Raw, beautiful, and real | SECOND CHANCE SUMMER by Morgan Matson

20522640Novel: Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson | Goodreads
Release Date: May 8th, 2012
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children’s
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library


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.



Moving to NYC, making friends, and finding salsa

A week ago, I was standing on the sidewalk outside of Barnard, sitting on a suitcase while I waited for my move-in time to arrive. My parents were with me, standing on the pavement of our chalk-drawn box that indicated my space in line. There were boxes outlined in chalk wrapping around Barnard, other incoming students and their parents and all of their things waiting to be moved in, just like me.

Moving into college, for me, was similar to my birthday. You await the day filled with excitement, wondering if you’ll feel different or look different or be different, but when you wake up, you’re exactly the same. It’s just another day, despite the exciting thing that’s happening. College felt the same way. I’d been looking forward to move-in day since I was in middle school, desperately awaiting the day when I would have a dorm room! a dining hall! new friends! be away from home! And on move-in day, I was struck by the fact that it felt stunningly…normal.

And the first week of college has felt just as normal.

Sure, moving to New York is a shock to the system, just as my parents leaving me at the front gates left me in tears, but it also feels normal by now. Or rather, it feels like I’m at camp. My new friends and I are all feeling this way – that new student orientation week (yes – a week) has simply felt like you’re at camp, with activities and new friends and no school work to do. Although, the idea that I’m at camp may be my way of coping with my new reality, that I’m in college and far away from home and in a completely new place.

So, basically, I’ve adjusted far better than I expected. I haven’t been especially homesick, but I think one of the main reasons I’ve been able to avoid it is that I’ve been so busy. That’s a huge tip of mine for new college students: stay busy. Do all the activities, talk to new people, just milk the fact that you have no classes yet and enjoy yourself. That will help ease the homesickness and also exhaust you so much that you can sleep soundly in your new surroundings.

As for my college experience thus far, I’ve enjoyed every second of it. I’ve made new friends, two of which are my next-door neighbors, the others I met through my orientation group, and then more that I’ve met in the dining hall, at school activities, and through other people. I’ve met people from all over the world with unique insights and opinions, and I’m in love with that diversity.

I’m in love with walking through Columbia’s campus at eleven at night with my friends, chattering under the night sky with other students all around us. I’m in love with sitting in the stands at a Mets game two hours before the game starts and having discussions about the complexities of feminism. I’m in love with Meeting another girl from Texas who lives a half hour from Austin and spending an hour searching for salsa, and then having a salsa feast in my dorm room eating the salsa straight from the jar because I don’t have bowls. Going to open mic night and being shocked by my classmate’s talents and insight, snapping along to spoken word poems that discuss the realities of being a person of color in this country. Taking the subway downtown with friends and going thrift shopping and standing in line for cereal milk ice cream at Momofuku because it was around the corner and we didn’t have anywhere to be. Going to the One World Observatory and being in awe of the beauty of this city, and then finding a tiny pizza place and proclaiming yourselves the official fan club of it’s that good. Sitting in parks a block from campus and reading a book you borrowed from a girl with the same name as you while your friends sketch trees and lampposts and work on their resumes.

I’m in love with college.

On Tuesday, I start my classes, and there’s this festering of fear in my stomach. I don’t know if it’s irrational or real, but either way, I’m anxious to start. I want to learn a new language, take my first college history class, broaden my knowledge through intelligent discussions with my peers. I even want to know what the college workload will be like, even though I know it’s going to kill me.

I came into college with a lot of hopes and dreams, and honestly, most of them have come true. I’ve made friends, I love my roommate, New York City is everything I could’ve wanted, and my college continues to make me fall in love with it more.

Lately I’ve been thinking about how we spend a large part of our childhoods now thinking about our futures. I’ve been dreaming of college for long and now that I’m living that future, it feels utterly perfect.


Applying to College – Part Six: Making a decision


This is part five of my “Applying to College” series! I hope that these help some of you in your college search and process. If you missed part one of this series, check it out here: my experience applying to college, finding the right school, pre-application prep, applying, and results.

