Hi guys, welcome to Day 3 of Morgan Matson Week! Today I’m reviewing Second Chance Summer, Morgan’s sophomore novel, which I read for the first time just a few weeks ago. And WOW, do I have feels. Read on for more, and then, when you’re done feeling all the feels, check out Alexa Loves Books and Hello, Chelly for some lighter Morgan Matson fun with fashion!Second Chance Summer
Author: Morgan Matson
Find the author: Website, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr
Also by this author: The Unexpected Everything, Amy & Roger's Epic Detour
Publication date: May 8th 2012
A powerful novel about hope and heartbreak, “as much about loss as it is about first love and friendship” (Publishers Weekly, starred review).
Sandwiched between two exceptional siblings, Taylor Edwards never felt like she stood out—except for her history of running away when things get too complicated. Then her dad receives unexpected, terrible news, and the family makes the last-minute decision to spend the summer together in the cramped quarters at their old lake house.
Taylor hasn’t been to the summer house since she was twelve, and she definitely never planned on going back. Up at the lake she is confronted with people she thought she left behind, like her former best friend, Lucy, and Henry Crosby, her first crush, who’s all grown up…and a lot cuter. Suddenly Taylor is surrounded by memories she’d rather leave in the past—but she can’t run away this time.
As the days lying on the beach pass into nights gazing at the stars, Taylor realizes she has a second chance—with friends, with family, maybe even with love. But she knows that once the summer ends, there is no way to recapture what she stands to lose.
From Morgan Matson, the PW Flying Start author of Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour, this is a remarkable novel about hope in the face of heartbreaking grief.
Review: Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson
I had a deep, deep fear of reading this book because I knew it was going to be heart-breaking. I’d heard that from all of my favorite book people. But I also knew that every single book person I trust has loved it, and that I was going to be guaranteed a story that would stay with me because it was Morgan Matson, and I’ve loved her work for years.
But I was scared. What if I didn’t like it? What if I did and bawled so much that I would never be the same? So I kept putting this book on my list, every year, some years when I was actually at a lake house. I was determined to read it…but I never did. And now I realize, after reading it, that my journey to reading this book is a lot like the protagonist, Taylor’s. I was running from the feeling. I made excuses. I wasn’t ready to accept and face it.
Here’s the thing that’s interesting: for me, Taylor, the protagonist of Second Chance Summer, was easily the most difficult Matson character I’ve read. By that, I mean that I didn’t connect to Taylor at all at the beginning of the novel. I found her whiny and immature, stuck in a loop of running away, so much so that things that happened to her years ago with her best friend and her first boyfriend are still stopping her from living.
Taylor’s walls were so thickly and painfully drawn, created of not wanting to be vulnerable, made from moments where she made a mistake and wouldn’t accept or acknowledge or find a way of moving on. And at first, I didn’t get that.
But the thing is…we all have moments like that. Things we don’t realize we’re doing to keep ourselves from being hurt (see above). And when we do that, when we try to play it safe, as one of the characters tells us, we often miss out on something amazing.
For me, that was almost this book. Even though it’s not a perfect book to me – the first half of this book was the least subtle of Matson’s work (there were a few moments where I felt like there were too many mentions of “second chances”) – the final section of the book is easily the best thing Morgan has ever written. It’s full of poignant moments, honesty about death and love. There’s a perfect, indelible moment that crystallizes the book and I believe, Matson’s whole philosophy. And you have to read the whole thing to get to this. It doesn’t stand on it’s own, but like everything else in life, it takes context to create the whole.
I can honestly say that the end of this book is completely unforgettable. It is the standard by which I will now judge “all the feels.” And it’s up there as one of the Moments By Which I Will Now Define My Reading Life.
All this to say…this is a must-read for anyone who loves contemporary fiction.
Life Keeps Going: The thing that got me about this book – and what I hope you’ll realize if you decide to pick it up (AND YOU SHOULD) – is that it’s not all sad. Not every moment of the summer is focused on the worst parts – in fact, there are a lot of funny and sweet and learning moments as well. Like life, this book balances the good with the bad.
Art Matters: Movies and books and poetry play an important role in this book. Past the fear and acceptance of his diagnosis, Taylor’s father, Rob, revels in the simple pleasures of every day, but also begins to remind himself of the things he loves best in the world. One of my favorite moments in the book involves him sharing a favorite poem with Taylor.
Family Matters: In a book like this, where so much of the context depends on relationships between family, it would be easy to fall into stock characterization. Not so with this book – each and every character of Taylor’s family is so developed, and I was so grateful that they were there to support one another.
Real Friendship: I actually didn’t expect that this book would have that much in the friendship department because I knew it was so family-focused. But the fact that it had a really special friendship develop in the midst of all of the heavy…it just shows how amazing and understanding Morgan is of how life can give you a gift in the midst of the crappy times.
Swoony Boy Alert: I mean, it’s Morgan Matson, did you expect any different?
Book Theme Song:
This song is more Taylor’s mindset at the beginning of the book, but the feel and sound of it works with the whole book. And since Taylor’s dad was listening to a lot of Jackson Browne, I think it’s fitting.
And I had a lover
It’s so hard to risk another these days
Now if I seem to be afraid
To live the life I have made in song
Well it’s just that I’ve been losing so long
I’ll keep on moving
Things are bound to be improving these days
These days I sit on corner stones
And count the time in quarter tones to ten, my friend
Don’t confront me with my failures
I had not forgotten them
The Final Word:
Second Chance Summer is a tribute to courage and what the human spirit can accomplish when faced with impossible odds but incredible support. While the front half of Second Chance Summer was a bit uneven for me, the back half captures death and grief and living your life for every moment in a way that no other book ever has for me. There are moments that will be etched into my brain and heart forever. I hope that what I learned about myself and felt during this book will stay with me, reminding me, every day, just how important it is to love and love fully.
Have you read Second Chance Summer? Did you bawl as much as I did? If not, are you okay with really deeply emotional books? What is one song you listen to to remind you to live life to the fullest?
Don’t forget to stop by today’s other posts for more Morgan Matson bookish fun, and scroll down for a couple of giveaways!