional, raw, and beautiful story about love, loss, and family dynamics, and is an absolute treasure.