Title: Second Chance Summer
Author: Morgan Matson (Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour)
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing
Rating: It’s Complicated (just read the review, alright?)
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.
This book. Oh god, this book. Just warning you, this is probably going to be a fairly long and rambling review. I’m actually writing it the same day that I finished the book, which I rarely do, but I just had to talk about it while it was still oh so fresh in my mind.
First of all, I’ll address the rating. If you’re like me, one of the first things you looked at in this post was the quick rating up at the top. I like using the word ratings at the end of the reviews, but I still like giving a second, more logical rating above. Well, for this book, I decided not to – I just basically said “it’s complicated.” Actually, I literally just said that, and I’m not using the word “literally” incorrectly.
For me, this book has two different ratings. There’s the rating for the first half of the book or so, when it focuses on Taylor’s friendship and romantic drama, when her father seems more like a subplot than the driving force, and when I was least interested in the story. But then you get to the last hundred or so pages, when her father takes center stage and emotions are high and I was just so enthralled in the whole thing.
First the less positive review. For the first half or so, this book was a pretty solid 3, 3.5 star book for me. I had trouble really caring about Taylor. She was a slightly frustrating protagonist at time, especially when she was angsting about her friendship drama with Lucy or her romantic drama with Henry. When we finally find out what was the big scandal that caused the two rifts, about halfway through the book, I think, I just stared at the book in disbelief. Seriously?! All this drama and angsting and that’s the reason you all hate each other? I’m not going to spoil the reason behind the fights, but I’m telling you I thought they, especially Henry, were making a huge deal out of something that was bad but not that bad. And then there was some romantic drama near the end, where the focus should have been and mostly was on Taylor’s dad, and I just wanted to shake the book and tell it that the romantic drama was not needed! We have emotional punches to dodge, we don’t need to deal with your relationship issues! And sorry for all the italics but I just needed to emphasize things!
I also had trouble keeping track of many of the characters. I remembered who her siblings were, but there were so many secondary characters, and characters that were probably main characters, that I just could no keep track of; in the scenes where multiple people were gathered together, it took me a few seconds to remember who everyone was, even if I knew basically who the character was. I just had trouble connecting with the story in the first half, even though I was interested in the story that was waiting to be told.
And then we get to the second half, mainly the last hundred pages or so. That was when the rating, for me at least, rockets up to a very emotional 5 freaking stars. So emotional, just gutting. I began to care about Taylor more. I felt like my heart was going through a wringer along with her. There was a little bit of romantic drama during this time, but mostly things were about her dad and her relationship with her whole family.
One of the most poignant storylines regarding her dad involved her inability to say that she loved him. She knew that she loved him, he knew that she loved him, but she just couldn’t say the words, especially because it would be like admitting that he just wasn’t going to get better and that he would never hear it again. Even when you love someone like a parent or a sibling, it’s just so damn hard to say it sometimes, and the whole storyline really echoed with me and kind of made me want to call my parents and tell them I love them (although I’m just too much like Taylor in that regard to do so, at least not in my current state of mind).
And the last thirty pages – god, such a short section, but I could not get through it. It took me forever to read those last thirty or so pages because I literally (again, using that word truthfully) had to set aside the book for a few moments after just reading a couple of paragraphs. I was so glad that I had a box of tissues nearby and that my roommate was away for the afternoon. Sometimes I had to get up and get a drink of water and just walk around. I can’t remember ever being so emotional about a book. Even in books with dead parents, you normally see the story “after” and some memories of “before,” but you rarely see “during.” I don’t know how Morgan Matson was even able to write it – there were times I wasn’t able to read because my eyes were full of tears and I was laughing at myself for being so affected by a book. Mostly, though, I was laughing because it was the only thing keeping me from full-out sobbing. Just so emotional.
When I finally finished it, I just had to start doing things. I had so much pent-up energy, and I’m not quite sure why. Also, my eyes were tired – I can’t remember crying so much that my eyes were tired afterward, but apparently that’s a thing. And I just had to sit down and write a really freaking long review and get out everything I needed to say. And even though I knew what I wanted to say, I was still so emotionally drained and conflicted over this book. I tagged it with four stars, but you now know that it was so much more than just one number for me. That’s why it’s getting the 4.5 star word.
Because, for all the sadness and tears, this really, truly was an emotional, haunting, and lovely book.