Note: I’m not an expert in any way, shape or form. My advice may not get you into your dream college – it’s just what worked for me!

visiting campus

If you are invited to fly up to campus, try to make it happen. I did one fly-up for a school I got into and it completely changed my tune about the school. It went from being purely a safety to one of my “I’d TOTALLY go there” choices. One recommendation is that if the school doesn’t offer to pay for your flight, ask them if they can. Call up the admissions office and see what they say – let them know you’re incredibly interested in the school, but visiting the school would be the piece that would allow you to say yes.

make a pros and cons list

If you’re struggling over which school to pick, I highly recommend making a pros and cons list. Think back to the reasons you applied to each school and the things you love about each one, along with the things you aren’t so sure about. Compare and consider your end thoughts.

talk to a current student

I know a junior at Barnard, so I called her up and spent two hours on the phone asking her a billion questions and hearing all about her experience at the school. That conversation cemented my decision to go to Barnard! If you don’t know someone at a school you’re highly considering, call their admissions office and ask if you can speak with a student. Pretty much every office has students working there and they’d probably be happy to chat with you about the school and answer any questions you may have.

think, think, think.

I spent a lot of time mulling over my choices while doing laps in a pool, one of the few places where I can mull things over in my head. I highly suggest going to whatever place allows you to do that and just thinking about your options. Which one feels the most right? What’s holding you back from making that choice, if there’s anything holding you back?

make the best choice for you

I cannot stress this enough. Make your college choice based on what YOU want, because you’ll be the one living there for the next four years. If it’s something that your family can financially swing and you love it with your entire heart and soul, take the plunge. Your college decision should be something that you feel confident in, and even if it wasn’t your first choice, it should still be a decision you’re comfortable with.

submit your decision

This was one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life. Accepting my admission at Barnard made me almost cry with happiness, and hitting decline for the rest of my acceptances was incredibly freeing. Revel in what you’ve succeeded in doing, and then go out and celebrate because guess what? YOU’RE GOING TO COLLEGE!

I hope you enjoyed this series, and feel free to email me or shoot me a tweet if you have any questions! Email: willasramblings@gmail.com, and Twitter is @WillasRamblings.

Best of luck on your college adventures!


Applying to College – Part Five: Results


This is part five of my “Applying to College” series! I hope that these help some of you in your college search and process. If you missed part one of this series, check it out here: my experience applying to college, finding the right school, pre-application prep, and applying.

Note: I’m not an expert in any way, shape or form. My advice may not get you into your dream college – it’s just what worked for me!

the waiting game

The pain of applying to college is definitely the time between applying to hearing back. Waiting for results was 100% the worst part of the entire process, but even then, it wasn’t that bad. My biggest tip for getting through those months is to keep busy. Try not to think about it (as hard as that is) and instead make plans to fill up your time and brain space. I recommend applying to scholarships, which is equally as time-consuming as applying to college. Surprisingly enough, the time passes pretty quickly.

#1 most important thing to do when waiting for responses: stay on top of your email and portals. Most schools use a portal to keep track of your documents and will communicate with you via the portal, so make sure to check it regularly. Check to make sure they’ve received all of your documents and that they don’t have any weird school-specific documents (ESPECIALLY in the financial aid department).

financial aid

Financial aid is the reason I’m able to go to the school I am. Make sure that your parents get their taxes done ASAP (I’m serious. Like. As soon as humanly possible.) because many schools will not give you your need-based financial aid package until they receive your parents’ taxes. As mentioned above, some schools have unique requests in the financial aid department, so keep a look out for that on your portals and in your email.

Another big thing about financial aid: once you receive your package, know that you can always contest it if you think you deserve more, especially if you get more from a similar school. Don’t be afraid to ask for more need-based financial aid!

gettin’ those results

The classic getting-your-acceptance-letter-in-the-mail-thing? Not 100% true. I had two schools who sent me my letters ONLY via mail, the rest posted responses on our portals or emailed us and then mailed acceptance packages. If you get back positive results, CELEBRATE! Get some ice cream, call all of your biggest fans and party party party. If you didn’t get in, take my mom’s advice: every place is what you make of it – even if it’s not originally your #1, you can make it your #1.

