After her very engaging debut novel Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour, Morgan Matson is back for more! Second Chance Summer has many of the same ingredients that made Amy & Roger so endearing and such a great, great summer/beach read (and I use this term with the greatest respect possible!): there is a flawed yet likeable main character, there is a life-changing story about loss, yet there’s a sense of optimism that permeates every page of this excellent sophomore novel.
Taylor Edwards and her family used to spend every summer at their summer lake house in the Pennsylvania Pocono Mountains. That is, until 5 summers ago, when something happened that made Taylor run away from things, which is what she always does when things get hot. This summer, however, she will no longer be able to escape conflict and she’ll have to face her past, as her family have decided to spend this summer at the house once more. Taylor will be forced to confront the reality of her family life, her past (ex-boyfriend Henry and ex-best friend Lucy) and hopefully come out the better and stronger person at the end of it.
The strength of Second Chance Summer does not lie in its original plot (yes, all of the inevitables do happen), but in the careful treatment of its characters. Matson takes her time introducing Taylor and the rest of her family. She switches back and forth between this summer and 5 summers earlier to show how an individual can change over the years (what you found oh so important at age 12 may seem petty at age 17!) and how it’s never too late to fix what’s wrong and it’s never too late to get to know the people you are close to. The way that Matson treats her characters and the hopeful optimism of her stories made me think of Sarah Dessen, with which she also has a certain earnestness in dealing with emotions in common. Moreover, she also has that natural flow in the use of language and a dash of humor interspersed in the novel now and again. What is most important here, though, is that I believe Taylor when she says that she doesn’t know how to confront a problem. I also believe Taylor when she says she’s done something incredibly wrong and Henry and Lucy should hate her for it (even as an adult you can see that it’s a typical teen reaction of blowing things way out of proportion). And I also believe Taylor when she is forced to take that second chance yet doesn’t really know how to…
Matson is definitely a writer who understands how to write believably about grief, loss and falling in love all over again. Second Chance Summer is the type of book that the adjective heart-breaking was invented for. This is a story about a girl meeting a boy. It’s a story about a girl and her grief … and it’s also a story about a girl growing up … And, for the cat, Morgan Matson doesn’t even have to wait until next summer to publish another one of these!