Second Chance Summer is a beautiful and heart-wrenching book, written by Morgan Matson.
Taylor Edward’s family isn’t the closest-knit – everyone is a little too busy and over-scheduled – but for the most part, they all get along. 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.
When crammed into a much smaller place which is 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.
The family grows closer as the summer progresses and they’re more aware than ever that they’re battling a ticking clock. Sometimes, though, there is just enough time to get a second change – with family, with friends, and with love.
Second Chance Summer is one of those books that you just don’t want to end. It was so good that I would be happy to keep living in that world forever. If you’ve read some of my other reviews, you’ll know that I’m the biggest Morgan Matson fan ever. I’m in love with Since You’ve Been Gone, Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour and now Second Chance Summer as well. I absolutely love the way Morgan writes and how she is able to weave such compelling and intriguing stories. She can make me laugh and she can make me cry like a little baby. Both of those things happened when I read this book, just to be clear.
I think my favourite thing about this book would be how Taylor, our main character, is affected by her father’s terminal illness. Basically, her family moves back to their lake house for the summer – their last summer all together – and Taylor has to fix broken friendships, face challenges at her new job while also dealing with the fact that her father won’t see the beginning of autumn. I enjoyed reading about how all of these issues intertwined and how Taylor learned to deal with all of the things going on in her life without just running away from her problems. I especially loved one of the messages this book contains – just because you run away from a problem, it doesn’t mean it no longer exists. Running away isn’t the answer. We have to face our issues head-on and stand strong and brave in the face of challenge and you’ll come out stronger in the end.
Another thing I felt was really well written in this book was Morgan Matson’s handling of a terminal illness. Taylor’s dad has a cancer that will slowly seep away his life over the summer, which was devastating to read about. This book, for the most part, wasn’t devastating though. I still had a lot of laughs and Taylor’s dad was funny and always looked on the bright side. But even though there were a lot of happy and sunny moments in this novel, her father’s illness was always looming overhead, like a dark cloud. It pulled at my heart with every laugh, reminding me that the ending of this book might require some Kleenex.
Let’s talk a bit more about that before I get any further, because I definitely don’t want to end this review on a sad note. This was a happy book, just the ending was heart-wrenching. I’m pretty sure you can all guess how this book ends. It’s obvious. It’s meant to be guessed; there’s no mystery to it. But that doesn’t mean I was in any way prepared for what it was going to be like. I was up at midnight, determined to finish the rest of this book. I didn’t want to end with a couple of chapters to go, waking up in the morning to what tragedies I knew lay ahead. So I pressed on. Oh my god, it’s literally making me cry just thinking about this. I’m actually crying as I’m writing this. Deep breath, Sarah.
So the ending of this book had me bawling my eyes out at about one in the morning. Let me paint you a picture. Oh crap, if a picture is worth a thousand words, does that mean I have to explain this in a thousand words? Soooo not doing that. I’ll spare you the pain. But basically, I was lying in my bed with only my bedside lamp creating a glow in my room. It was pitch black outside and I could hear the wind rustling the leaves on the trees and making my wind chimes ding. Unsuspecting and unaware, I hit the point in the novel from which there would be no return. When the first tear fell, I knew there was no going back. Tears continued to fall faster and faster until I was reduced to a blubbering mess. I’m not a pretty cryer. And then when I read the part about the stars… oh man. I had to put down the book and hold my head in my hands, trying not to cry to loud so that I didn’t wake the entire house. The ending wasn’t all sad, though. It was beautiful and touching and hopeful. It reminded me that people dying is a normal part of the life cycle. Everything has its time and everything must die. But sometimes it’s not fair that the most wonderful and beautiful people are snatched away from us too soon. All we can do is be happy that we were able to spend time with these magnificent people and let them live on in our memories.
Wow, was that too sad? Are you okay there? I think it’s time to move on to a positive note. Summer! Who doesn’t love summer? I sure do. And there’s nothing I love more about books set in summer, like all of Morgan Matson’s books. Okay, I don’t love Australian summers where it’s 40 degrees celsius or 104 degrees fahrenheit everyday. With that type of heat, it’s even too hot to go to the beach. So I prefer to sit inside and read about the perfect summer. It’s even better if I read these books in winter, because for a while I get to escape the cold and imagine eating ice-cream with all of the characters. I loved going to the beach, eating ice-cream, seeing fireworks and staying out all night, all without leaving my bedroom. Morgan’s writing feels so incredible real, and that’s one of the things I love most about her books.
As I touched on a little before in regards to facing your problems, Taylor undergoes a massive transformation throughout the novel, one that we particularly notice towards the end. I loved seeing her develop from a fearful, somewhat shy girl into one of the bravest people I’ve ever read about. It takes immense inner strength to live through such a tough time like she had to endure and to admit that you’ve done wrong and lay out your feelings to other people. I was so so proud of Taylor in the end and I loved getting to know her.
One character that I had mixed feelings on was Henry, Taylor’s ex-boyfriend. Something that I found hilarious about him was that he seemed to show up wherever Taylor was. Their initial interactions were so cringe-worthy that I found myself wincing every time he seemingly appeared out of nowhere. And then he seemed to not play much of a part in the novel until towards the end. And then, I felt like he was too forgiving sometimes and that some of his reactions were a little unrealistic. However, I absolutely loved his presence and how he meant so much to Taylor. Their love was beautiful to watch bloom.
All of the other characters in this novel were all intricately woven and were complex and in no way one-dimensional. Except maybe Taylor’s boss. All he wanted to do was go fishing. I’m kidding. So I loved reading about everyone from Taylor’s socially awkward brother to her talented little sister, to Taylor’s best friend Lucy and the other people she worked with. Each character was interesting and enjoyable to read about. And I felt like something that made me fall in love with the characters just that much more was how this book included flashbacks from summers gone by. It helped me to get a better understanding of each character, not only Taylor but also Lucy and Henry. Because of this, it was so evident to see character development and how the characters had changed. There was also a little bit of mystery surrounding why exactly Taylor had lost her friends and had broken up with Henry. Pieces of the past were revealed throughout the course of the novel and because of that, it kept me hooked the whole time.
Phew, this review is a long one! Sorry guys! Just about done now. So basically, this is a fun summer read with a tinge of sadness that deals with issues such as loss, love and life. This is a book I won’t be forgetting anytime soon and I will definitely reread this book in the summer. I urge all of you to read this beautiful book, as well as Since You’ve Been Gone and Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour if you haven’t already. I’d give Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson a score of 9.5 out of 10. Have you read this book or are you considering reading it? What do you think of Morgan Matson’s other books? Give me yo’ thoughts 😄
A huge thank you to Simon & Schuster Australia for providing me with this book in exchange for an honest review!