If you got deferred, you’re in the same boat I was in for two of my schools. What to do: write a letter of intent. This letter essentially says, “yes, I’m still interested going to [insert school name here] because of [reason 1], [reason 2], and [reason 3].” Obviously, it’s a bit longer than that. My letters were both about a page and focused on reasons I loved the schools and new things that had happened in my life since I applied. Did you ace your finals? Let them know! Did you start a new job, join a new club, do some incredibly meaningful service? Let ’em know! Considering switching your major? Let ’em know! I also got an additional letter of recommendation from someone outside of school (mine was from someone in publishing who knows me really well, which appealed to my career goal focus of my application) and this is something I highly recommend doing.

Note on deferrals: don’t write your letter until at least two weeks after you’ve gotten your response. Simmer down from the initial anger, and don’t tell the school how hurt you are by their deferral. Be kind and polite!

what’s next?

It’s time to make a choice, as shocking as that may sound. Take a bit of time, consider your options, and refer to next week’s post about making a decision.

Next up in this series:

  • Making a decision

If you have any questions about my process or anything along the way, feel free to comment down below, send me an email (willasramblings@gmail.com), or a tweet (@WillasRamblings) and I’ll be happy to reply.


Applying to College – Part Four: Applying


This is part four of my “Applying to College” series! I hope that these help some of you in your college search and process. If you missed part one or two of this series, check them out here: my experience applying to collegefinding the right school, and pre-application prep.

Note: I’m not an expert in any way, shape or form. My advice may not get you into your dream college – it’s just what worked for me!

half the journey is clicking submit

One of the things that I think everyone who applies for any nerve-wracking thing struggles with is hitting submit. The button that sends something off into space and you won’t be able to change anything anymore. That permanence is frightening for a lot of people, I think.

Once I’d put all of my pieces together, put finishing touches on my essays and triple checking my application for spelling errors, I had to hit submit. I was so nervous. I kept on wondering if there was anything else I could change or perfect in any way. At a certain point, I just had to do it. I was ready, everything was together, and it was time.

The final push for me was my college counselor telling me that it was time. He told me it was time to do it, and my friends cheered me on as I hit submit for the first time, and I saw those beautiful check-marks appear on my portal in the Common App. That feeling of comfort and relief is like nothing else I’ve ever experienced.

So, come time to submit, don’t be afraid of that button. If you’re ready and it’s time, take the plunge. Hit the button and celebrate with people who support you – you’re worth it!

submitting everything else

The other things you have to submit aren’t nearly as nerve-wracking as the application itself, in my opinion.

Test scores are the most important thing outside of the application itself that you’ll most likely need to submit. Make sure you’ve put aside a bit of money, because sending test scores can get expensive REALLY fast. Make sure you’ve got the right schools down and send those puppies off. One thing to know is that you can send test scores to a school before you’ve submitted your application, so you don’t have to wait to submit them. If anything, DO submit them early because most schools take a while to process all of the pieces of your application.

One of the things I didn’t expect to have to submit was a resume. A couple of my schools had the option of submitting one in addition to your activities list, and I’d recommend submitting one if given the option. It’s an opportunity to give the colleges EVERYTHING you’ve done, and also give them a better idea of what your skills are outside of the classroom. Say you have experience working with Photoshop or Final Cut Pro – those are things you can put on the resume that will demonstrate a proficiency in real-world skills that colleges may like seeing! This will also be an opportunity to put down any summer college camps you’ve gone to, awards you’ve gotten, etc. I, personally, LOVE making resumes, so let me know if you ever need advice on creating one – I’d be happy to help.

recommendation letters

Once you’ve submitted your application, write whoever wrote you recommendation letters a thank you note. It’s a kind gesture that goes a long way, and it’s also a way to let them know you’ve submitted, and possibly, a subtle reminder to submit your letters.

That’s it for today’s post! I’ll be back next week with part five in the series, all about results and the waiting game.