Author: Morgan Matson
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: May 8, 2012
Links: Amazon | Goodreads
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.
Taylor is an easy character to sympathize with. She's a normal girl in a family of overachievers so she feels somewhat less extraordinary than the rest of her family, but she doesn't lament over the fact. Her big flaw is that she hates confrontation and will run away from it rather than face it. In fact, her whole family seems to prefer to just avoid discussing the difficult situation that they find themselves in when they learn that her dad has cancer, and that is frustrating to Taylor. Her family is pretty amazing, though. Each one has their own personality and handles grief in different ways. One of my favorite things about this story is witnessing how they grow as a family over the course of this final summer with all of them together.
Taylor has to face her past in addition to her family struggles. She's avoided their vacation home for years after leaving things a mess with her best friend Lucy and her first boyfriend Henry, and now she has to face them both and deal with the lingering tendrils of bitterness and mistrust. So another of my favorite things about this book is the way that these old, meaningful relationships are slowly repaired. It's a gradual process and it isn't always easy, and it is presented in a natural and rewarding way. If I had to make one complaint, it would be that the situation from five years previous that separated Taylor from her friends was pretty much an overreaction, but she was twelve at the time, so I can overlook it.
The setting for Second Chance Summer is vivid and pulls the reader into its little mountain lake community. The pacing is steady and there aren't any lulls even though it's a character-driven story that is all about the relationships that we have to those around us. Those relationships are the focus of the novel, as Taylor gets to know her friends and family all over again, grows closer to them, finds an amazing support system, and experiences her own growth in the process.
I wholeheartedly recommend Second Chance Summer to lovers of contemporary fiction, books about grief and relationships, great summer settings, and stories that tug at your heart in all the right ways.