Title: Second Chance Summer
Author: Morgan Matson
Publisher: Simon & Schuster BFYR
Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars
A thousand moments that I had just taken for granted – mostly because I had assumed that there would be a thousand more.
-Morgan Matson, Second Chance Summer
All her life, Taylor has been a runner. As soon as things get hard, she takes off, and her dad has always been the one to find her, greeting her the same way each time.
Hey, kid. What’s the news?
But then, in one heart wrenching moment, Taylor’s life is changed forever. On the day of her birthday, her dad is diagnosed with stage four cancer and is given only four months to live. And for once, Taylor can’t run.
Determined for a last bit of normality, her dad announces that he’d like to spend a last summer together at their lake house in the Poconos. The family has not been back there for years, busy with camps and activities and ventures that have caused them to enjoy the summer months separately. Secretly, this is the last place Taylor wants to go after the way things ended five years ago. But, wanting to fulfill their dad and husband’s last wishes, the family packs their suitcases and journeys up to the Poconos, one final time.
Back at the lake house, Taylor finds that while she was absent, many things have stayed the same. The house and summer town are filled with memories of fond seasons spent on the beach, licking ice cream cones, exploring the woods, and huddled in the tree house on rainy afternoons. The scariest thing is, the people she left behind are there too – not yet healed and not all of them ready to forgive. People who shaped her childhood and her as a person; people who have changed since she left and yet stayed the same. Henry and Lucy, her first crush and her first best friend.
The calendar suddenly means so much more than it ever used to. Back when she used to spend her summers at Lake Phoenix, the finish of the season’s calendar signaled only the end of vacation and the going home, back to school and routine. Now, Taylor can’t even think about what will happen when August draws to a close.
As the months tick on, Taylor begins to realize just how much she relies on the family she was never close with. She revisits old memories of Lake Phoenix and the Poconos, some painful and some joyous. She wants to savour the time she has, but as the days pass and the flesh on her feet hardens from walking with bare feet, Taylor knows she only has so much left. This is her last opportunity to fix what she broke, and most of all, her last opportunity for second chances.
I loved Since You’ve Been Gone so much that I just had to read another one of Morgan’s books. Second Chance Summer seemed like such a beautiful story, and honestly, I think the summery cover captivated me because we were still experiencing very frigid weather at the time!
Taylor was a brilliant protagonist. My favourite thing about her was that she was both strong and vulnerable. She was growing up, while at the same time she was still scared, needed help and someone to lean on. She was affected through and through, but she was also brave and tried her best to withstand the pain. This creates both internal and external conflict and makes a truly wonderful character that we can relate to.
Taylor also had weaknesses. Her fear often overtook her and in these moments she would run away, desperate to escape it all. Her weakness had an origin, and I as a reader really felt for her.
Taylor matures and grows throughout the book. She is a very different person when the book begins then when the book concludes, and we follow her along this journey.
Taylor’s relationship with Henry, however, was missing for me. I can’t tell you exactly what it was, but her history with this boy did not come through. Despite the flashbacks and Matson’s attempt at helping you both understand and love Henry like Taylor did, I just didn’t find that connection with him. The entire dynamic was underwhelming. I also found that their relationship progressed too quickly. It was a bit of a whirlwind, leaving me confused as to how they ended up where they were. I don’t want to reveal too much, but I think you’ll see what I mean if you do end up reading this novel for yourself.
Lucy and Taylor were an entirely different story. They gelled so well together, and I completely loved Lucy. I got why she meant so much to Taylor. She was such a strong character, and one alongside the other, they were unstoppable.
And finally, there was Taylor’s family. This was such a perfect aspect of the book. At the beginning of the story, the Edwards are not perceived as close, but as the book progresses, it is revealed just how much they rely on each other, though they don’t always admit it. It shows how important family is, as well as how tough times cause people to band together. The three siblings had a beautiful connection, as did Mrs. Edwards with her family, but I really want to focus on Taylor and her father.
This, in my opinion, was the most important part of the entire novel. Her dad has always been there for her, silently, but now that they have limited time together, they find the need to say the things that have always remained unsaid. Taylor learns from her dad, and he from her, and as the summer wears on, they discover just how much they need each other.
The characters were the best part of Second Chance Summer.
Matson’s writing in Second Chance Summer is perfect for the theme of this book. It is soft and captures wonderfully the entire feel of summer. Her attention to detail is compelling. I could tell that this was written before Since You’ve Been Gone, as she has really developed since writing Second Chance Summer, but really, that’s a given. She has since smoothed out the rough edges and made everything flow in a nicer way. Having said this, I still appreciated the way she captured the little moments and created an entire world that was Lake Phoenix.
The setting in Second Chance Summer was important because of the memories Taylor had there. I think Morgan did a marvelous job in helping readers see Lake Phoenix through Taylor’s eyes. We understood just how hard and strange it was for her to come back to a place where so much happened in the past. Throughout the book we see glimpses of that and it helps us see it in a different way than we otherwise would have.
I really enjoyed Second Chance Summer. It is heart breaking, but I loved it all the same. It really gives you perspective; really makes you see the important things in life and how vital it is that you make the most out of every chance you get to say I love you, eat dessert, or watch a movie on a big screen.
I have to say, there were a couple of points throughout Second Chance Summer when I lost interest for a bit. There were a couple of things that just didn’t work for me, and yet I can’t quite say what they were. That frustrates me, but it’s definitely not something that should prevent you from picking this up for yourself!
Second Chance Summer grabs onto your heart strings and yanks them every which way, causing you to laugh, cry, and smile, sometimes all at the same time! That is the mark of a good contemporary.
Something that I really appreciated within this novel was that there was comic relief. It wasn’t all serious, all the time, and I definitely think that is important or it just gets depressing. You can decidedly laugh throughout.
Second Chance Summer, in the end, is about real life. Real, true, raw life. It isn’t sugar coated. You will find a friend in Taylor, and you will experience everything with and through her.
Want to find out more about Morgan? Visit her at her website!
Morgan’s newest book, The Unexpected Everything, was recently released, and I just bought it for myself! Stay tuned for a review, and make sure to pick up your own copy!
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