My Rating: ★★★★☆ (4/5)
Synopsis from Goodreads:
From the Flying Start author of Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour, a powerful novel about hope in the face of heartbreak.
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.
They could have been just my parents, both of them healthy and whole, the way I’d always known them, and the way I had stupidly always assumed they’d stay.
I don’t know if I can write a coherent review for this book, because every time I think about it I just want to curl under my blanket and cry. It hurts so bad, I just can’t contain my emotions.
Right from the first chapter I knew and understood that there will be a sad and heartbreaking ending, it was inevitable. And if you don’t want your heart to be crushed into tiny pieces, STAY AWAY FROM THIS BOOK. It’s not your typical fluffy and light contemporary read, because it’s so much more. And that’s why I loved it.
Taylor’s father was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer, and the doctors said that he only had approximately three months to live. As an attempt to have the last summer as a whole family, they’ll spend it together in their old lake house. At the start Taylor dreaded coming back to the lake house because the last time she was there was five years ago when she left her best friend and first boyfriend.
I’ll try to talk about the different aspects of this book one by one.
The setting was perfect, this was set in Lake Phoenix which was like a little summer town where people escape to during the summer. The little stores, the beach, the woods, the deck, and the lake house gave this book the perfect summer vibe.
This book doesn’t really rely much on its plot, the synopsis basically gave away almost the whole idea. You could already guessed what would happen in the book but you shouldn’t care about that, because what made this book amazing were the…
CHARACTERS. To begin with our main character, Taylor isn’t really the most likable female protagonist in the fictional contemporary world. She has a bad habit of running away—both literally and figuratively—when the situation becomes too difficult. But throughout the book her character-development is one of the most brilliant I’ve ever seen. She may be annoying sometimes but she was very realistic considering the struggles she’s getting through, and at the end I felt so proud of her because she had developed and grown so much.
At the start Taylor’s family was very distant to one another, they didn’t really knew how to be a family and spend time with each other. Warren, the older brother, is a genius who could tell you almost all the random facts in the world. Gelsey, the younger sister, who’s a ballerina. The Mother, who’s a former ballerina, in which Taylor can’t open up to all. And the Father, who was always busy with work before.
And despite the circumstances that had brought us here, I couldn’t help being glad for just a moment that we were sharing this together, as a family, at last.
Throughout the story their family becomes closer, and eventually starts having some family quality time. The individual character development of every member was also admirable, I felt like I was there with them every happy and devastating moment.
A great part of this book was spent on second chances with relationships. Especially with her her ex-bestfriend and first boyfriend. Taylor did something five summers ago that ruined those relationships, but once she decided to not run away anymore and get past that, her friendship with Lucy, her bestfriend, returns. Now the love interest here, Henry, was her childhood sweetheart and they haven’t really gotten over each other. The romance was a cute and fluffy part of this book and like Taylor, I was thankful for those moments because it distracted me from the heavy parts of the book.
The character of Taylor’s father was also portrayed well, the development of his sickness felt so devastatingly real. He went through a phase where he tried to live and experience everything as much as he could while he was still able to, like he watched all his favorite movies, ordered all the best foods (like the best popcorn in the country), and see the sunrise while he still can. It was very sad and it made me think about all the things I would do if I knew that I’ve only had a handful of days to live. He was truly a strong and admirable character.
As for the writing style, you could never go wrong with Morgan Matson— her writing is always spot on. It was easy to read with the right amount of details and I really liked Taylor’s thoughts. I loved how there were scattered life lessons in the book like there was a scene where a kid claimed his lost shovel in the lost and found box and Taylor’s insight was really something to ponder at.
I just nodded and smiled as they went, glancing into the box once more as I put it away. It struck me that each of these items, discarded and left behind, had once been special, important to the people that they belonged to. And even though I couldn’t see it, all it would take was for someone to find them again for them to be restored.
All those beautiful father and daughter scenes just broke me every time, I was always on the verge of tears even if they were just having breakfast at the diner. I couldn’t help but put myself in Taylor’s position and imagine that it was my Dad. IT HURTS SO MUCH EVEN IF I WAS JUST THINKING ABOUT IT AND I COULDN’T STOPPED MY TEARS.
The last part of the book just broke me. It was so achingly realistic and it went beyond anything I’ve read. I had a hard time reading it because my tears blurred my vision and I kept wiping tears from my tablet. The ending was already expected and I already saw it coming but IT WAS STILL SO HEARTBREAKING.
I have now read all of Morgan Matson’s published books, and I could say that she’s definitely one of the best contemporary authors out there (and she specializes on summer reads). I think Second Chance Summer is a perfectly balanced book, it has its sweet and fluffy moments while it’s also a sad and heartbreaking book. I recommended this to anyone who enjoys character-driven books with a heart fluttering romance and a great family aspect.
“The thing is that people only get hurt—really hurt—when they’re trying to play it safe. That’s when people get injured, when they pull back at the last second because they’re scared. They hurt themselves and other people.”