Book Title/Author: Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson
Publisher/Year: Simon & Schuster 2012
Genre: Contemporary YA
Other Books From Author: Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour
I received this from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way swayed my opinion. Pinky swear!
Taylor and her family are heading up to their summer house in the mountains for their last summer together as a family. Her dad has been diagnosed with cancer and only has months to live. Taylor doesn’t want to confront this reality nor does she want to go back and confront the mess she left here at the lake house 5 years ago – including her former best friend, Lucy, and Henry, her first love. She spends the summer confronting her past, her new reality and trying to make up for the moments lost and not pass up those second chances.
This isn’t going to be my typical review. I tried to write a review for this but I couldn’t so I’m going to instead write a letter to Morgan Matson. It’s not spoilery but I hope it will give you some insight into just how special this book is. Honestly, it’s incredible. I will give my “Final Thought” at the end still so you can get a general idea of what I thought.
You know I’m a big fan of Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour but Second Chance Summer is undoubtedly one of the most special books I’ve had the pleasure of reading. Sometimes you read a book that hits so close to home and it’s SO hard but worth it. Even if I had not gone through what I had gone through I know, without a doubt, I’d still be raving about this book and telling everyone how special it is. Second Chance Summer is just such a complete book — it’s about so much more than a girl watching her father die. So often books that touch on this toe the line of just screaming HEY THIS CANCER IS A PLOT DEVICE. Second Chance Summer did not do that. It felt like a genuine piece of someone’s life – a really, really tough time in ones life but not at all the whole story. It’s about honest to goodness life. Ups and downs in all its glory.
I’ve never cried so hard while reading a book and really it was the last chunk of the book that did me in. I teared up a few times throughout but that last chunk felt like I was reliving my own life. My story? My mom was diagnosed with brain cancer in December 2004 when I was a senior in college and passed away in July 2006. Those years of watching her slowly lose the fight KILLED me to watch and I’ll never get some of these images out of my head.
Most of the books I’ve read with teens who lose parents is the “After” where the grief is really dealt with but this was the most beautiful, perfect story of the “finding out” you parent has cancer and the process of losing them. Of watching them die, to put it bluntly, which draws that grieving process out. It’s in the details where this book was so perfect. It was perfect, beautiful and painted one of the truest pictures of what this really looks like. The story may be different for everyone but that bare bones experience is so similar. What I liked about it that it was so representative of life. The whole summer was not all about the cancer because real life is not like that. I’d have days where my mom’s cancer didn’t loom so low over my head, days that felt almost normal. I’d deal with normal teen problems, that I knew were trivial in light of things, but these were still my days…my life. Then there were days that were hard – the days where significant change happened or moments when my mom had to give a little more freedom over. I appreciated this.
Second Chance Summer really got those details almost down to the T from the protective dog that wouldn’t leave my mom’s side, to the day when work told her she couldn’t work anymore (she was MUCH like Taylor’s dad in her workaholic ways), to the days when all she would do is sleep, to the arrival of our grandmother to hold and take care of her daughter in her final weeks or to the moment you walk in the room and see your parent lying there with no more breaths left to breathe. The tears that litter the pages of my book are a testament to the heart and soul you created within these pages; as well as a reminder of what I’ve gone through. It gives me refuge in some ways. I AM NOT ALONE. I HAVE GOTTEN THROUGH THIS. I CAN GET THROUGH OTHER THINGS I’M GOING THROUGH.
I really want to THANK you for Second Chance Summer. For a character I could relate to. I felt a lot of guilt for living my life while my mom got worse and worse just like Taylor did. I closed myself off a lot. I RAN and still RUN from things a lot. I know I shouldn’t but I do. I want to do great things every day. Like Taylor, I never thought there would be that moment when my mom would never be there. I reflected on this in my Mother’s Day post. Most of all, I love how STRONG Taylor truly was. So often the strong heroines are the ones fighting dragons and bad guys but, after going through this, I view strength in a whole different way — the strength to get through something like this, the strength of family and the strength of the person who is looking cancer (or any adversity) right in its ugly face.
I want to thank you for a beautiful story about watching someone you love die because it was one of the hardest most defining moments in my life. I wish I would have had this years ago to read. I want to thank you for doing it with care. I don’t know YOUR story but what I do know is I felt like you saw what I went through. I want to thank you for not just making this a story about a girl who is losing her dad but about life and love and family and friendship that still happens during that process. I genuinely loved Taylor and her family. I loved Henry and Lucy. And Murphy. And really all of the characters to be honest. Everyone seemed real and important.
So thank you. Thanks for writing amazing books. Thanks for writing characters I can truly relate to. Thank you for making me smile, for swooning, for making reflect and for making me remember to keep living. Thank you for not simplifying it but keeping the story and the dynamics of a sick parent as complex as they really are. Thank you for showing great strength in a way that isn’t of the ass kicking variety. Thank you for not having a romance be the only thing to get Taylor through this and showing the importance of family and friends. Thank you for one of my favorite father/daughter stories ever. I truly loved watching their relationship grow. I called my dad immediately upon finishing. Thank you. This book was perfect in every way.
Second Chance Summer is one of the best books I’ve read. Period. It’s hard for me to keep my emotions out of my recommendation but I promise you that you will become absolutely absorbed in Taylor’s story. I PROMISE you this story is not all sad, despite my very emotional letter above. It’s a beautiful and moving story, set at at a summer lake house, that’s about love, friendship, family and second chances — not just about a girl whose dad is sick. Matson simplifies nothing. It’s equal bits sweet, funny and heartbreaking but this story just felt so COMPLETE. It’s perfect and balanced and JUST READ IT PLEASE. Morgan Matson solidified herself as an auto-buy author for me and she is the cream of the crop when it comes to well written, relatable contemporary YA books with lovely romances and complex, moving stories.
Let’s Talk: Have you read this one? Heard of it? What did you think? Did anyone else bawl there eyes out??